FOCUS: WALES - Striving for a new national identity/Despite the opportunities presented by the new National Assembly, Wales still believes that the British media presents an unfair image of the country, a challenge that PR practitioners are ready to face.

Cardiff has come of age. One of Britain’s youngest cities, the Welsh capital is not only holding its own in this country, but is battling for greater recognition on the European stage.

Cardiff has come of age. One of Britain’s youngest cities, the

Welsh capital is not only holding its own in this country, but is

battling for greater recognition on the European stage.



Driving this resurgence of Welsh pride is an impressive programme of

building works. These include a Millennium Stadium, which will host the

1999 Rugby World Cup; the development of a five-star city centre hotel,

and refurbishment work (now completed) to the Civic Centre which hosts

the EU summit this month.



But by far the brightest jewel in Cardiff’s crown is Cardiff Bay. The

complex, which is built on eight miles of waterfront, features leisure

facilities, offices, housing, shops and restaurants. By the turn of the

century it will also include the Millennium Centre, the new home for the

Welsh National Opera, and of special importance, the Welsh National

Assembly.



’The fact that the National Assembly’s home has been settled in Cardiff

Bay is going to add to the city’s world profile,’ says Bill Jenkins,

senior partner at Quadrant PR and holder of the PR account for Cardiff

Bay.



Tim Powell, senior account manager of The Petersen Partnership,

agrees.



’You can’t underestimate the cultural confidence in what is happening in

Wales and how we are projecting ourselves. In PR terms it has got to be

good.’



But Jenkins has a word of warning for those who believe Cardiff is

shaping up to become the New Jerusalem in PR terms. ’Cardiff is not a PR

dream, the Welsh way of doing things cannot be learnt in a day,’ he

says.



It is a view echoed by Norma Jarboe, chief executive of Cardiff

Marketing.



’People with representative offices here just don’t understand the

market. They have stereotypical image of Wales - I’ve seen people come

to Cardiff with marketing plans, saying ’this will please the Welsh’,

but it’s completely off the mark and insulting.’



It is an opinion also shared by Jonathan Smith, managing director of

Golley Slater, which was established in Wales in 1969 and is currently

handling the public information campaign for devolution. Smith says: ’In

the eyes of certain organisations, Cardiff has become the land of milk

and honey, again. Important as the assembly is, it will not elevate us

to a level where everyone can come here and there’ll be plenty for

everybody. My point is not whether outside agencies have the right to

come and challenge us, of course they do, but whether there is enough

work available in this economy.’



Jenkins remembers the last time Cardiff was sized up by newcomers to the

city. ’If you look back to the last PR rush in the 1980s, standards were

not raised as a whole in Cardiff because most agencies tried to operate

via a satellite office. The companies which succeeded were the ones

which came in and established proper offices.’



Both Jenkins and Smith agree that part of the problem is the lack of

companies with headquarters based in Wales. The principality may have

one of the highest concentrations of Japanese companies in Europe, but

few of these are able to make marketing decisions. The same applies to

British companies with bases in Wales - their marketing decisions are

taken more often than not in Southern England. It remains to be seen

whether the new Welsh Assembly will encourage companies to establish

headquarters in Wales.



One company which has already taken the plunge is Korean-owned LG

SemiCom Wales (LGSW). Public Relations officer Jill Roberts says: ’LGSW

made a conscious decision to establish its plant in Newport - it was

LGSW’s first move out of South Korea. I believe Wales was chosen because

of the contribution PR has made to inward investment in Wales. Everytime

I’m asked why LGSW came to Wales, I repeat all the PR reasons that have

gone before.’



There is no doubt that the Welsh Assembly will irrevocably change the

political landscape of the principality. However, as Jenkins points out,

there has been a significant degree of political autonomy for years.



’To some extent Wales always had a separate system, we have a Welsh

Office, a Secretary of State and two ministers for a population that’s

smaller than Greater Liverpool.’



Quadrant established a lobby wing two years ago called Wales and

Westminster.



According to Jenkins, business has mushroomed by 60 per cent in the last

six months, with most clients wanting to know how the Welsh Assembly

will impact on their business.



Sian Callaghan, PR manager for British Gas says she is already thinking

about the impact of the new Welsh National Assembly. British Gas, she

says, will lobby through both Westminster and Cardiff and matters high

on the agenda include ensuring the communications infrastructure is in

place for Wales and establishing a regulatory framework for

competition.



The establishment of the Welsh Assembly will undoubtedly put Wales on

the map politically and enhance its reputation in Europe. But it is

difficult to gauge whether the assembly will increase to the media

coverage Wales generates nationally.



Smith explains: ’Wales has still got an incredibly difficult job getting

itself on the national media scene as there’s a disproportional degree

of disinterest shown for matters Welsh. Stories which would have

definite clout if they were out of Scotland, and most definitely if they

were out of London, are much lower down on the news agenda because they

are from Wales.’



Smith blames the media itself for terming Wales ’an irrelevance’. ’We

can get some stories placed more easily in European publications, than

in UK,’ he complains.



Powell of the Petersen Partnership thinks he may know part of the reason

why it is such an uphill struggle. ’It’s still relatively early days for

selling Welshness. Scotland and Ireland have been at it for years.’



But if the media in general is too London-centric, PR people in Wales

tend to be Cardiff-centric, according to Jenkins.



’We have become focused on Cardiff as the epicentre of everything. It is

something which really alienates our friends in the North.’



But Melanie Faithfull, director of Harrison Cowley, says that many North

Wales agencies look to Liverpool for their press coverage.



It is unfortunate that the Welsh Assembly will inevitably make Wales

even more Cardiff-centric. But for those PR people living and working in

Cardiff, the city has never looked better. Not just because of the

exciting new developments, but older institutions, such as the Welsh

National Opera and Cardiff University - noted for its PR graduate course

run by local IPR chairman Mike Smith - are flourishing.



’Cardiff stacks up as a city,’ concludes Jenkins, ’The reality now meets

the expectation.’



CASE STUDY: BRINGING COMMUNITY SPIRIT TO OUT OF TOWN



Out-of-town retail centres may be popular with shoppers, but can often

spell trouble for PR people working with the local community.



Golley Slater was responsible for the PR and promotion of a new pounds

35million discount designer centre in Bridgend, for client BAA

McArthurGlenn. Called the Designer Outlet Wales, it was BAA

McArthurGlenn’s first venture into Wales.



Jonathan Smith, managing director of Golley Slater says of the campaign,

which ran from September 1997 to May 1998: ’At a community level, the

key tasks were to cement the strong working relationship with the local

authority and other agencies involved and to minimise the apprehension

of town centre retailers.



’At a consumer level, the focus was on ensuring that the target

audiences were aware of the particular retail offer and that there was a

strong turnout for the launch event.’



Golley Slater generated a regular flow of local news stories focusing on

the company’s involvement with nearby schools and community groups.



Children were invited to christen the retail development’s mascot, to

design wall tiles for the food court and to participate in the opening

event.



Much of the PR effort was directed towards the grand opening. In the

event, more than 15,000 shoppers queued for up to two hours to

enter.



Golley Slater co-ordinated television, a local press advertising

campaign, as well as its own PR efforts, for five days prior to the

grand opening.



Invited to the event were civic dignitaries, locally-born designer David

Emanuel, Absolutely Fabulous character lookalikes and over 50

entertainment acts.



The opening event generated exposure in the Welsh media, including live

links to all the major TV and radio news programmes.



Smith says: ’The slow build up of the campaign over the construction

phase enabled the company to establish its community credentials. Strong

pre-launch media relations, boosted by an integrated and intense

advertising attack,ensured that consumer awareness levels were at the

required level and that footfall over the critical Bank Holiday opening

weekend exceeded both BAA McArthurGlen’s and the tenant retailers’

expectations.’



CASE STUDY: MAKING PR CAPITAL OUT OF THE LAST INVASION



Every schoolchild knows the date of the Norman Conquest was in 1066, but

few learn that this was not the last time that Britain was invaded.



In 1797 the French mounted a campaign against the British in the county

of Pembrokeshire. Two hundred years later, PR consultancy Quadrant was

charged with organising the PR for a bicentenary campaign.



The PR campaign, which ran over three years, was given a budget of

pounds 36,000 by The Last Invasion of Britain Bicentenary Committee. It

in turn was funded by the Wales Tourist Board, the European Union and

local organisations and companies, including Stena, Texaco and Welsh

Water, among others.



In recent years Pembrokeshire had suffered from the closure of several

military bases, the withdrawal of multinational oil companies and from

the impact of BSE on the farming industry. In addition, the tourist

industry was dealt a major blow when the Sea Empress ran aground at

Milford Haven, causing a major environmental disaster.



Bill Jenkins, senior partner at Quadrant, says the PR campaign aimed to

promote Pembrokeshire as a national and international tourist

destination, to create sustainable economic benefits for the area and to

boost the morale of the local community.



He says: ’Potential visitors were targeted through the national and

international press and locally, the campaign was communicated by

staging public meetings and distributing publicity material.’ The Wales

Tourist Board and the Welsh Office were also involved with the

international PR campaign.



Quadrant’s efforts resulted in extensive TV and radio coverage as well

as featuring in Le Monde and High Life, British Airways’ inflight

magazine.



One of the key attractions of the campaign, the Last Invasion tapestry,

drew 60,000 visitors to Fishguard. Quadrant tracked the success of its

campaign in a number of ways. According to figures collated by

Pembrokeshire County Council, overseas visitors to Fishguard Tourist

Information Centre increased by 52.8 per cent, while overseas visitors

to the area during 1997 increased 17 per cent. According to police

statistics, 3,500 people attended the Bicentenary Celtic Food and Wine

Fair and 8,000 people watched an aerobatics display by the Red

Arrows.



CASE STUDY: ACCENTUATING POSITIVE KOREAN INVESTMENT NEWS



Devising a PR strategy for a new hi-tech plant is never a simple task,

but press and PR officer Jill Roberts is having to contend with an

unforeseen crisis in her new role as PR officer for LG SemiCom Wales

(LGSW).



The South Korean-owned microchip plant is preparing to open next year

against the backdrop of one of the most severe economic crises in

south-east Asia.



Situated in Newport, the pounds 1.3 billion plant is part of the largest

inward investment project in Europe and will employ some 6,000 people

when it opens. It already employs 150 people in key positions across the

company, from PR to finance and engineering.



Roberts says: ’Everything we say about LGSW is coloured by the question,

’is everything OK?’ We really hit the ground running.’



One of Roberts’ first jobs was to launch an immediate campaign to

counter speculation and maintain confidence in LGSW’s future.



’Proactive PR became company policy at all times. Briefings, facility

visits and interviews with senior management were all activated to

broaden the discussion on LGSW beyond the Korean economy,’ she says.



The team also monitored the financial press to identity potential ’flash

points’ which they could then attempt to counteract.



’We sought corrections over some inaccuracies in the media, for example,

BBC Breakfast News said we had announced a two-year delay and put 1,700

jobs on hold. After our intervention, there was an on-air

retraction.’



The team also initiated an internal communications programme to promote

confidence from the ground up and establish a framework for two-way

communications.



As Roberts says, ’PR walks out of the gate with every employee.’



Now in a position to review the early stages of the campaign, Roberts

believes it has resulted in a definite reduction in financial

speculation in favour of more positive coverage. However, she says: ’The

company retains a realistic view that until the Korean situation is

resolved, we will always be subject to ’negative’ interest.



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