Campaign: Geological project Tellus wins over the NI public

In May 2004 the Geological Survey of Northern Ireland (GSNI) embarked on an ambitious three-year project to geo­logically map the province. Known as the Tellus Project, it was named after the Roman goddess of the earth.

Category Integrated PR Campaign
Campaign Communicating the Tellus Project
Client Geological Survey of Northern Ireland
PR team Weber Shandwick

Tellus involves soil sampling at regular intervals and flying aircraft at altitudes as low as 55 metres to survey the land with electromagnetic equipment. GSNI wanted to ensure the project was not seen as intrusive, given the traditional negative public reaction to low-flying Army aircraft.

Weber Shandwick was appointed in June 2004 to co-ordinate an ongoing communications strategy for the life of the project.

To position GSNI and the Tellus Project positively to the Northern Ireland public. To ensure that no survey time was lost due to lack of under­standing about the project’s purpose.

Strategy and Plan
Weber Shandwick wanted to create a brand identity for Tellus, so politicians from all of Northern Ireland’s 26 councils – as well as relevant government bodies – were briefed in person about the project and lined up as possible spokespeople. The Tellus team also informed the Ulster Farmers’ Union and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association to help gain their support.

The agency then launched a targeted educational programme – including a road show – to generate interest in geology and science among secondary-school pupils. It invited local media to report on the events, and gave them access to case studies.

To quash potential complaints, the agency sent letters to all landowners informing them of the benefits of the project, and set up an information line manned by Weber Shandwick staff.

Finally, findings from the first phase of the Tellus project were presented to stakeholders at a briefing in late 2005. The second airborne phase was communicated in the following year via a ministerial event hosted at Northern Ireland’s Science Park.

Measurement and Evaluation
Positive coverage appeared in the Belfast Telegraph, News Letter, and The Irish News. Newspaper coverage produced an estimated 500,000 opportunities to see. Leaflets were distributed to 85,000 people at various road shows, and 500,000 promotional posters were produced.

Only 12 complaints about low flying were made by the public, and none produced negative publicity. Of 172 media reports, only four failed to put the project in a wholly positive light. The Weber Shandwick information line received 616 phone calls.

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