IN-HOUSE SURVEY: VW-owned Skoda wins over the specialist media, but consumer press is still wary

- 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.

- 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 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

media events.

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

Fringe Festival.


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

political scrutiny.

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 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

policy changes.

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.

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