On 9 November, Chancellor Gordon Brown revealed the Government’s
future spending plans in his budget preview. Among the initiatives he
announced was tax incentives for employee share ownership schemes. The
next day Tony Blair accompanied Brown on a media tour to sell the
pre-Budget plan to the public.
Starbucks Coffee Company runs a share ownership scheme in the US called
Bean Stock, and is launching something similar for its UK ’partners’, as
it terms its employees. The company was approached by the Chancellor’s
press office to see if a Starbucks store could be included in Tony Blair
and Gordon Brown’s media tour.
To welcome the Prime Minister and Chancellor to Starbucks. To get across
the message that Starbucks is a progressive company and treats its
Strategy and Plan
With less than a week between the request from the Chancellor’s press
office and the actual visit, Starbucks’ retained PR agency Gabrielle
Shaw Communications (GSC) had to move quickly.
For security reasons, and because the visit was not a general press
call, the plans had to be kept very quiet. Staff at GSC set about
designing briefing plans for Starbucks staff at its Villiers Street
store, where the visit would take place, and for GSC staff who would be
dealing with subsequent media enquiries.
The day before the event, the Villiers Street staff were given media
training, and advice on how to talk to the Prime Minister.
On the day itself, Government press officers orchestrated the media.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown spent around 20 minutes chatting with staff
about the Bean Stock scheme and sampling coffee. Tony Blair then went
behind the counter and made his own espresso, telling reporters ’I used
to do this when I was a barman in Paris’.
Within 15 minutes, the story was on the wires, and GSC staff were
flooded with further media enquiries and requests for interviews with
Measurement and Evaluation
The opportunity of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor appearing
together was seized upon by the media, with pictures and stories
appearing in many national newspapers, including full pages in the
Express and the Daily Mail, which ran the headline: ’The Starbucks stops
The story was also featured on Channel 4 and BBC evening news bulletins,
with Channel 4 reporting the fact the Gordon Brown was using Starbucks
as an example of an entrepreneurial organisation, in a piece about how
the Chancellor had been strongly influenced by US-style economics.
The Independent’s Column One piece claimed Starbucks was archetypal New
Labour and wondered that it was the first time that Gordon Brown and
Tony Blair had been seen together in one.
The whole event went off as smoothly as a skinny double latte with a
dash of hazelnut.
Obviously it is an incredible stroke of luck to be singled out for a
visit by the two most powerful men in the country. But there is
potential for these things to back-fire, and the fact that most of the
coverage was so positive - at least when it came to Starbucks - is a
testament to the good planning and management of the event.
Client: Starbucks Coffee Company
PR Team: Gabrielle Shaw Communications
Campaign: Prime Minister and Chancellor’s visit to Starbucks
Timescale: 10 November 1999
Budget: from annual budget