WS plans campaign for European elections

Weber Shandwick (WS) is preparing to launch a PR campaign to encourage Britons to vote in the European elections next June.

Five undisclosed agencies were shortlisted for the campaign, which will also see WS seeking to boost awareness of the European Parliament across the UK.

The account, worth just over £300,000, marks the first time the Parliament’s UK office has taken on external PR support for election work and the campaign is seen as crucial to counter low turnout and a lack of understanding of the Strasbourg-based institution.

WS strategic planning director Lisa Story, who leads a cross-practice account team, said groundwork was already under way for a ‘consumer-focused’ PR push that will crescendo in the weeks prior to voting day on 10 June 2004.

In the last European elections in 1999, UK turnout was just 24 per cent, the lowest average turnout of the European Union’s 15 member states.

Story said the campaign would attempt to get Britons into the polling booths by ‘working with’ people’s passions, citing ‘understandable, black-and-white issues’ such as the Blue Flag scheme for beach cleanliness.

She added: ‘We won’t be shy of issues from more extreme points of view, such as best- and worst-case scenarios’.

She cited the European Working Time Directive as one area that could provoke partisan passions, saying the legislation could be seen by different groups as both a boon and a burden.

Head of the Parliament’s UK office Dermot Scott has described 24 per cent as a ‘failure’, saying the figure ‘shows widespread ignorance of how laws are made in Europe’ (PRWeek, 25 July).

WS UK chief executive Colin Byrne said the agency’s regional offices would work on the account. In 1999 turnout was lowest in the North West at 19.4 per cent and highest in Northern Ireland at almost 60 per cent.

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