Bellenden - RES local electricity discount schemes

Bellenden's goal was to achieve national and local media coverage of the first operational Local Electricity Discount Schemes, a pioneering initiative that gives homes and businesses close to RES wind farms money off their electricity bills irrespective of the supplier they are with.

RES wanted to ensure that the direct and tangible benefits of the schemes to local communities were clearly communicated and a positive story about wind, and renewables more broadly, was given airtime at a time when energy bills are front and centre in people’s minds.

Any potential pitfalls you needed to take into account?

There were two potential pitfalls we needed to avoid: the risk of the media seeing the client's scheme as nothing new and there being limited coverage as a consequence, and the risk of the story being spun by the anti-wind lobby and there being negative coverage. 

OK, and what was your grand plan to tackle this?

Our strategy was to find the angle of the story that would make it newsworthy, to carefully time the pitch of the story towards targeted journalists, and to be ready with rebuttals from the anti-wind lobby if necessary.

We spoke with RES at length to build up a detailed understanding of how the scheme would work and what set it apart from others in the market. Alongside this we liaised with DECC to coordinate a visit by the Secretary of State to a wind farm where local homeowners and businesses would be among the first to benefit.

In an effort to maximise coverage, we tailored three releases – one targeted at national press and two pitched towards local press in areas of Scotland and England. Each one included strong quotes from Secretary of State Edward Davey and RES COO Gordon MacDougall, while the Scottish version also featured a quote from Scotland’s Minister for Energy Fergus Ewing.     

We briefed the story under embargo to targeted national newspaper, wire and broadcast journalists with whom we’d built up strong relationships, as well as to key local newspapers

Sounds good. What outcome did all this have on your client’s business?

The result was positive coverage of the scheme in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Herald, The Economist and on BBC Scotland, as well as numerous local titles and industry trade press over the course of more than a week. 

The effect of the coverage on RES’ business was two-fold: first, it helped to strengthen and advance its position as a market leader; second, it helped to promote the case of wind as a renewable technology that brings benefits to communities living and working nearby. 

The national press coverage that we achieved for the client was particularly timely as the Government's formal response to the call for evidence on community engagement and benefits took place the week after.  By achieving coverage of the operational launch in advance of the Government's announcement, we helped ensure that RES’ voice was heard above the fray.

Impressive. Any gems of wisdom you learned from working on this that you’d like to pass on?

Bellenden sees the media as a tool to help our clients achieve their objectives in raising awareness of to a wider audience, not as an end in itself, and this project reaffirmed this approach.  Our success in achieving press and broadcast coverage for our client was in large part due to us clearly understanding their objective and then working in partnership with them to ensure the story was positioned and pitched correctly.

There is no recipe that guarantees success in achieving press coverage for a client, but the chances are much improved when you think like a journalist - spot the angle that makes the story newsworthy, tailor the story to the audience, take opportunities when they arise, build up a good network of contacts, get ahead of the pack and be prepared.  The gem of wisdom that should never be forgotten is to make sure you get these fundamentals right.

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