CAMPAIGNS: The right words at the right time - Consumer PR

The dictionary market is highly competitive. Publishers such as Oxford, Collins and Chambers invest much time and money producing new editions of their dictionaries, and aim to win press coverage for their products.

The dictionary market is highly competitive. Publishers such as

Oxford, Collins and Chambers invest much time and money producing new

editions of their dictionaries, and aim to win press coverage for their

products.



Collins Dictionaries planned to publish a new edition of its Collins

Concise Dictionary in June 1999. Knowing that Oxford would be publishing

at a similar time, the in-house team, alongside Colman Getty, worked

hard to develop a strategy which would differentiate its product and

bring it to the public’s attention.



Objectives



To publicise the launch of the Collins Concise Dictionary.



Strategy and Plan



The plan was to produce a story which would provide blanket

coverage.



An effective but oft-repeated tactic to launch any English dictionary is

to release a story featuring the ’new word’ angle - such as words like

Viagra and docu-soap which have been included for the first time.



This is a story which regularly makes the news for Oxford, but obviously

the media wouldn’t be interested in running two new-word stories in a

short space of time.



The Collins Concise Dictionary PR team hit upon the idea of a survey

into the current state of English grammar and usage. With access to

writers, communicators and broadcasters, Collins had the perfect

database of candidates to question about the English language.



A survey was prepared and questionnaires were sent out in April.

Respondents were assured that their responses would be anonymous. During

May the results were collated. Over 100 replies were received, from such

luminaries as Jeremy Paxman, Janet Street-Porter and Bob Monkhouse.



The team then worked to compile a press release detailing the

findings.



It included the top five grammatical irritations; the English language’s

’worst offenders’; sections on the role of the media and political

correctness and the results of the multiple choice spelling test.



The press release was sent out on Tuesday 22 June with an embargo until

the following day - when the dictionary was due to be released. Despite

pressure from journalists following up the story to reveal those who had

done the worst in the test, the only people who were named and shamed

were those who came in the top ten list of English language manglers -

led by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and his classic ’sceptre of

unemployment’ remark.



The launch to the press was backed up with the biggest advertising

campaign Collins has ever undertaken.



Measurement and Evaluation



The survey received major coverage in the nationals with newspapers such

as the Daily Telegraph featuring a half-page news feature which quoted

extensively from the press release and mentioning Collins Concise

Dictionary.



the Daily Mail and the Times also ran news features.



It was featured as the subject in the Guardian’s Pass Notes column and

Ann Widdecombe commented on the survey in her column for the Sunday

Express.



The Bookseller - the magazine for the book trade - also ran an item,

providing a valuable channel of communication to buyers.



Broadcast coverage was also extensive, including GMTV, Radio 5 and

regional radio around the country. No sales figures are yet

available.



Results



As it happened, Oxford decided to go with its new words story two weeks

prior to the Collins publication date. A quick look at the headlines is

revealing - coverage for the Oxford Concise Dictionary was featured only

in the Mirror and the Daily Record. The effort Collins put in to coming

up with a new angle paid off.



Although the survey is a commonly used technique, the creative angle

used and the high profile of many of the respondents guaranteed that

this would make for interesting news stories for editors and readers

alike.



Client: Collins Dictionaries

PR team: Colman Getty and in-house

Campaign: Launch of Collins Concise Dictionary

Timescale: January to June 1999

Budget: Undisclosed



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