Energy: Oldbury powers down with dignity

After 44 years of generating nuclear power, Magnox's Oldbury Power Station shut down on 29 February. Oldbury was one of ten Magnox nuclear power stations in the UK and, at the time, was the oldest generating power station in the world.

Campaign: Oldbury Power Station shuts down
Client: Oldbury Power Station and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority
PR team: In-house team
Timescale: October 2011-February 2012
Budget: £5,000

 

Objectives

  • To celebrate a safe and dignified end to the world's oldest reactor
  • To keep stakeholders informed of the decision to shut down the station and when it was happening
  • To deliver media coverage across as many platforms as possible.

Strategy and plan

Ahead of the shutdown, Magnox's Twitter account used the #Oldburyshutdown29thFeb hashtag to generate awareness of the event, uploading daily pictures of the power station and activities around it. The team secured coverage from BBC Breakfast to report that Oldbury was the world's oldest operating nuclear reactor.

Several managers who had worked at Oldbury Power Station during its 44 years of operation, including in the 60s, 70s and 80s, were filmed giving their different perspectives of working there. One recalled meeting actor Tom Baker when an episode of Doctor Who was filmed on the site.

Early on the morning of the closure, BBC Breakfast reported from a training room replica of the power station's control room. Interviews were arranged with various members of the Magnox team, including the site director.

In the control room itself, where the button would be pressed to shut the facility down, because of restrictions and space only one small film crew could record the action live during the shutdown.

Locally based agency Gardener Media Services was picked for the job and seeded content to BBC Points West and the local ITV team.

Cameras were set up in the control room to relay the event to 400 staff watching on a TV in the canteen, with the local BBC and ITV teams also conducting interviews.

After the event, the team used the footage to make a YouTube video. An 'end of generation' booklet and DVD were sent to stakeholders and former employees.

To mark the end of electricity generation, six oak trees were planted in the Oldbury-on-Severn Primary School playing field, which overlooks the power station.

Measurement and evaluation

The site was featured on national BBC Breakfast news six times on the morning of the shutdown. Three bulletins were shown on BBC Points West, with a live interview in the control room (a first) featured on local ITV. There were more than 40 pieces of print, broadcast and online coverage, including online coverage by The Independent and The Mail on Sunday.

Results

Proactive media relations drove traffic to the Magnoxsites website, which received 3,608 page views on 29 February, compared with 2,056 the Wednesday before. The news about Oldbury shutting down increased daily views from on average two or three, to 50.

 

SECOND OPINION

JON BENNETT, FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR, LINSTOCK COMMUNICATIONS

This was a fitting epitaph to 44 years at a trying time for staff - a fantastic volume of coverage balanced with employee and community engagement.

All in all, this was a full-service campaign on a tight budget that deserved the thumbs-up.

It was good to see new media channels playing their part, with a lesson to us all not to get carried away with all things social. Nearly seven million people would have seen the BBC Breakfast coverage, but just a few hundred checked out the YouTube content. That is no criticism of the content's signposting - more a comment on the continuing power of broadcast media.

However, I am left with a few questions. Who was being targeted and why? How did staff feel about Oldbury and their employer after the campaign? And was there an opportunity to say more about nuclear power's safety record and environmental benefits?

So, great coverage but to what end? After all, you could hit the headlines big time by pressing the wrong button on shut-down day.

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