NEWS: Countrywide hired to revamp Smith’s image

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.

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

account.



Brunswick, which has handled Smith’s financial PR for several years,

said its relationship with the company would be unaffected by

Countrywide’s appointment.



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