CAMPAIGNS: Public awareness; Industry backs future workers

Client: Industry in Education PR Consultant: Mike Mansfield Campaign: Towards Employability, a report on how school leavers could be better prepared for the world of work. Timing: December 1995 - February 1996 Cost: pounds 7,000

Client: Industry in Education

PR Consultant: Mike Mansfield

Campaign: Towards Employability, a report on how school leavers could be

better prepared for the world of work.

Timing: December 1995 - February 1996

Cost: pounds 7,000



Industry in Education is a group of leading employers who have joined

forces to look at ways of bringing the worlds of education and industry

closer together. At the end of last year, an IiE steering group, led by

Sir John Smith former Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner, put

together a 36 page report Towards Employability examining the gap

between the personal qualities of today’s school leavers and the

recruitment needs of employers.



The report drew on MORI surveys, CBI reports and academic research, and

is by no means a light read, revealing that Britain’s surly youth is

costing the country pounds 8 billion in benefits, lost production and

additional training needs.



Objectives



Mike Mansfield was brought into to gain publicity for and encourage

policy debate on Towards Employability, with the wider brief of raising

the profile of IiE - a relatively low-profile grouping - and getting

education opinion-formers and policy makers to act on the report’s

findings. Mansfield had to tread a careful line between maximising

headlines and column inches, while preventing the coverage degenerating

into a hackneyed employers versus teachers debate.



Tactics



Mansfield describes his approach as a ‘classic PR media relations’

campaign, which exploited Towards Employability’s more controversial

angles and the political timeliness of the whole education quality and

standards debate. Prior to the report’s official launch on 29 January,

Mansfield had sent embargoed copies to monthly magazines, PA, the

Evening Standard and the Sundays, requesting that they ‘flash don’t

splash.’ He also added a summary to the report to make its main findings

more quickly accessible.



Undoubtedly the presence of many captains of industry on the board of

IiE, excited the interest of industry correspondents on the nationals,

while sheer tenacity succeeded in getting the issue on to Radio 4’s

Today programme. Having been turned down three times, he managed to get

inclusion in R4’s news bulletins by calling the newsdesk at 1am on the

morning of the launch.



Results



An embargo-busting and slightly over-the-top feature in the Mail On

Sunday and consistent and uncritical coverage in all the national

dailies, except the Sun. The launch of the Basic Skills Agency’s

literacy survey on the same day, fuelled interest in both reports. All

Towards Employability steering group members gave one national or

regional broadcast interview, with some featured several times.



To date, 1,200 copies of the report have been requested. The two

downsides of the campaign were a critical leader in the Times Higher

Education Supplement, and a paltry turnout of three journalists at the

launch.



Dick Whitcutt, director of IiE, says that he received many letters

opposing the THES’s leader. While he was surprised at the low turnout

for the launch, he feels that is now what can be expected for a paper

report, that journalists can study in comfort elsewhere.



Verdict



Mansfield’s work shows just what a combination of business heavyweights,

a timely topic and PR pizzazz can achieve. Whitcutt says: ‘The press

pack achieved good, consistent coverage, striking the right balance

between reflecting the work of the serious people on the steering group

and being newsworthy.’



Although it is every PR’s nightmare to hold a launch for two people and

a cough, Mansfield has shown this can be avoided by solid media

relations, spadework and a product that carries the credibility of all

involved.



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