WH Smith Group is investing in a new corporate PR campaign across its
businesses; WH Smith Retail, WH Smith News, Virgin Our Price and
Waterstone’s, in a bid to improve poor City and customer relations.
Company chief executive Bill Cockburn, who joined in January vowing to
shake-up WH Smith’s corporate culture, has hired Countrywide
Communications to execute the campaign, thought to be worth over pounds
100,000 in fees.
Scope Communications’ three year-old consumer PR contract with the
group’s high street division WH Smith Retail will continue until the end
of December. WH Smith group press manager Neville Wells said he expected
the work would then pass to Countrywide.
Scope’s brief to handle PR for WH Smith Retail’s product lines including
books and stationery has widened over the years to include corporate
campaigns on issues such as the Net Book Agreement.
Between now and Christmas Scope is expected to lose around pounds 20,000
of its estimated pounds 150,000 fee income as Countrywide assumes
control of the division’s corporate work.
The new PR contract, which kicks off this week, is part of Cockburn’s
four month strategic review, due for completion this month, designed to
boost falling profits.
Cockburn, who worked with Countrywide in his previous job at the Post
Office, is keen to change WH Smith’s ‘complacent’ culture and strengthen
the corporate brand.
The appointment of an agency to build the group’s image is designed to
plug the gap left by former corporate affairs director Kevin Hawkins who
quit to join Safeway last summer.
Countrywide director Sally Williams will head a team handling WH Smith
Group PR while deputy MD Diane VandenBurg leads the WH Smith Retail
Brunswick, which has handled Smith’s financial PR for several years,
said its relationship with the company would be unaffected by