EDITORIAL: Camelot PR must address paradox

Whichever agency wins Camelot's consumer PR account - which, as we report this week, is up for pitch - faces an uphill task in reconnecting the public with an institution it once loved.

When it launched nearly a decade ago, the National Lottery was perceived variously as innovative, a bit of fun, and a useful way to give to charity - always with a slim chance of winning extreme wealth.

More recently, the lottery has attracted criticism for paying too much to its executives and to controversial causes, and too little to worthy charities. Above all, its current reputation is scarred by a feeling that the format is tired, the new games unimaginative and the chance of winning - 14 million to one for the main Lotto jackpot - ridiculously slender.

The natural response of any corporation facing declining sales of its flagship product - and Camelot's stated strategy - is to establish new revenue streams. But the tack taken by the firm - launching new games with differing frequency and varying odds - has been to hinder the main draw's chances of revival and confuse the public.

Informed sources suggest that, at the game's height, close to half of top-tier winners were converted into publicity, but that figure cannot now be much into double figures.

This is due to the paradox at the heart of Camelot's message. The PR brief up for grabs may be as routine as publicising winners, but news requires novelty, while the sales story requires the suggestion that anyone could win. And it cannot simultaneously be true that winning is easy and winners are newsworthy. A tough PR challenge looms.

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