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A PR campaign for independent news: Notes from PINF's Zoom call

The second in the series of Zoom conversations on the ideas coming out of the Independent News Forum was held last week, with participants discussing a proposed PR campaign for independent news. Joe Mitchell, PINF’s head of impact, writes up some notes from the call.

Previously, on PINF’s blog:

What we learned from the campaign for indie booksellers

The PR call began with a recap of the ideas from the group in Leeds.

We were then delighted to be joined by Emma Bradshaw and Anna Zanetti from the Independent Bookshop Week campaign, which has been running every June since 2006 with a goal of driving footfall and raise the profile of the sector and individual bookshops.

They had lots of ideas and tips from their parallel indie universe to consider:

  • The campaign can be about speaking as a collective while maintaining and celebrating individuality.

  • Every year, the campaign features a variety of events, interactive and otherwise, that engage the folks involved in producing and selling as well as consuming and teaching books in their communities.

  • It involves sustained collaboration between local sellers and national organisers who help publicise the campaign and the smaller players online, including on social and news media, all on a relatively small budget.

  • As well as the week in June, there is also a dedicated ‘Bookshop Day’ in the crucial run-up to Christmas, which is for all bricks-and-mortar bookshops, not exclusively independents

  • The messaging used is designed to emphasis independent booksellers’ expertise, role in the community, personal service, specialisation, the role of community or non-profit booksellers, and innovation brought by a new generation of sellers (such as bars in bookshops!),

  • The campaign has evolved each year since 2006 and adapts to the challenges or opportunities faced by booksellers each year – Emma urged patience, as these campaigns take time to bed in, perhaps seven years before it becomes a well-known phenomenon.

How does this translate into a PR campaign for indie news?

In open discussion, the group went on to talk about:

  • Goals: The importance of having a clear goal for the campaign, which could be around funding or sustainability – the biggest challenge to the indie news sector. Any call-to-action for the campaign could be around donating or subscribing to indie news outlets. The PR campaign could coincide with any effort at a UK NewsMatch, inspired by the US version, that PINF hopes to develop. It was noted that several publishers had already tried crowdfunding and would potentially up for doing so again.

  • Ambassadors: While the bookshops world can take advantage of celebrity authors to promote its cause – the world of indie news has access to celebs too (some of the UK’s best known journalists are listed here, for example).

  • Partnerships: The value of partnerships and thinking about who could help us spread the word – is there a role for distribution partners for those outlets with print editions?

  • Timing: In terms of timing, there was a suggestion of early autumn.

  • Messaging: The messaging will be key – we need to tell a story of the vital role, the importance of curation, personality, behind-the-scenes

  • Target audience: While potential supporters/donors/subscribers might be the main target, secondary targets could be policymakers and politicians, as well as national news media and advertisers

  • Awards: Ed Proctor, outgoing CEO of Impress, spoke about the work he’s done with Thomas at the IMA on drafting some principles for an Ethical Media Awards. Such awards could be part of a broader PR campaign – perhaps as the kickoff event. The awards would be designed to celebrate quality, diversity and creativity; to promote high-standards, innovation and investment. They would aim to inspire the sector and beyond. They would seek sponsorship for investment in the sector. Only organisations with a turnover of <£5m would be eligible. Impress has offered to lead this work, working with an advisory committee of the sector. If you’re interested, please check out the draft principles and get in touch with Ed at Impress.

Interested in helping us craft the messaging for a PR campaign for indie publishers?

We are looking for a messaging expert to help us build support for the valuable work of independent news publishers across the UK. This is a paid opportunity.

Please send your expression of interest to We will initially ask for a number of pitches for this project, and we will pay £500 per pitch.

For more information on how you can get involved, see the document below.

PINF Messaging Brief January 2023
Download PDF • 127KB

And join the conversation! We have three more calls on ideas that came out of the Independent News Forum. Next up:

Links / reading

  • Indie Bookshop Week link - Books Are My Bag link

  • Nieman Lab: Why journalism needs a PR campaign link

  • UK Record Store Day (nb. partnership w BBC Sounds) link

  • Worldwide Record Store Day link

  • Kia Cars UK partnership to promote independent cinema link


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