ANALYSIS: Bridge-building task for lottery chief - Despite intense media scrutiny and the PR challenge created by falling ticket sales, Camelot CEO Dianne Thompson remains upbeat about the year ahead, says Chris Scott

If the demands on the time of Camelot CEO Dianne Thompson were in

doubt, the 45-minute overrun on a meeting with National Lottery

Commission counterpart Mark Harris confirms it. It is, she says, part of

an attempt to meet every six weeks; a necessary bridge-building exercise

given it was the same body that excluded Camelot from the bidding

process for its second operating licence, and only reinstated the firm

following lengthy legal proceedings.



Bridge-building seems a good way of describing the reputational

challenge facing the lottery operator ahead of the start of its second

licence on 27 January. Having done legal and communications battle with

Sir Richard Branson's 'People's Lottery' and vast swathes of the media,

Thompson's focus is now on promoting a revival in ticket sales.



'The plan is to relaunch the lottery itself in May. We've been guilty of

letting it become a bit boring. With hindsight it's inevitable as we

spent so much time putting the bid together. Your focus is on winning

the licence - not necessarily developing the lottery.'



As one might expect from a former Marketing Society marketer of the

year, enhanced marketing spending - guaranteed at £70m for the

seven-year licence - and extensive PR work are at the heart of these

efforts. The Chartered Institute of Marketing member is rare among CEOs

in having reached the top through the marketing route. She says: 'First,

we need to get back three million lapsed players, through marketing and

new games. We need to give them reasons to re-evaluate the lottery.

Secondly, we're going actively to promote games to young people, 18 to

24-year-olds. We've not done that for the last six or seven years. We've

stayed away from that because of the furore over under-16s buying

tickets,' she adds.



The latter strategy is likely once more to attract media ire. But

despite her conviction that controversy is inevitable, for now at least

Camelot is looking to PR as a proactive rather than reactive tool.



Thompson cites the 20 per cent of lottery winners who waive their rights

to anonymity as the most successful driver of its consumer PR strategy,

but she has another aim - to emphasise the good works which the lottery

pays for.



'One of the big problems we have is that we've not been able to persuade

the distributing bodies (of the good causes money) to put some

consistent recognition of lottery funding on places where they give

lottery money,' she says. 'I would like something similar to the blue

plaques you see around London. We have a halfway house where Tessa

Jowell has persuaded the distributing bodies to start saying "Lottery

Funded".'



It is once again media-bred confusion that she seeks to clarify with the

plan: 'If you asked people where lottery money has gone, you would

probably be told The Dome, the Churchill Papers or the Royal Opera House

and not much else. PR at a local level becomes far more important to get

those local good-cause messages across.'



On a corporate level, the main objective for Camelot's PR is to dispel

popular myths on profits: 'The sad thing is that no matter how much we

brief people we can't get them to understand the reality. There is still

a large section of the public who think that 50 per cent of money goes

to us in profit, and that we have total control over where money for

good causes goes. It's a real frustration for us. I get hate-mail now,

most of which is about where the money goes.'



Convinced her firm has a good and compelling story to tell, she names

the media as the main stumbling block in its PR efforts: 'It is a real

frustration how you set the record straight, and the tabloids don't want

to know as it doesn't sell papers. I think that's one of our main PR

challenges to try to get the public particularly to understand what our

role is - that we raise the money but don't spend it.'



Despite this gripe, the battle for the second licence saw something of a

turnaround in both the firm's PR work and its media fortunes: 'We got

the media onside as it was a great story for them. I'm not naive enough

to think they wanted us to win, but it was remarkable we repositioned

ourselves from being the fatcat to being the underdog. It didn't

influence the decision, but it made that decision more popular.'



For all her comms nous, she cuts a reluctant media figure: 'It's not

something I've sought in my career. It's been thrust upon me and been

something I've had to do to achieve my objectives.'



That she manages the media so effortlessly bodes well for the PR effort

ahead. One gets the feeling her openness will stand her in good stead

for the next seven years.



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