Customer titles may put wrong message across

When it comes to sheer irredeemable naffness, there’s little to beat the free customer ’newspapers’ produced by the likes of local authorities and utilities to get their thinly disguised propaganda across to customers.

When it comes to sheer irredeemable naffness, there’s little to

beat the free customer ’newspapers’ produced by the likes of local

authorities and utilities to get their thinly disguised propaganda

across to customers.

To the publishing trade, such journals often take the form of blow-ins.

They are so-called because they are mechanically ’blown’ inside a real

paid-for newspaper or magazine - not because commuters usually just let

them fall out of their papers to blow all over the carriage floor.

Needless to say, most of these publications are usually produced as part

of more complex campaigns to win new business. Sometimes, they even seem

to be used to canvass likely response to vapourware - products or

services which so far do not even exist.

But, as always, the devil is in the detail, and too often the essence of

the message is lost in the execution. Deadlines loom, all the best

contract writers and publishers are booked up - and before you know it,

the entire office is pressed into service and the dreaded freesheet

newspaper style rears its ugly head.

Now, I daresay the picture I have painted may not accurately describe

the latest inferno of leading edge vanity publishing that is London

Electricity Focus.

But do join me on page one of their latest edition as we meet smiling

customer Rose Perry of Dartford (wearing a hard hat) pictured with her

grinning daughter Diane (wearing William Hague-style baseball cap) and

holding between them a three-foot long pair of scissors to publicise the

imminent arrival of the deregulated gas market.

’When my daughter and I found out about the huge savings we could make

on our gas bills, we jumped at the chance,’ comments Rose Perry.

Turn to page three, however, and there’s Liz Hodges (fully dressed) who

it seems was the first domestic gas customer to sign an independent

contract in April last year. Says Liz: ’When I realised the savings I

would make, I jumped at the chance.’

So two customers not only spontaneously jumping, but using almost the

same words as well. Remarkable.

Pedantic readers of London Electricity Focus might also have noticed the

company’s commercial director pictured on a motorbike, but not wearing a


At my work, we have a weekly paper packed with exciting job vacancies

and small ads - plus the essential guide to the BBC’s very latest

central management initiatives. The fact that many ungrateful employees

still insist on dubbing it Pravda is, of course, nothing more than a

sign of a long tradition of healthy journalistic scepticism. Once a

year, a group of staff are even allowed - and funded - to vent their

feelings and produce their own scurrilous edition. It’s a form of

organisational therapy which more companies ought to try - even at the

risk of the boss being pressed three times to justify his pay


Nigel Cassidy is business correspondent of Radio 4’s Today programme.


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