CAMPAIGNS: CPN helps to build profile of Direct Line - Media Relations

Client: Direct Line
PR Team: Countrywide Porter Novelli
Campaign: The Mobile Phone Report
Timescale: August 2001- ongoing
Budget: £80,000

Insurance firm Direct Line is seeking to position itself as a consumer champion and commentator on motoring issues.

It decided to pursue a PR campaign based around the problems that can result from driving while using a phone. This was seen as a fertile media topic with a public policy element as laws banning driving while using a phone have been implemented in some European countries and US states.

Objectives

To boost awareness of the dangers of mobile-use while driving; to drive the media and political agenda on the issue; to position Direct Line as a commentator on motoring issues.

Strategy and Plan

Direct Line's retained agency, Countrywide Porter Novelli, recognised that the campaign required independent statistical evidence.

It therefore hired Europe's largest land transport research laboratory, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), to investigate the danger of using a mobile behind the wheel.

PR activities were linked to a Private Member's Bill in Parliament, put forward by Janet Anderson MP, seeking to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. Public affairs work was aided by Lexington Communications.

CPN gained the co-operation of three families whose lives had been affected as a result of road accidents involving the use of a mobile.

The publication of the research findings was timed to coincide with the second reading of the proposed bill in parliament (set for 12 April but subsequently moved to 19 July).

Media such as major regional papers and consumer affairs correspondents on the nationals were pre-briefed to publish stories on launch day (22 March). CPN worked with Medialink on broadcast PR.

Measurement and Evaluation

Total audience reach (opportunities to see/hear - OTS) from the campaign was 298,159,780 from 489 pieces of coverage (online OTS and duplicated regional coverage was not evaluated). This means the entire UK population was potentially exposed to the campaign four times.

Sixty-three per cent of print coverage directly mentioned Direct Line and 78 per cent of mentions were positive.

Numerous consumer online/interactive polls and discussion boards - such as BBC News Online and Sky.co.uk - picked up on the campaign, as did phone-in items and discussions on BBC1's Breakfast and Sky News, and BBC Radio 2 and Radio 5 Live.

Results

In addition to the media relations success, which helped to raise the profile of Direct Line, the research has informed and influenced political debate. On account of the research, the Private Member's Bill was extended to include the restriction of hands-free mobile use.

With an increased profile on road safety issues, Direct Line has an increased engagement with public policy influencers.

An Early Day Motion (EDM) was tabled by Anderson and has so far attracted the support of 125 MPs.

Pressure to change the law is continuing, with Direct Line inextricably linked to the campaign.

On 21 May, road safety minister Derek Jamieson was quoted by London's Evening Standard as saying new laws 'may be necessary.'

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