Cardiff has come of age. One of Britain’s youngest cities, the
Welsh capital is not only holding its own in this country, but is
battling for greater recognition on the European stage.
Driving this resurgence of Welsh pride is an impressive programme of
building works. These include a Millennium Stadium, which will host the
1999 Rugby World Cup; the development of a five-star city centre hotel,
and refurbishment work (now completed) to the Civic Centre which hosts
the EU summit this month.
But by far the brightest jewel in Cardiff’s crown is Cardiff Bay. The
complex, which is built on eight miles of waterfront, features leisure
facilities, offices, housing, shops and restaurants. By the turn of the
century it will also include the Millennium Centre, the new home for the
Welsh National Opera, and of special importance, the Welsh National
’The fact that the National Assembly’s home has been settled in Cardiff
Bay is going to add to the city’s world profile,’ says Bill Jenkins,
senior partner at Quadrant PR and holder of the PR account for Cardiff
Tim Powell, senior account manager of The Petersen Partnership,
’You can’t underestimate the cultural confidence in what is happening in
Wales and how we are projecting ourselves. In PR terms it has got to be
But Jenkins has a word of warning for those who believe Cardiff is
shaping up to become the New Jerusalem in PR terms. ’Cardiff is not a PR
dream, the Welsh way of doing things cannot be learnt in a day,’ he
It is a view echoed by Norma Jarboe, chief executive of Cardiff
’People with representative offices here just don’t understand the
market. They have stereotypical image of Wales - I’ve seen people come
to Cardiff with marketing plans, saying ’this will please the Welsh’,
but it’s completely off the mark and insulting.’
It is an opinion also shared by Jonathan Smith, managing director of
Golley Slater, which was established in Wales in 1969 and is currently
handling the public information campaign for devolution. Smith says: ’In
the eyes of certain organisations, Cardiff has become the land of milk
and honey, again. Important as the assembly is, it will not elevate us
to a level where everyone can come here and there’ll be plenty for
everybody. My point is not whether outside agencies have the right to
come and challenge us, of course they do, but whether there is enough
work available in this economy.’
Jenkins remembers the last time Cardiff was sized up by newcomers to the
city. ’If you look back to the last PR rush in the 1980s, standards were
not raised as a whole in Cardiff because most agencies tried to operate
via a satellite office. The companies which succeeded were the ones
which came in and established proper offices.’
Both Jenkins and Smith agree that part of the problem is the lack of
companies with headquarters based in Wales. The principality may have
one of the highest concentrations of Japanese companies in Europe, but
few of these are able to make marketing decisions. The same applies to
British companies with bases in Wales - their marketing decisions are
taken more often than not in Southern England. It remains to be seen
whether the new Welsh Assembly will encourage companies to establish
headquarters in Wales.
One company which has already taken the plunge is Korean-owned LG
SemiCom Wales (LGSW). Public Relations officer Jill Roberts says: ’LGSW
made a conscious decision to establish its plant in Newport - it was
LGSW’s first move out of South Korea. I believe Wales was chosen because
of the contribution PR has made to inward investment in Wales. Everytime
I’m asked why LGSW came to Wales, I repeat all the PR reasons that have
There is no doubt that the Welsh Assembly will irrevocably change the
political landscape of the principality. However, as Jenkins points out,
there has been a significant degree of political autonomy for years.
’To some extent Wales always had a separate system, we have a Welsh
Office, a Secretary of State and two ministers for a population that’s
smaller than Greater Liverpool.’
Quadrant established a lobby wing two years ago called Wales and
According to Jenkins, business has mushroomed by 60 per cent in the last
six months, with most clients wanting to know how the Welsh Assembly
will impact on their business.
Sian Callaghan, PR manager for British Gas says she is already thinking
about the impact of the new Welsh National Assembly. British Gas, she
says, will lobby through both Westminster and Cardiff and matters high
on the agenda include ensuring the communications infrastructure is in
place for Wales and establishing a regulatory framework for
The establishment of the Welsh Assembly will undoubtedly put Wales on
the map politically and enhance its reputation in Europe. But it is
difficult to gauge whether the assembly will increase to the media
coverage Wales generates nationally.
Smith explains: ’Wales has still got an incredibly difficult job getting
itself on the national media scene as there’s a disproportional degree
of disinterest shown for matters Welsh. Stories which would have
definite clout if they were out of Scotland, and most definitely if they
were out of London, are much lower down on the news agenda because they
are from Wales.’
Smith blames the media itself for terming Wales ’an irrelevance’. ’We
can get some stories placed more easily in European publications, than
in UK,’ he complains.
Powell of the Petersen Partnership thinks he may know part of the reason
why it is such an uphill struggle. ’It’s still relatively early days for
selling Welshness. Scotland and Ireland have been at it for years.’
But if the media in general is too London-centric, PR people in Wales
tend to be Cardiff-centric, according to Jenkins.
’We have become focused on Cardiff as the epicentre of everything. It is
something which really alienates our friends in the North.’
But Melanie Faithfull, director of Harrison Cowley, says that many North
Wales agencies look to Liverpool for their press coverage.
It is unfortunate that the Welsh Assembly will inevitably make Wales
even more Cardiff-centric. But for those PR people living and working in
Cardiff, the city has never looked better. Not just because of the
exciting new developments, but older institutions, such as the Welsh
National Opera and Cardiff University - noted for its PR graduate course
run by local IPR chairman Mike Smith - are flourishing.
’Cardiff stacks up as a city,’ concludes Jenkins, ’The reality now meets
CASE STUDY: BRINGING COMMUNITY SPIRIT TO OUT OF TOWN
Out-of-town retail centres may be popular with shoppers, but can often
spell trouble for PR people working with the local community.
Golley Slater was responsible for the PR and promotion of a new pounds
35million discount designer centre in Bridgend, for client BAA
McArthurGlenn. Called the Designer Outlet Wales, it was BAA
McArthurGlenn’s first venture into Wales.
Jonathan Smith, managing director of Golley Slater says of the campaign,
which ran from September 1997 to May 1998: ’At a community level, the
key tasks were to cement the strong working relationship with the local
authority and other agencies involved and to minimise the apprehension
of town centre retailers.
’At a consumer level, the focus was on ensuring that the target
audiences were aware of the particular retail offer and that there was a
strong turnout for the launch event.’
Golley Slater generated a regular flow of local news stories focusing on
the company’s involvement with nearby schools and community groups.
Children were invited to christen the retail development’s mascot, to
design wall tiles for the food court and to participate in the opening
Much of the PR effort was directed towards the grand opening. In the
event, more than 15,000 shoppers queued for up to two hours to
Golley Slater co-ordinated television, a local press advertising
campaign, as well as its own PR efforts, for five days prior to the
Invited to the event were civic dignitaries, locally-born designer David
Emanuel, Absolutely Fabulous character lookalikes and over 50
The opening event generated exposure in the Welsh media, including live
links to all the major TV and radio news programmes.
Smith says: ’The slow build up of the campaign over the construction
phase enabled the company to establish its community credentials. Strong
pre-launch media relations, boosted by an integrated and intense
advertising attack,ensured that consumer awareness levels were at the
required level and that footfall over the critical Bank Holiday opening
weekend exceeded both BAA McArthurGlen’s and the tenant retailers’
CASE STUDY: MAKING PR CAPITAL OUT OF THE LAST INVASION
Every schoolchild knows the date of the Norman Conquest was in 1066, but
few learn that this was not the last time that Britain was invaded.
In 1797 the French mounted a campaign against the British in the county
of Pembrokeshire. Two hundred years later, PR consultancy Quadrant was
charged with organising the PR for a bicentenary campaign.
The PR campaign, which ran over three years, was given a budget of
pounds 36,000 by The Last Invasion of Britain Bicentenary Committee. It
in turn was funded by the Wales Tourist Board, the European Union and
local organisations and companies, including Stena, Texaco and Welsh
Water, among others.
In recent years Pembrokeshire had suffered from the closure of several
military bases, the withdrawal of multinational oil companies and from
the impact of BSE on the farming industry. In addition, the tourist
industry was dealt a major blow when the Sea Empress ran aground at
Milford Haven, causing a major environmental disaster.
Bill Jenkins, senior partner at Quadrant, says the PR campaign aimed to
promote Pembrokeshire as a national and international tourist
destination, to create sustainable economic benefits for the area and to
boost the morale of the local community.
He says: ’Potential visitors were targeted through the national and
international press and locally, the campaign was communicated by
staging public meetings and distributing publicity material.’ The Wales
Tourist Board and the Welsh Office were also involved with the
international PR campaign.
Quadrant’s efforts resulted in extensive TV and radio coverage as well
as featuring in Le Monde and High Life, British Airways’ inflight
One of the key attractions of the campaign, the Last Invasion tapestry,
drew 60,000 visitors to Fishguard. Quadrant tracked the success of its
campaign in a number of ways. According to figures collated by
Pembrokeshire County Council, overseas visitors to Fishguard Tourist
Information Centre increased by 52.8 per cent, while overseas visitors
to the area during 1997 increased 17 per cent. According to police
statistics, 3,500 people attended the Bicentenary Celtic Food and Wine
Fair and 8,000 people watched an aerobatics display by the Red
CASE STUDY: ACCENTUATING POSITIVE KOREAN INVESTMENT NEWS
Devising a PR strategy for a new hi-tech plant is never a simple task,
but press and PR officer Jill Roberts is having to contend with an
unforeseen crisis in her new role as PR officer for LG SemiCom Wales
The South Korean-owned microchip plant is preparing to open next year
against the backdrop of one of the most severe economic crises in
Situated in Newport, the pounds 1.3 billion plant is part of the largest
inward investment project in Europe and will employ some 6,000 people
when it opens. It already employs 150 people in key positions across the
company, from PR to finance and engineering.
Roberts says: ’Everything we say about LGSW is coloured by the question,
’is everything OK?’ We really hit the ground running.’
One of Roberts’ first jobs was to launch an immediate campaign to
counter speculation and maintain confidence in LGSW’s future.
’Proactive PR became company policy at all times. Briefings, facility
visits and interviews with senior management were all activated to
broaden the discussion on LGSW beyond the Korean economy,’ she says.
The team also monitored the financial press to identity potential ’flash
points’ which they could then attempt to counteract.
’We sought corrections over some inaccuracies in the media, for example,
BBC Breakfast News said we had announced a two-year delay and put 1,700
jobs on hold. After our intervention, there was an on-air
The team also initiated an internal communications programme to promote
confidence from the ground up and establish a framework for two-way
As Roberts says, ’PR walks out of the gate with every employee.’
Now in a position to review the early stages of the campaign, Roberts
believes it has resulted in a definite reduction in financial
speculation in favour of more positive coverage. However, she says: ’The
company retains a realistic view that until the Korean situation is
resolved, we will always be subject to ’negative’ interest.