CAMPAIGNS: Media Relations - C4's anthrax drama timely but sensitive

Client: Channel 4 drama Gas Attack

PR Team: C4 in-house PR

Campaign: Gas Attack

Timescale: From filming in May to transmission last week

Budget: Within departmental budget



This one-off Channel 4 drama about an anthrax attack began life more

than two years ago, long before the tragic events of 11 September. The 8

October scheduling, agreed in August, meant it went out as the US

investigated an anthrax incident in Florida.



At one point it was possible to switch between the drama and BBC news

coverage of the Florida investigation.



Objectives



This was one of C4's most important dramas of the year. However, the PR

also had to get across that this was a serious drama which had been

meticulously researched during a two-year period and not quickly put

together or opportunistically scheduled.



Strategy and Plan



During filming in May, C4 organised a press trip to see the production

in progress in Scotland to get the documentary-nature of the project

across.



The film was first shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival to establish it

as a serious project. In the run-up to transmission, preview tapes and

press information were sent out, while involved C4 press officers placed

calls to get across the key messages.



Measurement and Evaluation



The channel says results were 100 per cent positive, with the film

getting some of the best previews for some time.



Crucially, there were no accusations of scare-mongering or cashing in on

either the global situation or the US atrocities. The overnight audience

figures of 1.1 million were respectable.



Results



The film presented the press office with some tricky PR challenges.



Ordinarily the film's prescience would have been highlighted, but in

this case the PR team had to avoid the timing and subject-matter

back-firing. In this they were successful by recognising and addressing

the issue head-on via PR activity.



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