how to court the press -- 11/24/17

Today's selection -- from Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge by Lindy Woodhead. Harry Selfridge revolutionized the department store industry when he opened his grandiose flagship store in London in 1909. He revolutionized press relations as well -- even providing reporters with their own fully stocked bar:

"[After the launch of his store,] the press eagerly reported on progress, fed by daily bulletins. ... Selfridge had arrived in London at a point when the popular press was becoming ever more powerful. ...

"From his earliest days in business, Selfridge had under­stood, as few other men really did, the value of constant publicity and how to make the best use of it. While doing so he forged relationships with reporters, gossip-writers, editors and proprietors alike. One of his closest friends -- a fellow Wisconsin-born American who had settled in London -- was Ralph Blumenfeld, an ex-Daily Mail man and now editor of the Daily Express. Rarely a week went by when the two men didn't lunch or dine together, and rarely a day passed without them exchanging a letter or telephone call. Selfridge respected the press and perhaps even feared them. He once told his advertising manager: 'Never fight with them, never fall out with them if you can possibly avoid it, they will always have the last word.' He was right to be cautious, and his caution paid off. Years later, when he was deeply in debt, his life in shocking decline, the media largely left him alone.

Harry Selfridge, in 1910

"Selfridge astutely hired an ex-journalist called James Conaly as his press officer and set up a special 'press club room' for reporters to use when they were in the West End. Invited journalists had their own keys, and the room was equipped with typewriters, telephones, stationery, a fully stocked bar and the guarantee of some sort of human-interest story for them to phone through to the news desk on a daily basis. Editors were given hampers at Christmas, flowers at Easter. There was even a diary kept that listed birthdays so a special gift could be sent, and wives were always guaranteed the best table in the store's Palm Court Restaurant. But it wasn't merely efficient media handling that endeared much of Fleet Street to Harry Selfridge -- his unwavering belief in advertising meant they also made money."



Lindy Woodhead


Shopping, Seduction & Mr Selfridge


Profile Books


Copyright 2007 Lindy Woodhead 2007


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