The AA in trawl for agencies

The Automobile Association is poised to bring in PR agencies to support several business groups - just months after axing two thirds of its in-house communications staff.

The PR team was slashed from 18 people to six in the aftermath of its £1.75bn sale to private equity firms CVC Capital Partners and Permira last year. The cull included redundancies for head of PR Becky Hadley, head of news Richard Freeman and road services PR manager Michael Johnson (PRWeek, 26 November 2004)

The motoring body is now seeking to regain its PR momentum, with a string of reviews under way within its newly decentralised divisions. It has also hired former British Gas senior corporate affairs manager Sue Beeson as PR manager for road services, leading a team of three.

'The need for external help has already been identified. We can't possibly hope to do everything that we need to do,' said Beeson. 'With the change in the business so recent, we're still finding out what we need.'

The AA has already held chemistry meetings with several agencies, and Beeson confirmed that a pitch would be held in the first half of the year.

After 26 years at British Gas, Beeson took redundancy in January as her role was amalgamated with that taken by ex-Centrica head of corporate responsibility Simon Henderson, who is now head of brand PR and planning at British Gas.

The AA's financial services division is also reviving its PR efforts after the company's restructure.

PR manager Ian Crowder told PRWeek it would return to a promotional campaign - highlighting the fact that it offers loans for houses and holidays as well as cars - that was shelved during the takeover (PRWeek, 3 September 2004).

BMA Communications, which won a pitch to handle the campaign last autumn, is uncompetitively repitching its ideas, with revised strategy and costings.

Further external PR needs for the financial services division are yet to be decided, Crowder added.

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