Campaign: Oasis delivers growth plan to press and staff - Financial PR

Campaign: Acquisition of Karen Millen and Whistles by Oasis Group Client: Oasis Group/Baugur Group PR Team: in-house and Gavin Anderson & Company Timescale: June 2004 Budget: Undisclosed

Privately owned Icelandic group Baugur is the majority owner of women's clothing retailer Oasis Group after supporting Oasis's management buyout from private equity firm PPM Ventures in November last year. Baugur pledged to offer funding for expansion and, this year, Oasis announced it was to buy the Karen Millen company, which also includes high-street outlet Whistles, in a deal valued at £120m.

The move put four brands - Karen Millen, Whistles, Oasis and Coast - with total annual sales of £350m and 550 stores under a single banner.

Objectives

To ensure the rationale for the deal was accurately reported across the UK national media and trade publications, as well as in the Icelandic media.

To provide a platform from which to give exposure to the four brands and to assure employees of Karen Millen that the deal was good news for them and their company.

Strategy and Plan

The Oasis management team, led by CEO Derek Lovelock, were made available to the media for interview on the day of the announcement.

Since Karen Millen, Oasis and Baugur are all private companies, there were no regulatory requirements to conform to.

The public announcement was co-ordinated with the internal communications plan, which meant all staff were briefed by the management before the deal was made public to ensure no employees were left confused or concerned about the future of their company.

No press conference was held, but 30 journalists were contacted with the news in the morning and offered access to management for individual phone briefings.

Measurement and Evaluation

Print titles were the main target and every national newspaper covered the deal in their financial pages. There were also features in the main sections of the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail. These centred on the somewhat elusive figure of Karen Millen, describing the clothing empire she had built up - although Millen was no longer involved in the business.

The story was also covered in clothing trade publications such as Drapers Record and Retail Week. The majority of the articles included photos of the shops or the clothing range. In-house analysis showed every article accurately reported the structure of the deal and delivered the key message that Baugur was a supportive owner of Oasis.

In Iceland, the deal was positively reported across national newspapers Frettabladid and Morgunbladid, as well as TV stations RUV-TV and Channel 2 TV, along with the Bylgjan radio station.

Results

The internal communications programme at The Oasis Group is continuing and the brands have been successfully integrated. One national newspaper financial journalist who covered the deal announcement says the PR effort worked well: 'Baugur is not shy of publicity. The guy who runs it is very shrewd and, because it was a private company buying other private companies, he could deliver the story any way he wanted.'

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