IN-HOUSE SURVEY: Measuring up - Though the market has remained stable this year, PR Week’s in-house survey has thrown up some industry trends such as low use of evaluation finds Stephen Welch

In-house PR departments have yet to make widespread use of evaluation, according to the PR Week In-house Survey 2000. Typically, only three per cent of their annual budget is spent on evaluation, and 80 per cent do not have a specific budget allowance to help them measure their efforts.

In-house PR departments have yet to make widespread use of

evaluation, according to the PR Week In-house Survey 2000. Typically,

only three per cent of their annual budget is spent on evaluation, and

80 per cent do not have a specific budget allowance to help them measure

their efforts.



The survey, based on information from 227 organisations around the UK,

covering a range of sizes and sectors, including government, shows that

there has been a significant increase in awareness and possession of the

Research & Evaluation Toolkit created by the IPR and the PRCA - 24 per

cent now have a copy, compared to 14 per cent last year.



However, the Toolkit does not seem to have helped in-house practitioners

change their behaviour to date: figures on the use and budgets for

evaluation have hardly moved in the past year.



Neither has there been any significant change in the size, composition

or budgets of in-house departments. The overall picture is stable for

the second year running. However, there are indications of a shift in

some areas: more and more in-house departments are outsourcing their

media relations, and fewer seem to be using their PR companies to

evaluate their own work.



The typical in-house department will spend three per cent of its budget

on evaluation, about the same as last year. This is equivalent to pounds

16,000 across all projects and campaigns.



However, there is evidence that in-house practitioners are aware of the

need to evaluate their work: another three per cent is spent on market

research generally, and 65 per cent of this year’s respondents make use

of other departments’ research, although this is down from 80 per cent

in 1999.



Half (48 per cent) of those in-house PR departments surveyed believe

that measuring the work of the PR team is important for the board of

their organisation.



Measurement still means different things to different people. 88 per

cent use media analysis, evaluating the output of their campaigns. But

the next most popular measurement tool, on 46 per cent is, surprisingly,

’gut feel’.



Other techniques are all used by a third or less, including consumer

surveys (32 per cent), opportunities to see (23 per cent), and

sales/share prices measures (12 per cent).



For the second year, there has been hardly any change in the size and

makeup of in-house PR departments. Three-quarters of respondents work in

departments of one to five people, about the same as last year. In

addition, two-thirds say that there are not planning any changes in

staff numbers in the coming year.



In two companies in every five, the PR function is represented at board

level. In half, the PR or communications manager reports directly to the

chief executive or managing director.



Overall PR budgets appear to be stable for the second year running.

Three-quarters report no change from last year. However, this hides

large fluctuations: the range of answers was between budgets down by 40

per cent and up by 100 per cent.



The typical budget for an in-house department is about pounds 530,000

per annum, split 55/45 between in-house costs and external supplier

costs. This average is highly dependent on the size of the department:

for example, a department of one to five people has an average budget of

only pounds 125,000. Cumulatively, survey respondents spend about pounds

50 million on external suppliers.



Within the overall budget, the biggest item is staff costs, absorbing

roughly one-sixth of the total. Other big items were external

consultancies and print and production.



Compared to last year, there has been some evening up in the way budgets

are allocated to activities. In 1999, media relations consumed on

average about a third of the budget, way ahead of any other activity.

This year, it falls to 19 per cent, with other areas such as consumer

PR, business-to-business PR, lobbying, and financial PR all picking up

the slack.



One reason for this shift may be that the media relations function is

being outsourced more and more. There has been a big increase (from 24

per cent to 38 per cent) in the use of external agencies for media

relations.



In most cases (77 per cent), there is a central PR budget, rather than a

campaign-based one, but the source of that budget varies. The most

common set-up is that the PR budget is either part of the wider

marketing budget or is allocated centrally, reflecting the reporting

lines shown above.



Two in five use a PR consultancy on a regular basis, with another one in

five making occasional use of one. While the total figure (60 per cent)

is only a slight decline from last year’s 67 per cent, this hides some

big changes under the surface.



Interestingly, the use of PR companies for evaluation has dropped in the

last year: from seven per cent in 1999 to three per cent (and only one

in seven mention lack of evaluation as a common complaint). However,

this may be because there is greater use of specialist evaluation

agencies to evaluate PR campaigns, rather than relying on the PR agency

to evaluate their own work.



On average, in-house departments spend a tenth of their budget on

external consultancies, about the same as last year.



This is despite the increased use of PR agencies for ’big-ticket’ items

such as event and crisis management. In fact, of the 11 services that

the survey covered, nine showed an increase in use compared to last

year.



Apart from the drop in evaluation services, the only other area where

agencies were not needed as much as last year was in supplying video

news releases.



Despite the apparent increase in use of agencies, in-house practitioners

still find it easy to find fault with their suppliers. When asked what

the most common complaints were, 30 per cent cited a failure to deliver,

followed by over promising, excessive use of junior staff, lack of

sector knowledge and budget over-runs, all mentioned by about 20 per

cent of respondents.



There is another important message here. Although ’lack of sector

knowledge’ is among the most frequent complaints, it is also the second

most important service factor. Just over 60 per cent said sector

knowledge was very important to them, and another 28 per cent said it

was fairly important.



This strong emphasis on sector knowledge, and the relative frequency of

complaints on the issue could go some way to explain the increased use

of niche PR companies. It could also suggest that in-house departments

do not place enough emphasis on this factor when choosing an agency.



Other key service elements include: speed of response (98 per cent said

this is very or fairly important), creativity (94 per cent), the people

(92 per cent), and strategic thinking (91 per cent). Following these in

the ranking are a clutch of technical skills, such as writing, radio and

TV skills, and evaluation.



Almost half felt that international capability is totally unimportant to

them. This could be for one of two reasons: either those responding to

the survey are mainly focused on UK-based activities, or it could be

that agencies have not convinced clients about the benefits of working

internationally.



Despite this apparent lack of emphasis on international networks, the

top four most-known agencies are all prominent international players:

Shandwick (59 mentions, or 26 per cent of respondents), Hill and

Knowlton (46 mentions), Burson-Marsteller (38 mentions), Countrywide

Porter Novelli (27 mentions). The Red Consultancy was in fifth place

with 24 mentions.



For this question, respondents were asked to name five companies, and

although another 171 other companies were named, no other agency

received more than 20 mentions.



- The results of this survey are based on a postal questionnaire sent to

PR Week readers who work in-house . PR Week designed and printed the

questionnaire, based on previous years’ versions. Echo Research helped

analyse and interpret the data. In total, 227 people replied between 15

June and 7 July 2000, a response rate of about nine per cent. The

overall results are subject to a statistical margin of error of +/-7 per

cent, 19 times out of 20.





RAILTRACK



Communications head Lynn Harvey aims to turn around Railtrack’s

image



Railtrack, which owns Britain’s train stations and tracks, suffered a

devastating image crisis in the wake of the Ladbroke Grove rail crash,

which killed 31 and injured dozens more.



Add to this the fact that the company has been without a corporate

affairs director since the departure of Philip Dewhurst last December,

and it’s a wonder Railtrack has any public image left. The imminent

departure of public affairs head Simon Miller to Hill and Knowlton can

only make matters worse, and the periodic regulatory review to which

Railtrack is now subject will have lowered company morale.



In fact the company’s PR department - a nine-strong press office under

communications head Lynn Harvey - remains remarkably upbeat. ’We are

gradually turning around our image. It can’t be done overnight, but the

analysis from Mori and Mediatrack is that we are moving in the right

direction.’



The appointment of Sue Clark from Scottish Power to fill Dewhurst’s old

post takes effect this month. Clark will take over 28 staff covering

press, investor, community and Government relations, internal

communications and sponsorship.



Railtrack’s agency roster is unchanged: Brunswick for financial PR,

Camargue to handle property issues and PR21, formerly the Rowland

Company, for regional consumer PR.





HERITAGE LOTTERY FUND



The Heritage Lottery fund is the arm of the National Heritage Memorial

Fund which is responsible for distributing the heritage share of

National Lottery cash and, like all the lottery administration bodies,

it has sometimes come under fire for its decisions about where money

should go.



Communications director of the fund Louise Lane says tackling media

controversy is one of her challenges. ’We recognise that we won’t please

everybody.



We have a strong media management programme to address issues from

factual corrections to explaining what our concerns are with an

application. A lot of it is off-the-page management as well as

pro-active good news.’



The communications department is split into two - press and PR, and

information and publications. The press and PR team covers media

relations. The information and publications division provides a small

call centre for handling public enquiries.



The department does not have in-house media resources outside London,

and so works closely with its consultancies - Barkers in Scotland; Good

Relations in Wales and Citigate in Northern Ireland. In addition,

Charles Barker BSMG works on corporate PR and evaluation, and APCO

carries out parliamentary monitoring.



’Providing a responsive service in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and

England, and yet having a consistent approach, is a challenge,’ says

Lane.



The team of 13 is also responsible for Government relations, makes sure

that the Heritage Lottery Fund gets full credit for its grants and

co-ordinates the fund’s two newsletters.



- Highlights of the past year for the Heritage Lottery Fund have

included the launch of the strategic frameworks showing the fund’s

priorities for the devolved regions. It also received plenty of good

coverage for the Millennium Openings of completed heritage projects, and

the nationwide Millennium Festivals.





BRITAIN IN EUROPE



Britain in Europe is the cross-party pro-European pressure group headed

by British Airways chairman Lord Marshall. The campaign was set up last

March, with help from Shandwick public affairs chief executive Colin

Byrne. In October, the group relaunched at an event fronted by Prime

Minister Tony Blair, Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy and

pro-European Conservatives Michael Heseltine and Kenneth Clarke.



The group employs six communications staff headed by Danny Alexander,

who report to campaigns director Simon Buckby, a one-time Labour Party

adviser and former social affairs correspondent on the Financial

Times.



Since last autumn, the PR team has faced several communications

challenges, not least charges that the campaign watered down its stance

on the Euro to accommodate a Labour administration nervous of broaching

the single currency before the next election.



The campaign has used conferences, lobbying and the media to establish

what Alexander describes as a ’more balanced debate’ on Europe.



The communications team is currently establishing a rebuttals

operation.



Headed by Jessica Bawden, who joined the campaign in February from

London First, this computerised system will log all political and media

discussion on Europe to provide a clear communications landscape.





COUTTS GROUP



As banker to the rich and famous, Coutts has a strong brand which it

works hard to protect and develop. The group’s PR function is headed up

by Julie Cooper, who reports to head of strategy and marketing, Caroline

Moss.



Despite its strong brand, Coutts still has to work hard to convince

potential clients that it is the right bank for them. ’My challenge is

to ensure that our target clients in any industry feel that Coutts is

right for them and I am doing this by talking more about our experience

and expertise with certain groups of clients,’ says Cooper.



Another key aim this year has been raising the profile of Coutts’

investment management capability. The bank is one of the largest hedge

fund managers in Europe, with assets under management of USdollars 1.5

billion. To communicate this Cooper has organised round table lunches

with investment journalists and seminars for clients.



In March Coutts appointed Lansons Communications with a brief to help

raise awareness of the bank’s capabilities, including its expertise in

the area of alternative investments.



Not surprisingly in a business handling billions of dollars, security is

always an issue. The biggest crisis Cooper has had to deal with in the

last year was when an artist displayed a piece of art giving tips on how

to break into a Coutts office. ’Although we knew it couldn’t contain any

real inside information, I spent 48 hours trying to get to see the piece

of art and convincing people that it was actually just a hoax,’ says

Cooper.



Coutts has 23 offices in the UK and 16 around the rest of the world. As

well as being responsible for all PR in the UK, Cooper also co-ordinates

PR in the rest of the world.





SOMERFIELD STORES



The past 18 months have been a roller-coaster ride for Somerfield

Stores. Having acquired the Kwik Save chain in March 1998, the food

retailer has been struggling with management problems, merger issues and

plummeting sales.



The arrival of a new management team in April signalled a change in

strategy, but business remains disappointing.



Press office manager Pete Williams says: ’We have had to draw in the

wagons as we have weathered the storm of threatened redundancies,

management problems and a lack of morale throughout the company.’



This has seen corporate affairs director Jill Rawlins and her colleagues

take a frank approach with all audiences, from analysts and MPs to

shareholders and customers.



As the UK’s fifth largest supermarket with around 1,350 stores, a key

factor for Somerfield is its comparatively small size. A team of five

handles national and local media enquiries, as individual store managers

are not tasked with media relations.



This year, Louisa Graveney left the team to join Harrison Cowley’s

Bristol office, while former consumer PR manager Carole Baker took up

new responsibilities within the company. In May, these two roles were

filled by Gemma Davies and Amanda Pawsey, both internal promotions.



- Somerfield has had to deal with the food scares and farming issues

affecting the supermarket sector as a whole, but the PR team has been

able to take a pro-active stance on the out-of-town issue since most

Somerfield stores are located in town centres.





ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS



Architecture is perceived as a ’hip and happening’ profession by today’s

youth



Architecture has had a good press in the past few years. The industry is

attracting more recruits at graduate level for what is perceived to be a

’hip and happening’ profession.



The Millennium did much to stimulate interest and debate in architecture

with the construction of the Dome, the London Eye, Tate Modern, and the

proposed building for the new Greater London Authority.



The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) exists to promote

architecture, rather than architects themselves, says Caroline Vagg,

communications manager for RIBA in London. She was appointed to the

newly-created role in April 1999 and is the sole employee of the London

branch dedicated to communications. Her role entails myriad

responsibilities: communications, marketing and PR, events management,

web site development, producing a newsletter and sponsorship and

advertising.



Vagg’s position was created to improve the general understanding and

communications between its members and the public. This has included

setting up events such as a conference last year in anticipation of the

mayoral elections. It was designed to look at how a mayor might affect

the future of architecture in London. Since starting the job Vagg has

been developing a communications strategy that ties in with RIBA’s

national activity.



In August 1999, Roula Konzatis was appointed as the institute’s overall

communications director.





GUIDE ASSOCIATION



It’s strange but true: Tim Bell, the man who was often described as

’Margaret Thatcher’s right-hand man’, works on public relations for the

girl guides.



The relationship between the Guide Association and Bell Pottinger Public

Affairs began early in 1999, when the Guide Association, under the

auspices of head of marketing and external relations Susan Kay-Williams,

revealed it was seeking to update public perception of the

organisation.



This aim is now the primary goal of the Guide Association’s in-house PR

team, which consists of Alison Rothwell, who joined the Guide

Association from St John Ambulance, in November 1999, and one

assistant.



’We tend to be marginalised by the media,’ says Rothwell. And she admits

that when it comes to the Guides, people have an image of ’terribly

middle-class girls, and empire building’.



The association has recruited the services of another consultancy: Talk

Loud PR, known for handling trendy youth brands.



The appointment of PR agencies is already paying off. On the Government

relations front, the association has set up an all-party group, and in

January it hosted a parliamentary reception, well attended by MPs. It

has also released its ’Today’s girl, tomorrow’s woman’ survey, to put

the Guides on the national news agenda.



But what you might think of as a pressing issue for the Guiding movement

in the UK isn’t: membership is actually incredibly strong, with its

700,000 members making it the largest youth organisation in the

country.



- Alison Rothwell, head of PR at the Guide Association, says there are

huge waiting lists, but they can’t fulfill demand because of a shortage

of leaders, aged from 18-65. Attracting potential leaders will be the

target of the next national media campaign, to be rolled out from

September.





MARKS AND SPENCER



1999 was not a happy year for Marks and Spencer. The retailer saw its

highly respected brand values take a damaging dive, taking the share

price and profits with it, as consumers demanded more than just quality,

good value and service.



The PR team has been on the front line as the brand attempts to lure

back disenchanted customers. M&S’s new offensive to get in touch with

its customers includes the new appointment of a director of

communications, American Cheri Lofland - the first outside appointment

for a communications executive position.



Lofland says fundamental changes are taking place to reposition the

brand for the future. ’Communications is central to this effort.’ M&S

has already abandoned the blanket use of its St Michael label, bringing

in new designer ranges.



Two major developments have helped raise the communications stakes. Two

new corporate press officers have been appointed, adding new skills to

the in-house home-grown team.



More recently, the M&S general merchandise and food press teams have

been brought back into the corporate communications fold. ’This will

enable us to work more effectively, supporting corporate messages with

product stories, and vice versa,’ explains Lofland.





DIXONS GROUP



From small beginnings in 1937 as a camera shop in London, the Dixon’s

Group is now the largest electrical retail chain in Europe. This year

the firm enjoyed a rise in pre-tax profits from pounds 231 million to

pounds 472 million thanks mainly to the popularity of digital technology

- such as DVD players and digital cameras - plus increased sales of home

computers and mobile phones.



From its Hertfordshire HQ, Hamish Thompson, head of press and PR, leads

an in-house team of five, reporting directly to the group director of

corporate and public affairs, Lesley Smith.



Thompson took up the post earlier this year and immediately began

examining the group’s press office structure.



He has a brief to develop and steer the PR strategy for all the group’s

retail and non-retail brands including Dixons, Currys, PC World, The

Link, @Jakarta and Mastercare.



Dixons uses Square Mile for corporate and financial PR, and The Red

Consultancy was awarded the PC World account this June. The group is

planning to appoint a single agency to work across its core brands -

retail outlets Dixons, Currys, Mastercare and The Link - after managing

the PR in-house for some time.



’Once we have a consultancy on board then our three in-house media

relations officers will be tasked with the individual responsibility for

the consumer PR of one or two of our high street brands. They will also

deal with the day-to-day liaison with those companies,’ says Thompson,

who will continue to oversee all agency relationships.



The Dixons Group has a number of PR plans in the pipeline which will be

pushed forward once the new agency is appointed.





BRITISH GAS



The British Gas PR team had three main aims during 1999. Research

claimed the company had to ’get closer to communities’, so the buzz

phrase around the Staines office was to ’think national, act local’.



’We also set out to support the marketing effort across our energy

business and home services business, and improve relationships with the

media,’ says head of PR Dominic Cheetham.



The team set about forming closer ties with other marketing

communications activity, and restructured into a team of 32 with a

bigger budget.



The department changed the focus of community relations work by having

fewer, larger projects, such as a partnership with Help the Aged to

combat fuel poverty, and formed community partnerships with regional

newspapers.



The PR team ended 1999 with a range of millennium activities. These

included sponsoring Millennium Beacons across the country, and providing

technical and communications expertise to link 14,000 communities

countrywide by enlisting the Queen to light the first torch on

Millennium Eve.



The year’s initiatives managed a 13 per cent spontaneous awareness

increase of the Help the Aged/British Gas partnership, achieved through

PR alone, says Cheetham. The Millennium Beacon achieved 75 per cent

awareness. When questioned, 16 per cent of the public were able to

spontaneously cite British Gas as the sponsor, and one in five felt more

positively disposed to British Gas as a result.



- In 1999 the British Gas team had its fair share of difficult issues

including a rise in customer service complaints, Y2K, and office

closures when 1,700 staff were laid off. Head of PR Dominic Cheetham

says, ’So far, we’ve managed to turn potential negative into, at worst,

neutral coverage.’





NATIONAL TRUST FOR SCOTLAND



Conservation and fundraising are part of the National Trust for

Scotland’s remit



Scotland’s tourism crisis has put pressure on the National Trust for

Scotland’s in-house PR team to turn around falling visitor numbers.



The 25-strong outfit has been tasked with creating campaigns to overcome

the slump, which has seen a ten per cent drop in tourism figures

throughout Scotland and a nine per cent decrease in visitors to the

trust’s properties last month.



Head of public affairs for The National Trust for Scotland, Ian Gardner,

says: ’High fuel prices, the strong pound and a weak euro have been

factors. But it’s given us the opportunity to encourage more people who

live in Scotland to visit our properties.’



With this aim in mind, the trust has been working on a six-part

television series for Scottish TV, promoting its properties, which was

broadcast in time for the school summer holiday break.



Maintaining visitor numbers is a core objective for the trust, but

conservation and fundraising are just as important. The team, which has

its headquarters in Edinburgh, works on a regional level to achieve its

goals. Following a restructure last year, the department now comprises a

head office and four regional offices, with PROs for each area, covering

the south, north-east, west and Highlands and islands of Scotland.



Headed by director of public affairs Julian Birchill, the trust’s PR

work covers fundraising, appeals, community liaison, education and media

relations.



Alongside its ongoing fundraising campaigns, the trust has been working

on specific appeals, such as the Crarae Gardens campaign to raise pounds

1.5 million, targeting both trust members and non-members.





NATIONAL FARMERS’ UNION



Never before in its 92-year history had the National Farmers’ Union felt

such an avalanche of negativity from the public. CJD and British Beef,

GM crops and devastating recession had left the image of the UK

agriculture industry in tatters by the end of 1998.



But 1999, says Diane Lamb, head of NFU’s Public Affairs Department was

the year she and her team, including the nine regional officers,

transformed the public perception of UK farmers, most of whom make up

the NFU’s 125,000 full and affiliated members.



’If you had asked the public what they thought of farming two years ago,

they would have cited damage to the environment, subsidies, food scares

and live exports as their concerns,’ says Lamb.



’Ask them today, and they are far more likely to cite the crisis in

agriculture and the high quality of home-produced food over imports from

abroad.’



The PR teams still faced several challenges last year, including making

sure the impact of the crisis was reported in the media so as to apply

pressure on decision makers.



The team’s messages were the importance of agriculture to the rural

economy and the British countryside; the measures British farmers are

taking to ensure food quality over and above foreign competitors; and

encouraging consumers to buy British.





NOVARTIS



Pharmaceutical group Novartis employs more than 3,000 people at 15 sites

in the UK. Its businesses range from pharmaceuticals, research and

development and contact lenses to consumer health, animal health and

crop protection and seeds.



At the beginning of December last year, the Swiss-owned group announced

its decision to demerge its crops and seeds businesses and merge them

with AstraZeneca’s Agrochemicals division to create a new company called

Syngenta.



The four-strong UK corporate communications team, headed by Fiona Fong,

has responsibility for representing Novartis as one entity to key

stakeholders and ensuring that messages are consistent. In theory the

individual sector companies and sites maintain responsibility for their

own communication needs at a company and product level. This is backed

up with support from external agencies including Greenlines Healthcare

Communications and Red Rooster Beauty and Consumer PR.



Over the past year, the corporate team has handled Novartis’ purchase of

animal health company Vericore, and weathered the GM storm. ’Our

strategy was one of damage limitation and to protect the company’s

reputation,’ says Fong, who explains that the firm has no commercial GM

product to sell in the UK.



- A sensitive issue for Novartis is the company’s involvement with

animal research. The team aims to put this in the context of health

benefits while remaining sensitive to public and local community worries

about animal welfare and employee safety.





AVON HEALTH AUTHORITY



With all the activity in the NHS and various medical scandals around the

country, it is not surprising that Avon Health Authority’s

Communications department has been very busy. Head of communications

Vicky O’Loughlin says: ’On the media side there has been very high

interest locally and nationally. We have a much wider brief than just

media relations, with a lot of communications with the public and

publications work.’



O’Loughlin says the plain English campaign, in which the department

vetted all the authority’s standard letters to the public, is one of her

proudest achievements. Her department is also made up of a

communications manager, assistant communications manager, web site

manager, and a communications assistant.



One of the challenges for the department is handling a diverse area

which covers South Gloucestershire, Bath and north-east Somerset, and

Bristol.



’We have to focus on the community in these areas and do a lot of local

media targeting,’ says O’Loughlin.



Several stories attracted national attention, the Sunday Times got hold

of a copy of the first NHS league tables before they were published,

indicating a poor performance by Avon. The information was wrong, but

O’Loughlin had to deal with the outcry.



- Although a lot of the Avon Health Authority’s communication

department’s work is reactive, it does get involved in communicating

positive messages. One of the biggest campaigns last year was geared

around the millennium, informing the public about how best to use

medical services in the New Year period and reminding them to stock up

on medicines.



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