CAMPAIGNS: Public Affairs - Glas Cymru gets PA and PR support

Glas Cymru, an independent Wales-based company, was established last year with the sole purpose of acquiring and operating Welsh Water.

Glas Cymru, an independent Wales-based company, was established last year with the sole purpose of acquiring and operating Welsh Water.

Welsh Water is part of Hyder, which was taken over by Western Power Distribution (WPD) in September 2000.

Glas Cymru is the first firm of its kind to enter the utilities sector in Britain. A company limited by guarantee, it will fund itself by issuing bonds rather than shares, meaning profits (normally paid out as dividends to shareholders) would instead be used to reduce bills or fund investments benefiting customers.



Objectives

To get approval from OFWAT, the water regulator; to gain public and political support for the proposals; to build awareness of the project among opinion formers; to educate the public about the project's benefits.



Strategy and Plan

Timing was crucial in a public affairs campaign coinciding with the announcement by Glas Cymru on 3 November 2000 that it had reached an agreement with WPD on terms for the acquisition of Welsh Water.

A two-tiered integrated public affairs/public relations campaign was designed to inform members of the public, politicians and opinion formers of an innovative new ownership structure for the water industry.

It was important to win the support of politicians at the National Assembly for Wales, and Strategy Wales provided public affairs advice to assist the client in presentations to key committees.

A bilingual (English/ Welsh) website - www.glascymru.com - included details of Glas Cymru's plans for Welsh Water, open letters and press releases.

The public affairs campaign ran in conjunction with an integrated media campaign in Wales (Strategy Wales) and in London (KMA).

The public affairs campaign had to take into consideration the relationship between Westminster and the Assembly and tailor its message accordingly. Water has a unique political resonance in Wales and the campaign had to make that clear with the message that it was a solution unique to Wales and not likely to be replicated in England.



Measurement and Evaluation

According to Glas Cymru financial director Chris Jones, coverage in the press has been 'overwhelmingly positive' in favour of the programme.

After the announcement, positive and comprehensive coverage appeared throughout the Welsh press, on every Welsh news broadcast and in The Financial Times, among others.

The website generated an unexpected 25,000 hits during November and December.



Results

Because coverage in Wales was so comprehensive, awareness of the issue publicly and politically was very high.

OFWAT director-general Phillip Fletcher stated in his report that the support given to the proposals by the National Assembly played a significant part in his decision not to block the proposals put forward by Glas Cymru. A share purchase agreement between WPD and Glas Cymru has been signed.



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