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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Communications head Lynn Harvey aims to turn around Railtrack’s
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
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
Communications director of the fund Louise Lane says tackling media
controversy is one of her challenges. ’We recognise that we won’t please
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
In August 1999, Roula Konzatis was appointed as the institute’s overall
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
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
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
’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
- 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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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,
NATIONAL TRUST FOR SCOTLAND
Conservation and fundraising are part of the National Trust for
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
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
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.
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
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
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
’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