Following a major re-focusing on the brand, the success of its decision to become the first retailer to remove GM ingredients from own-brand food and the resulting media profile, Iceland made a board-level decision to invest in proactive, strategic PR for the first time.
In May 1999, Hilary Berg joined Iceland with a brief to build an entirely new PR team and reposition the company as 'The Revolutionary Family Food Company'.
She had to find the right people quickly, create a strategy and action plan that would help build a brand that consumers trust, and develop sound working relationships with key departments and staff.
A PR team was put together to act like an internal consultancy, with specialists championing other teams within the business. The team comprises a consumer PR manager and assistant, issues manager, retail PR manager, corporate PR manager, and two support staff.
Milestones for the department so far include launching Iceland's 'Food You Can Trust' campaign and internet home shopping service, and rebranding the company's web site. The PR team has worked at a senior level with the board, buying and technical teams to respond to consumer demand for safe, natural food. PR also serves as a counterbalance to marketing and general business planning by advising on the wider social impact and public reaction to policies.
In ten months 3,173 articles containing the Iceland name were generated and the PR team now has regular pro-active discussions with journalists in the UK and throughout the world. Sales grew by nine per cent last year, and the retail chain had its best ever Christmas with sales up 34 per cent on 1998. Research shows that 48 per cent of households shop at Iceland.
Perceptions about the store have also changed significantly. Twelve months before the PR team got going, non-customers saw Iceland as 'dull and boring' and 'downmarket'. Now they regard it as 'modern and up to date' and 'open and friendly'.
In the past year the Trade Union Congress has re-established its influence in public life and trade union membership has increased for the first time in 20 years. A number of notable campaigns have been run including the minimum wage, parental leave, anti-racism, pensions, and giving blood at work. The PR department has made sure the TUC is frequently making the news, with stories such as Cherie Blair challenging the Government on parental leave and poet laureate Andrew Motion speaking at the annual congress.
Great North Eastern Railways
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Meningitis Research Foundation.