CAMPAIGNS: Broadcast PR; Army at war to win TV recruits

Client: The British Army PR team: In-house Mobile News Team Campaign: Continued support and recognition for British troops deployed in Bosnia on regional TV Timescale: 1992 - to date Budget: pounds 56,000 plus pounds 500,000 capital expenditure on equipment

Client: The British Army

PR team: In-house Mobile News Team

Campaign: Continued support and recognition for British troops deployed

in Bosnia on regional TV

Timescale: 1992 - to date

Budget: pounds 56,000 plus pounds 500,000 capital expenditure on

equipment



Recruitment is a big issue in the British Army. With the end of the Cold

War and mass redundancies, it is perceived that military careers are now

uncertain. However, the Army still needs its staff and must challenge

these perceptions. Large-scale military operations such as that in

Bosnia where, since the Dayton Agreement, the Army now has 13,000 troops

deployed, present it with an opportunity to show the value and status of

the soldier.



The Mobile News Team’s role is to acquire TV footage of military

activities and supply the pictures to regional broadcasters back home.



Objective



To generate and sustain a high level of public awareness of the role,

abilities and living conditions of British troops in Bosnia via regional

TV. To maintain public support for the Army and boost recruitment in

specific TV regions roughly coinciding with regional recruitment areas.



Tactics



Supplying quality TV footage, backed by storylines with a UK regional

slant. The stories usually take the form of two to three interviews and

around ten minutes of general views on broadcast standard video tape.

This is backed by background information to two-minute piece for

regional news programme.



The MNT’s TV crew - Major Tim Purbrick and Sergeant Dave Brown - visited

Bosnia nine times in the past 18 months. Highlights included being the

only crew in the world to film a NATO airstrike near Sarajevo, from a

hill 800 yards away; filming a liaison officer in a minefield staring

down the barrels of hostile AK47 rifles, and escaping from another hairy

situation with kit smuggled in one vehicle and crew in another.



When a Metropolitan Police officer in the Territorial Army was called up

to serve at a small operational HQ. The MNT created a piece entitled the

‘The Bill in Bosnia’ which was used by Carlton TV.



Results



The Army estimates that the MNT is responsible for generating over

pounds 2 million of exposure on regional TV since the beginning of

Bosnian deployment, based on equivalent ad costs of pounds 8,000 per

minute.



Television journalists have differing views about the usefulness of the

service. Andy Cooper, regional editor of Meridian Tonight, uses MNT

material every few months, while Chris Ware, bi-media editor at BBC

South, says: ‘We virtually never use such footage, although we always

look at what comes in.’ He also sees an ethical issue here. ‘BBC South

is unusual in having its own defence correspondent, yet we sometimes

find that our access to military sites is denied and the only means of

obtaining footage is through a ‘controlled source’ such as the MNT. This

has obvious implications for the independence of war coverage.’



Verdict



Despite the unwillingness of the BBC to use MNT footage, Tim Purbrick’s

team has achieved considerable coverage on independent TV. The coverage

presents the ‘human’ side of the army and keeps its day-to-day work in

the public eye.



When asked about MNT’s effectiveness, Brigadier Philip Trousdell, PR

director for the British Army, said he was ‘very happy with the team’s

work and looking for additional teams in the future. It communicates

essential messages about the quality and capability of our staff.’



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