- This year the RNLI press team oversaw the development of the
body’s first cinema advertisements aimed at the 18-30 age group. The ads
are due to hit the screens in September.
- A major challenge for the RSC has been to convince the Arts Council to
support a pounds 85 million plan to redevelop the Stratford theatre.
THE ROYAL NATIONAL LIFEBOAT INSTITUTION
The 175th Anniversary of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution this
year is helping the charity to stand out from the mass of other worthy
causes. Head of PR Edward Wake-Walker has worked for the Poole-based
RNLI since 1979. He oversees a team of 16 working in all aspects of PR
from media relations, exhibitions and open days to producing the
quarterly membership magazine, The Lifeboat.
Anniversary celebrations began on 4 March when every lifeboat station in
the country fired a flare at 10am. Coverage included GMTV, BBC
Breakfast, the Telegraph and regional coverage. Wake-Walker says the
RNLI’s toughest PR challenge is to increase membership among under-15s.
Current activities include promoting Stormforce, the youth membership
scheme, and sponsoring a wet knuckle ride, also called Stormforce, at
Drayton Manor. The team is involved with open days at lifeboat stations,
as well as more high-profile events such as exhibiting a lifeboat of
flowers at Chelsea Flower Show in conjunction with Gateshead Council,
and appearing at the Royal Tournament. ’The gardening fraternity are
among our biggest supporters and the Royal Tournament is a good way to
target families. This year we have made a conscious decision to put the
charity into areas it hasn’t been before.’
The RNLI monitors public awareness three times a year and Wake-Walker
aims to increase its awareness programmes even further.
Since the Volkswagen Group bought a controlling stake in Skoda in 1991,
the reputation of the Czech car manufacturer has been turned on its
head. Skoda has shaken off the jokes to the extent that it took third
place in the 1999 BBC Top Gear/JD Power Survey for customer
Skoda’s press department is based at Volkswagen UK’s headquarters in
Milton Keynes and comprises public relations manager Eilish O’Shea,
press officer Juliet Edwards, and press officer Kate Dixon. The bulk of
the PR budget is directed towards launches and publicising specific
The big launches of last year were the introduction of the Octavia hatch
back and Octavia estate, plus the new-look Felicia and the Felicia
In September, a new small car will be launched at the Frankfurt
The PR campaign will be monitored from September and through the UK
launch next year.
According to Edwards,the motor press is supportive of Skoda, but the
consumer press still needs to be won over. As part of this process,
Propeller Direction was appointed in April 1999 to help with a
brand-building consumer campaign. ’Our PR strategy is simple,’ says
Edwards, ’It’s about changing perceptions, and the best way to do this
is getting people into our cars.’
In July, non-motoring journalists were invited to test drive Skoda cars
at Goodwood, while on 8 August, Skoda sponsored a gala at the Edinburgh
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
Shakespeare has rarely been so popular. The Hollywood movie machine is
paying homage to the bard and his works, and he was voted ’Man of the
Millennium’ by Radio 4 listeners in January. All this attention doesn’t
mean it’s plain sailing for the Stratford-based Royal Shakespeare
Company (RSC), however. Grant freezes have left the company
cash-strapped, while the arts are coming under increasing public and
Press and PR head Ian Rowley, who is part of a team of eight, explains:
’Like most publicly funded organisations, the RSC has to be seen to be
accountable and PR is an important vehicle in this process. PR used to
be seen as a device to drive ticket sales, now it’s about building up
trust and communicating sophisticated messages to a range of
stakeholders and audiences.’ This change has been recognised internally,
and the marketing and PR functions now operate separately.
Despite recent movie blockbusters, such as Shakespeare in Love, cinema
seats do not necessarily convert into theatre seats. But Rowley says the
RSC is keen to appeal to a broader audience. More flexible contracts are
being offered to big name actors, and younger audiences are being
targeted with special productions. Internal communications is also a key
issue, as many actors are based outside Stratford on short-term
contracts. Communications consultancy People in Business was called in
earlier this year in the first step to improve the internal comms
HM PRISON SERVICES
HM Prison Services internal communications department was part of the
press office until it was separated in autumn 1998. Since then, the team
has grown from four to eight staff and taken on new areas of
responsibility, such as national conferences and the staff directory.
From August, it will also be responsible for the intranet.
The prison service has 40,000 staff - including prison officers,
catering staff, administrative staff, and doctors - working in 130
prisons in England and Wales.
Jacqui Gratton, head of internal communications, says communications are
tailored to the methods staff prefer. According to Gratton,
administrative staff like paper-based communications, while prison
officers would rather have face-to-face meeting with line managers. All
staff read the prison services’ newspaper, PSN, which includes examples
of best practice, in depth issues, prisons around the world, sports, and
Upward communications is a crucial part of the department’s work. Last
December, the department organised its first Telephone Day, during which
staff could question senior figures. A second event is planned for 9
Staff morale, particularly among prison officers, is a major issue.
During the recent allegations of brutality at Wormwood Scrubs, Gratton
says all staff received a letter from director general Richard Tilt
before the issue hit the media. The prison service is also working
towards Investors in People.