Every autumn, political and business elites come together for the political party conference season. This represents a gold-plated marketing opportunity! For publishers looking to reach this high net worth, influential audience, there is only one way in, and that is via The Distribution People. James Evelegh talks to Sam Berry about some of the services they offer.
“A gold-plated marketing opportunity.”
Picture this, says Sam Berry: as the VIPs walk in to the busiest political conferences of the year, the first thing they will see is you! They’ll see the large high-visibility floor graphic, which you’ve co-branded with one of your advertising partners keen to promote their latest product range or industry initiative to this exclusive audience. They’ll be handed a copy of your current issue with its special preview / cover wrap / bellyband by one of our fully briefed promo staff. With conference delegates passing through the zone, back and forth, throughout the day, you’re truly… in the thick of it!
The co-branding deal and advertising sold against the extra distribution means that your participation has largely washed its face, making this a self-financing brand-building exercise. And, not forgetting, all the logistical heavy-lifting has been handled by The Distribution People (TDP).
All eminently doable, says Sam. All publishers need is: good relationships with blue-chip advertising prospects where you know what plans they have in the pipeline and which of them would welcome the big-splash treatment in such prestigious surroundings; an imaginative and dynamic commercial team able to spot and pitch the opportunity; a title that resonates with movers and shakers, and, last but not least, Sam’s contact details (see box below).
TDP was set up six years ago by Nick Toghill, who was previously circulation and subscriptions manager at Dods, the political media specialists and Sam, who has a background working with media owners and agencies. They had spotted a need for better distribution and branding opportunities for publishers at party conferences.
The team raring to go at last year's Conservative conference...Their proposition is very simple and very niche: they provide access to the political elites, both in the UK and EU, though a combination of tailored direct mail services and, the subject of this article, distribution at the main party conferences.
By forging close ties with the political parties, TDP has successfully managed to secure exclusive contracts with the three main UK-wide parties: Conservative, Labour and Lib-Dem. (Sam also handles all the outdoor media campaigns for the Green Party, but that’s another story…) Sam and Nick have spent the last six years honing their offering. They use hand-picked staff, chosen for their high energy levels, enthusiasm and verbal skills. In TDP’s experience, they are much more engaged and motivated than either agency staff, or, oddly perhaps, publishers’ own staff for whom, sometimes, such work falls outside their comfort zone! The staff wear co-branded clothing (the logo of the political party on one sleeve and TDP’s on the other), so they are very much seen as part of the fabric of the conference. Sam and Nick are in attendance throughout, monitoring delivery and seeking out every opportunity to enhance the publisher’s presence.
TDP typically has about 18 staff on site working in shifts and located at various touch points around the venue, either distributing magazines, or, increasingly, promoting some of the fringe events, many of which are organised by publishers.
Fringe event promotion is one area that has come a long way in the last couple of years. The aim is to get (relevant) bums on seats. TDP found that simply shoving leaflets into hands is a waste of time. Instead, some of their staff wear special t-shirts (with ‘Ask us about forthcoming events’ emblazoned on the back) and they move around the venue, telling delegates about the event, giving key facts, and, once they’re engaged, giving them a leaflet and pointing them in the right direction. This helps ensure very lively, standing-room-only sessions, says Sam.
In addition to the premium ‘zone’ package already mentioned, there are a host of other opportunities, including branded distribution points in the centre of the exhibition hall and at the main entrances and exits, distribution opportunities at the popular fringe events and also via selected hotels near the venue, including (limited availability!) room drops.
We aim to provide, says Sam, a bespoke service, so much depends on each publisher’s objectives. That might be a certain amount of copies being distributed, drumming up attendance for an event, branding opportunities using carefully selected poster sites (the one by the taxi rank outside Brighton Station works particularly well!), copies in delegates’ hotel rooms, or a mix of the above. With their close ties to the organisers, TDP is often able to put together imaginative and innovative packages.
Clearly, says Sam, such distribution opportunities work extremely well for news & current affairs, politics, business & finance related titles, along with the national press, but is not limited to those. In marketing, a little imagination goes a long way. After Jeremy Corbyn’s recent appearance at Glastonbury, perhaps NME at the Labour conference in Brighton isn’t such a crazy idea.
If you think your title might benefit from additional ABC-countable distribution to the extremely hard-to-reach political classes, then consider the party conferences. Since, there’s only one company that can get you in, contact Sam now for a no-obligation chat…
“With their close ties to the organisers, TDP is often able to put together imaginative and innovative packages.”