South Eastern Trains set to stage crisis PR pitch

South Eastern Trains (SET) is to stage a pitch for crisis PR after a review of its comms strategy as it prepares for a new operator in 2005.

Head of comms Nina Arnott, who joined SET in May (PRWeek, 16 April), said the high media profile given to threats of strikes and terrorism warranted the appointment of an external crisis PR specialist.

Although SET traditionally handles PR activity in-house, Arnott said it would consider enlisting external crisis and issues management support on a project basis following a review of its reputation management strategies over the next six months.

Arnott said that it was important for SET, currently the only train company operated in the public sector, to have the optimum communications structure in place by the start of 2005, when the preferred private sector bidder takes over SET’s operations.

Connex was stripped of its franchise for the Kent, East Sussex and South London services last November after it struggled with issues of overcrowding and late-running trains.

Arnott has also reviewed its in-house PR team and, following the departure of deputy head of comms Cate Canniffe, is recruiting for two new positions – an internal comms manager and a passenger comms manager.

The passenger comms manager will take responsibility for the 30-strong call centre, as well as producing the quarterly SET Magazine. The internal comms manager will maintain the company intranet and staff newsletter.

Sarah Boundy has been promoted to the position of media relations manager.

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