IN-HOUSE SURVEY: The Church of England takes on the issues of urban development and rural issues

- Many privatised utilities fell under media scrutiny two years ago for alleged fat cat salaries. United Utilities director of communications John Drummond says adverse media coverage has dipped from 27 per cent of the total coverage of United Utilities from April 1997 to March 1998 to 11 per cent of the total from April 1998 to March 1999.

- Many privatised utilities fell under media scrutiny two years ago

for alleged fat cat salaries. United Utilities director of

communications John Drummond says adverse media coverage has dipped from

27 per cent of the total coverage of United Utilities from April 1997 to

March 1998 to 11 per cent of the total from April 1998 to March

1999.



UNITED UTILITIES



United Utilities was the first combined utilities company in the UK. It

has a communications team of 27 serving United Utilities and its branded

companies, including North West Water, Norweb and Vertex.



Responsibilities of the 27-strong PR team include public affairs,

financial communications support, employee communications, impact on

society/community partnerships and media relations. The company does not

use external PR agencies.Group director of communications John Drummond

says: ’We aim to work as a business within a business. We also have a

fully integrated approach across all our audiences- structuring our team

by audience and not by media.’



Clients, including Norweb, are offered strategic communications advice,

communications project management and product delivery.



The department is working on several initiatives, including developing

an integrated approach to reporting business performance, establishing

national best practice models and working with United Utilities

businesses to co-ordinate Public Affairs and Impact on Society

programmes. The company has recently published its third environmental

report and its first report into impact on society. Future challenges

for the team include responding to the water regulator’s proposal of

imposing price limits for water.



DESIGN COUNCIL



The PR team at the Design Council has spent much of its time over the

past two years on the Millennium Products project. The announcements of

each new batch of chosen products - part of the Creative Britain

campaign which won the council the PR Week Campaign of the Year Award in

1998 - have already generated thousands of press cuttings. PR manager

Luke Blair says: ’There are peaks and troughs. It is 100 per cent of my

work in the run up to an announcement - it’s like doing 200 simultaneous

product launches. We generate 40 different tailored press releases each

time.’ The PR team has gone one step further by producing a guide to PR

for small companies whose products make it onto the list.



The goal of the work of the DTI-funded Design Council is to improve the

competitiveness of UK industry, by emphasising the importance of design

in its broadest sense to business, education and the Government.



The dedicated PR team at the council is made up of four people, but

director of government and media Martin Brown adds: ’Everyone is

involved in PR here. The international manager doesn’t just work with

the British Council and the Foreign Office, but also deals with

international media and events. There is no point in doing something and

keeping it secret.’



PROs who struggle to get direct access to the board would envy the

position of the Design Council’s team. The chief executive, Andrew

Summers, is on the same floor in an open-plan office. ’He’s very

PR-aware and very responsive to any requests we make,’ says Blair.



CHURCH OF ENGLAND



The eight-strong Church of England Communications Unit supports the

Church of England, the Church Commissioners and the Church Pensioners

Board. Based in London, the unit, which is led by director of

communications Reverend Dr William Beaver, works alongside England’s 44

diocesan directors of communications. The team has a small annual

communications budget and actively seeks sponsorship.



Beaver says that, in addition to the normal press function, unit members

are given portfolio assignments on key issues. One of the unit’s biggest

challenges has been the establishment of the Archbishops’ Council in

January.



The new board of directors replaces several ’rudderless’ committees and

it is hoped communication to the church’s 27,000 clergy will now be

improved.



Communication to external audiences is also a priority. Beaver says:

’Market research has shown that people are very annoyed with the church

for not taking a clear lead on issues.’ As a result, a new initiative,

called the Lead Bishops’ Programme, is being planned. Lead bishops will

act as voice pieces on thorny issues, such as urban development and

rural issues. Other challenges for the year ahead include improving

electronic communications, a major focus on marriage in September, and

the launch of a revised Book of Common Worship.



THE NEW COVENT GARDEN SOUP COMPANY



’We were built on the back of PR,’ says Kate Kime, head of PR at The New

Covent Garden Soup Company. ’Initially there was no advertising, as our

customers are well educated and we needed to talk to them on an

intelligent level. Editorial can better explain our position, especially

now the brand is diversifying.’



The 11-year old company, which puts the emphasis on fresh and natural

products, has a turnover of pounds 22 million. It is branching out into

gravy, beans, books and retail outlets, and will launch an organic soup

range in September.



Kime admits this is a PR challenge. ’It isn’t so easy to diversify when

you have the word ’soup’ in your brand name, but if you focus on key

aspects of the brand, it can be carried through. However, it does force

you to be creative.’ Soup bars have now opened in Hammersmith and

Marylebone High Street in London, and ten more will open before 2000.

There will also be two soup bars in the Millennium Dome. Kime, who works

alone, relies on agency support for trade and consumer media relations;

she uses 360o Communications and a freelance PRO in Scotland.



The company uses cause-related marketing as part of its PR strategy.



It has worked with homeless charity Crisis for 11 years, and more

recently it joined forces with Children Nationwide. Proceeds from its

June ’soup of the month’, which had a children’s cookery book promotion

on-pack,went towards a premature baby cot at King’s College Hospital.

Further proceeds from the book, which featured recipes from the children

of employees, are also going to the charity.



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