- Predictions for the Cricket World Cup, Hurricane Mitch in the
Caribbean, avalanches in Europe and Christmas storms were just some of
the weather-related issues management facing the Met Office.
- The Weir Group’s PR event of the year was the acquisition of
Australian engineering firm Warman for pounds 195 million in July.
Institutional investors, analysts, shareholders and employees were all
kept informed via presentations and information packs.
THE MET OFFICE
The Met Office press team is based in Bracknell and led by senior press
officer Andy Yeatman. All four team members have a meteorological,
rather than a PR background.
The Government agency is also a commercial organisation which provides
3,000 tailored forecasts and briefings to customers every day in the
fields of defence, aviation, energy supply, retail and the media.
The press team concentrates on promoting the core Met Office services,
but works with Prowse and Company in Leatherhead on more proactive PR
Recent promotional campaigns include the installation of super computer
Cray T3E, and work into more accurate forecasts. Yeatman says: ’We
continually monitor the accuracy of our public weather forecasts. We get
about 86 per cent, or six out of seven forecasts for the next day,
correct. A recent survey showed that eight out of ten people are
satisfied with our forecasts on BBC television and Radio 4.’
’We’re not making widgets and we haven’t got a consumer brand. It does
make the job harder - we’re dealing in influence and pressure and
mobilising business people,’ says London First communications director
Patrick Kerr of the task he and his four team members perform on an
annual budget of pounds 65,000.
London First was set up seven years ago to bring the voice of business
to bear on London issues, and media relations and lobbying are integral
to that process.
London First has been lobbying for an elected governor of the capital
since 1996, and Kerr’s team has spent much of this year moving the
London government debate forward. This has included producing a
manifesto of business-friendly policies against which the mayoral
candidates’ own manifestos will be judged. The manifesto has already
gained coverage in the media, and will be launched during next month’s
party conference season.
Kerr has ended the summer on a high note: organising London First’s
annual general meeting. ’We got a front page photo story in the Times
business section the following day and widespread coverage in the East
London local media. It was one of our most successful events and the
sponsors, Canary Wharf group, were delighted with it.’
MENINGITIS RESEARCH FOUNDATION
The Meningitis Research Foundation, based outside of Bristol, is a
charity dedicated to raising awareness of the meningococcal disease
(meningitis and septicaemia). Driving this process are Julia Warren,
head of PR, marketing officer Janette Murray, and PR assistant Ceri
All the foundation’s PR work is done in house.
Meningitis dominated the headlines earlier this year following outbreaks
in South Wales, Yorkshire and Cheshire. The team coped with more than 50
media calls a day and live TV interviews by working 20-hour shifts.
The department’s work falls into three parts - organising the annual
autumn/winter awareness campaign, ad hoc appeals and publicity, and
media relations during outbreaks. Recent campaigns include ’Get it
Sussed’, targeting young adults, February’s announcement of a
groundbreaking 30-minute test to identity meningitis strains, and
March’s ’Be Free’ Appeal, aimed at publicising B-strain Meningitis and
launched by Spice Girl Victoria Adams.
The announcement in July of a new C strain vaccine was followed by the
Government’s decision to innoculate children and students against the
strain. Warren says: ’PR is vital for putting across messages. Even with
negative publicity, at least we get our Freefone Helpline number
Glasgow-based industrial Weir Group has 80 plants worldwide with
specialised pumping equipment accounting for 60 per cent of business.PR
manager Emrys Inker says its target audiences are shareholders and
industrial markets, such as power stations and water treatment works.
Subsidiaries around the world have their own publicity machines, but
Inker checks all releases to ensure continuity.
Stocks in engineering have suffered from fears of an Asian meltdown and
a strong pound. In March 1998, Weir Group announced record results, but
watched its share price tumble from a high of 314p to 160p in just three
months. As a result, a new PR strategy was implemented, and financial PR
agency Maitland Consultancy was appointed last September to provide
daily City representation.
’Our long-term strategy is to be proactive instead of reactive. We have
started a programme of education to London-based financial media and
analysts explaining that although there is a general downturn in the
sector, Weir is a special case,’ says Inker.
THE MINISTRY OF SOUND
The Ministry of Sound started out as underground dance club in London’s
Elephant and Castle eight years ago. It has since expanded into related
fields of youth entertainment. The organisation now runs Europe’s
largest independent record label, organises special dance events from
Ibiza to China, opened its first bar in Birmingham, publishes its own
magazine and syndicates its radio shows across 25 countries.
PR executive Rhiannon Sheehy works alone, reporting to marketing
director Mark Rodol. Freud Communic-ations was responsible for PR until
it was brought in-house in 1997. The company no longer works with any
mainstream agencies, but does work with several small music PR agencies.
Sheehy’s responsibilities include promoting the club, DJs, tours,
special events, bars and the company’s corporate image. ’My aim is to
promote all Ministry of Sound products in the media in a positive way
and protect our image.
We are in delicate position because we are a youth brand with a lot of
credibility, but we are also involved in money making projects. It’s all
about finding the balance between the credible and the corporate,’ she
The Ministry of Sound has a dedicated stunt marketing department, called
the Creative Forum. Sheehy says activities include projecting the
company logo on to the Millennium Dome and Battersea Power Station, but
a similar attempt on Buckingham Palace was scuppered.