CAMPAIGN: Mersey Crossing wins Government approval - Lobbying

Campaign: Mersey Crossing Client: Halton Borough Council PR team: DTW Timescale July 2003-December 2003 Budget: £40,000

More than 80,000 cars cross the bridge between Runcorn and Widnes in Cheshire every day, more than four times the number of cars that it was built to carry in 1961. In July 2003, Halton Borough Council hired DTW and began a campaign to convince the Government to build a new, £335m crossing over the river Mersey.

Objectives

To raise the profile of the new Mersey Crossing campaign in the national, trade and local press. To encourage the support of officials in the run-up to a preliminary Government decision in December 2003. To encourage local people to register their support for the new crossing.

Strategy and Plan

DTW targeted all the national transport and environmental correspondents individually, and co-ordinated a briefings programme for MPs, MEPs, civil servants, local authorities, trade unions and local businesses.

The biggest hurdle the team had to overcome was coming up with new ways of keeping the local press interested in the story throughout the five months of the campaign. Press releases ranged from the economic effect of the bridge in the region, to humorous anecdotes about couples who missed their wedding because they were delayed on the bridge.

It tailored its press releases to suit the requirements of the national media by emphasising that the bridge would be the biggest civil engineering exercise of the 21st century, and identifying the bridge with famous historic icons such as the Mersey Ferry.

DTW launched a poster campaign aimed at commuters using public and private transport, asking: 'Sick of being stuck in a jam?'. The PR agency also updated and maintained the campaign website and sent letters to people who had registered their support.

Measurement and Evaluation

The story featured in the national press, trade press and regional press, including The Sunday Times and the Liverpool Echo. Local TV and radio channels such as BBC Radio Merseyside also covered the campaign.

Results

DTW said 'thousands' of people registered on the website, although no firm numbers are available, and 40 per cent claimed they did so as a direct result of the campaign. Several MPs, including Ben Chapman, MP for Wirral South, raised the matter in Parliament.

The Government has told Halton Borough Council that it supports the principle of funding the bridge and is investigating the project's practicality.

A final decision will be made in July.

'The PR team was extremely helpful and set up interviews with people I needed to talk to,' said Daily Post business reporter Jonathan Leake.

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