CAMPAIGNS: Relaunch of IT training firm focuses on VAT - Corporate PR

Client: The Training Camp PR Team: Lewis Communications Campaign: Relaunch of IT training firm Timescale: January 2003-January 2004 Budget: 'Six figures', but now also encompassing Germany and US

Relaunching an IT training company during a downturn could be regarded as either foolhardy or brave, but that's what The Training Camp did, giving Lewis Communications the brief.

Objectives

To rebrand the company's image to attract more corporate customers. To publicise the high-intensity residential training, targeting managers and consultants who would either be attending courses or sending people on them.

Strategy and Plan

The Training Camp did not have a presence in the industry and did not enjoy wide recognition within the IT or training press. The main challenge for Lewis was to maintain a regular flow of news to the press in the absence of any 'hard' news from the company.

The agency decided to develop a number of campaign themes, focusing on industry issues that would position The Training Camp as a thought leader.

Lewis aimed to produce two news stories a month, with particular emphasis on four key areas: a call to scrap VAT on training; the cyber security threat; the commercial and personal benefits of training; and criticism of e-learning.

The agency used existing customers for polling and offered opinion pieces on live issues, as well as comments from co-founder Robert Chapman.

Initially, Lewis approached the weekly IT magazines to pitch article ideas following a brainstorm with the client. More recently, magazine editors have contacted Lewis requesting columns from Chapman, focusing on a range of issues such as e-learning. Themes were selected to tie in with the firm's business objectives and vested interests. For example, The Training Camp's business model is based on accelerated learning in a classroom environment - the opposite to e-learning. So the team implemented an aggressive campaign that focused on the inherent flaws in the e-learning model.

Another theme was web security to drive demand for an exclusive security qualification. This campaign focused on the fact that far fewer British IT professionals held this gold standard qualification than in the US.

The campaign centred on a poll of FTSE100 firms, which found only a minority employed a dedicated IT security specialist.

A successful element was the call for scrapping VAT on training. An online petition demonstrated that support was widespread in the industry, with more than 5,000 respondents backing the campaign. Lewis also approached the Lib Dem spokeswoman on education, science and technology in the House of Lords. It remains a live issue and has been taken up by the EU.

Measurement and Evaluation

Since the start of the campaign, The Training Camp has generated more than 100 stories, according to the Press Index cuttings agency. National coverage was obtained in the Financial Times, The Guardian and the Evening Standard. Magazines such as Computing and Computer Consultant covered the story, alongside websites such as accountingweb.co.uk and businesseurope.com.

Results

Training Camp registered a 50 per cent increase in enquiries after each piece of press coverage.

Rachel Fielding, managing editor at VNU, which publishes Computing, IT Week and Computer Reseller News, among others, said the campaign had raised the company's profile.

'Picking up on the VAT issue helped to generate a lot of interest,' she said. 'Lewis successfully tapped into a debate that is still going on.

It was also helpful to speak to the firm's MD when writing about training issues.'

The campaign is being extended to the US and Germany.

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