CAMPAIGN: Launch PR - Lewis heralds Millbank as a media centre

Client: Lewis PR PR Team: In-house Campaign: Launch of Lewis Media Centre Timescale: October 2002 - January 2003 Budget: Undisclosed

Last October, tech PR firm Lewis PR took over New Labour's former PR machine HQ at Millbank, to create a national media centre. Lewis, which is based in London's Millbank Tower, acquired the lease to the renowned media centre after Labour relocated its press operations to St James's Square.

Having spent £100,000 refurbishing the venue to bring it up to date technically with facilities to suit a corporate audience, the idea was to hire the centre out as a public and private venue for conferences, events and press briefings.

Objectives

To launch the media centre to corporate, public sector and not-for-profit organisations as well as to individual journalists who host corporate events.

Lewis planned that the venue should be financially viable by the end of January, with a view to establishing it as central London's first choice for press conferences three months down the line.

Strategy and Plan

Lewis decided to launch the venue doing what it does best, which is using PR rather than advertising.

Activities were mainly focused on word of mouth and media relations.

Agency founder and CEO Chris Lewis highlighted the heritage and technical facilities of the centre to his contacts across the quality media, while associate director Tim Luckett plugged the venue to his former colleagues at the News of the World, the Mail on Sunday, the Sunday Mirror, The Sun and the Daily Mail.

Lewis's existing client base and new business contacts were contacted by phone and sent a mailshot. In addition, the agency cold-called a number of local public sector organisations, including various government departments.

In an effort to further publicise the centre, a dedicated website was set up in November, and last month Lewis offered the venue free of charge to the first 50 not-for-profit organisations which made a booking.

Measurement and Evaluation

The news of Lewis's take over of the former home of New Labour's PR operation appeared in The Financial Times and also on ten websites, including iml.co.uk and Brand Republic.

In addition, the centre secured listings from 50 online venue and conference directories.

Results

By the end of January, the media centre was breaking even financially, covering its refurbishment and lease costs.

A number of organisations, including 40 not-for-profit organisations, have booked or used the venue. These include Merrill Lynch, Lloyds TSB and UNISON. 'The Lewis Media Centre has proved to be a convenient location for hosting major press conferences at very short notice,' said Jon Long, project officer, corporate affairs, for the the International Cricket Council, which in January held two press conferences at which journalists were able to make use of the centre's BBC, ITN and Sky live feeds.

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