Campaigns: Sea cadets push the PR boat out - Media Relations

When Government proposals to introduce funding to expand the combined cadet scheme in schools were leaked to the press in January, the cadet corps were presented with an unexpected opportunity for self-promotion.

When Government proposals to introduce funding to expand the

combined cadet scheme in schools were leaked to the press in January,

the cadet corps were presented with an unexpected opportunity for

self-promotion.



Mark Mallon, head of PR at the Sea Cadets, was aware that the Air

Training Corps and Army Cadet Corps had their hands tied by the MOD, who

had made a policy decision not to comment on Government proposals. This

left the Marine Corps and Sea Cadets - part-funded by the MOD - free to

use the story to generate media interest for themselves.



Objectives



To use the sudden media interest in cadet corps training as a platform

to publicise the Sea Cadets, creating recruitment opportunities and

attracting corporate interest for sponsorship. To promote the message

that the Sea Cadets ’offer 16,000 young people the opportunity to

undertake a wide variety of afloat and ashore activities, building team

work, self respect, social and communications skills.’



Tactics



Mallon alerted the media to his availability for comment by sending a

press release to the Press Association. He stated that he would only

appear on TV or radio if his interview was broadcast live and uncut.

Between interviews he ’solicited himself’ to other studios, generating

further appearances.



Mallon was aware that he would be asked to comment on two issues:

whether the Sea Cadets supported the Government proposals and, in the

light of Dunblane, whether cadet corps training would encourage the use

of firearms.



The Sea Cadets’ links with the MOD meant he could not comment on the

former but said the Cadets welcomed support from any quarter.



Mallon aimed to put the concerns about access to weapons in context and

proportion. He pointed out that weapons were not a compulsory part of

the cadet syllabus and emphasised that ’a sea cadet could spend his

entire life without having ever touched a live weapon.’



Results



In just two days Mallon achieved 26 minutes of high profile national

coverage on television and radio. He appeared on Sky News, Radio 4, LBC

and IRN and took part in a live debate on Talk Radio with anti-gun

organisation, Snowdrop. He also gave an exclusive interview to Radio

Merseyside, which had given the Sea Cadets some excellent coverage in

the past.



The story was covered in the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and the

Daily Telegraph. and several trade publications plan to cover the issues

raised. Although statistics are not yet available, the Sea Cadets claim

to have received a number of new recruitment enquiries.



Verdict



An example of how an one-man, opportunistic PR campaign can achieve

almost total success. Given only two hours notice that the story would

break, Mallon skilfully managed the media and generated saturation

coverage.



He successfully directed debate away from Government policy and

dispelled the public perception that the Sea Cadets were a weapons-based

organisation.



Mallon’s experience of political crisis management served him well. Even

James Whale remarked that he had been unable to wind him up. Mallon

claims the MOD was impressed and that the success of the campaign has

heightened the PR’s importance within the Sea Cadets.



Client: Sea Cadets

PR Team: Mark Mallon, head of PR, Sea Cadets

Campaign: Promoting sea cadets in light of Government proposals to

incorporate cadet corps training into the curriculum

Timescale: 24 to 25 Jan 1997

Budget: undisclosed



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