ANALYSIS: Jubilee PR machine kicks into action PR preparations for the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations are well underway. PRWeek assesses the comms challenges going forward

On Tuesday, Sir Michael Peat, The Keeper of the Privy Purse, shared a stage at Buckingham Palace with the BBC's Lorna Dickinson and Nicholas Kenyon, who are responsible for production of the Queen's Jubilee concerts, and creative adviser Sir George Martin.

The press conference, postponed following the death of Princess Margaret, was called to announce the first trenche of stars lined up for the Prom and Party at the Palace - including Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Thomas Allen, Eric Clapton and Atomic Kitten - and to publicise the application procedure for invitations, and showcase a 60-second Blackadder special film from Rowan Attkinson.

An exclusive Echo Research analysis for PRWeek indicates that to date the national press has been preoccupied with perceived public apathy and that there is a danger that the death of Princess Margaret and concern for the Queen Mother's health will cast a shadow over celebrations.

The main players involved in the strategic direction of the Jubilee comms and media relations were in evidence at the press conference, including Simon Walker, the Queen's communications secretary; the Queen's press secretary Penny Russell-Smith; Charles Anson, head of communications at the Queen's Golden Jubilee Weekend Trust; and Helen Bayne, the civil service head of the Golden Jubilee Unit who is supported by the unit's press officer Jane Groom.

Other parties involved in communicating as well as organising celebrations include the Golden Jubilee summer party, funded by the Weekend Trust, and the London String of Pearls Jubilee Festival.

Mark Bolland, the Prince of Wales's deputy private secretary who recently announced a move into private consultancy, is understood to be still involved in planning for the Jubilee. And LD Publicity has been hired to handle PR for the event, with music PR veteran Bernard Doherty advising on the unusually glitzy staging of the press conference and bringing in the plethora of music press scattered among the royal correspondents.

While the concerts are likely to be the most visible aspect of the Jubilee, one of the real measures of success will be the level of locally organised celebrations.

The aim of the Jubilee unit is not to 'proselytise,' but to collate information to enable local bodies to organise their own celebrations. Walker and Bayne have undertaken more than 380 joint briefings to date for organisations ranging from the Northern Neighbourhood Watch scheme in Nottingham to tourism and hospitality industry groups. Groom says 'the unit has so far sent out around 30,000 "toolkits", is receiving 200 calls per day, while the website has 1,900 ideas registered on its database and has had six million hits.'

There has been a fair degree of media cynicism with Roy Hattersley, for example, claiming in The Guardian that even the most modest expectation of a repetition of the street celebrations of 1977 is unrealistic. But Anson says too much emphasis is placed on the expectation of street parties: 'There are many different ways of celebrating, be that private parties, celebrations in local pubs or garden parties.'

He also points to large-scale events such as VE day where media criticism in the run-up gave way to support when the celebrations came together on the day: 'There is a natural pendulum swing process when a lot of the planning is in the public eye for a long time. It is important not to peak too early. The main celebrations in June are still a long way ahead and one of the biggest challenges is to keep people informed and give out facts, and to make sure that people don't lose interest,' he says.

As Jubilee Weekend Trust chairman Lord Sterling pointed out, the regional media will be key in terms of maintaining this momentum. While Echo's research paints a worrying picture of the national press line to date, Stirling, who will be undertaking a BBC regional radio 'tour' later this week, is delighted by the level of interest in the local media. BBC creative director of live events Nick Vaughan-Barratt agrees: 'Once you get past the media cynicism there is a lot of interest out there in the "real world".'

The Jubilee also presents an opportunity to boost foreign tourism following the devastating effects of foot and mouth and 11 September. British Tourist Authority director of marketing and communications Sandie Dawe sits on the Golden Jubilee communications committee and the BTA is working with its overseas offices targeting travel agents and writers, particularly in North America. More than 150 journalists recently attended a press briefing at the Palace and last month saw the launch of a campaign in Britain urging UK residents to invite their friends and relatives from overseas to visit.

But will activity at this stage really bring back tourists? Sarah Long, BTA press officer responsible for international PR strategy, is confident that with the trend towards later booking of holidays, the peak booking season is just getting under way, but adds: 'We don't anticipate visitors coming to Britain just to see the Jubilee but expect it to act as a giant ad and showcase for what is unique about Britain and laying the foundations for a return in visitors.'

As spring approaches, the Jubilee PR seems to be gaining momentum, but the onus still seems to be on managing expectations. It is probably no coincidence that Walker, the Palace's architect of the celebrations, was communications director for BA during the Millennium Dome debacle. This campaign is likely to be light on hyperbole.

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