FOCUS: EUROPEAN PR; Breaking down the border barriers

CROSS-BORDER CONTROLS: Will harmonisation of cross-border regulations mean more legislation or less? THE EFFECT OF DEREGULATION: PR in the Eastern bloc takes advantage of a recent wave of privatisations EURO LOBBYING: European lobbyists may employ different methods, but ultimately the goals are the same

CROSS-BORDER CONTROLS: Will harmonisation of cross-border regulations

mean more legislation or less?

THE EFFECT OF DEREGULATION: PR in the Eastern bloc takes advantage of a

recent wave of privatisations

EURO LOBBYING: European lobbyists may employ different methods, but

ultimately the goals are the same

As the European Union continues to expand, the Commission is looking to

sweep away internal trading barriers. Robert Gray looks at how the

process will affect the communications industry

As modern communications make the world ever smaller the European Union

gets bigger. In an age of miniaturisation many of western Europe’s

finest diplomats and politicians are bending their minds to the question

of enlargement.

Behind the scenes, much time and trouble is being taken to reassure

Russia that it will not be threatened should countries that, less than a

decade ago, belonged to the Soviet empire be admitted to the European

Union. This is looking more and more likely as countries such as

Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary continue to impress

observers with their rapid economic development and desire to reap the

trading benefits of EU membership.

The prospect of further enlargement, following on from the recent

increase in member states from 12 to 15, has been a factor spurring the

European Commission to try and sweep away as many barriers to its

internal market as it can. The more member states there are, each with

their own laws and regulations, the more complex the picture will be.

The Commission is addressing that problem by trying to bring about as

much regulatory uniformity as it can across the trading bloc (which

predictably provokes apoplexy among the Little Englander brigade).

Inevitably, one of the areas to come under the microscope is commercial

communications - the EC’s catch-all term for PR, sponsorship,

advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion and any other type of

business/marketing communications. The Commission has tackled this by

issuing a green paper called Commercial Communications in the Internal


More harmonisation of cross-border regulations would unquestionably be

beneficial to clients and advertising agencies engaged in trans-national

campaigns. What is not so cut and dried is the impact that the

Commission’s look at cross-border commercial communications will have on

the PR industry.

There is trepidation in some quarters that the green paper may

eventually lead to unwelcome legislation based on a shaky understanding

of what PR entails. Leigh Mendelsohn, chair of the PRCA’s public affairs

committee, says she is concerned by the EC’s Working Document definition

of PR which lumps it in with sponsorship.

Mendelsohn is worried that although the thrust of the green paper is to

do away with barriers it may inadvertently, through a misconception of

what PR is all about, increase regulation of the industry. ‘My feeling

is that it is a threat,’ she says. ‘What will they come up with in the

end? There is a real fear that it will increase legislation.’

In preparing its response to the green paper, the PRCA took soundings

from its members. None came back with any examples of instances where

current regulation was hampering cross-border campaigns within the EU.

The status quo suits.

‘I can’t remember a situation on a piece of pan-European business when

I’ve thought, oh bother, I wish they’d change that,’ says Edelman

managing director Abel Hadden.

‘We do a lot of international business,’ adds Countrywide Porter Novelli

chairman Peter Hehir. ‘There are a number of issues, but not Commission-

related. The problems are with language and custom and practice. Not to

do with the EC.’

In his capacity as president of ICO (The International Committee of

Public Relations Consultancies Associations) Hehir wrote to the

Commission on October 29 this year. His letter welcomed its initiative,

claiming it would benefit communications disciplines such as advertising

and sales promotion but added: ‘Public relations is quite different in

its nature and we know of no rules which restrict our core activities.

Our formal Code of Conduct ensures our members are fully aware of the

ethical behaviour expected of them, so we believe there is no need for

further regulation.’

PRCA director Christopher McDowall also suspects the Commission’s

harmonisation programme could increase rather than decrease regulation

of PR and wants to make sure the PRCA and ICO (of which he is also

secretary general) have a say in the debate.

But are Mendelsohn, Hehir and McDowall right in their contention that

there is no need for the Commission to look at the situation vis-a-vis

PR as it stands? IPR president Rosemary Brook believes not.

Her view is that the strategic nature of PR ties it in at a high level

with other marketing disciplines and that therefore any restrictions on

these are ‘however indirectly’ a restriction on PR. This is especially a

problem when it comes to integrated campaigns, where PR techniques are

used in concert with other elements of the marketing mix which may be

obstructed by a thicket of contrary regulations.

IDV director of external affairs Stephen Whitehead agrees with her. ‘It

affects PR as part of the marketing mix,’ he says. ‘If, as in France, a

drinks company can’t sponsor a football match then all the below-the

line support disappears too. So PR suffers.’

Brook argues further that differing rules in EU member states put

obstacles in the way of organising cross-border campaigns which have

competitions at their heart. ‘If you choose to go that route you’d have

great difficulty in structuring a pan-European competition with the same

rules and prize values in each country,’ she says.

But probably the most important point Brook makes is that the spread of

the Internet and electronic communications is blurring national borders.

To this end, the Commission’s consultation process may throw up some

much needed clarification on what can and cannot, for example, be posted

on a Web site created in the EU and minimise cross-border variance.

To those fearful of the Commission’s motives Brook says: ‘They don’t see

that, for once, the Commission has gone through some fairly extensive

consultation as a way of removing barriers.’

The IPR has drafted in Lionel Stanbrook, deputy director general of the

Advertising Association, to help it prepare its response - Stanbrook

wrote the AA’s response. The IPR and PRCA are also liaising to make sure

that the PR industry in the UK appears as much as possible to be singing

from the same hymn sheet; even though there is some divergence in views

as to the Commission’s intent.

This co-operation has (fittingly, given the issue) extended across

borders. Hannemie Stitz, vice-president of Germany’s equivalent of the

PRCA, the GPRA, says her organisation is responding to the Commission

through ICO. Like Hehir, she is not aware of any regulations making

cross-border PR more troublesome. Neither is ICO executive board member

Jean-Leopold Schuybroek of Belgium.

We will have to wait and see how the Commission moves forward on the

issue of commercial communications. But at least the public relations

industry is now contributing to the debate.

The main reason for the Commission’s incomplete understanding of the PR

discipline was an initial reluctance by the industry to explain its

workings to Brussels. By engaging in dialogue, practitioners may well

find that Eurocrats can make things better rather than worse.

Broadcast rules: The European watershed

On 8 May, 1996, DGXV (the Directorate General for the Internal Market

and Financial Services) issued a green paper called Commercial

Communications in the Internal Market. The purpose of the paper was to

help clarify an ongoing review of Commission policy on forms of

communication such as advertising, direct marketing, sales promotion,

sponsorship and, of course, PR.

In its own words: ‘Its aim is to seek the views of the European

Parliament, the member states and interested circles on proposals which

have the objective...of developing an approach which will help the

Commission to evaluate possible problems of compatibility of certain

national measures with Community law.’

The Commission has given interested parties until the end of November to

submit comments on the green paper. These responses will be considered

by the Commission which proposes to set up a committee to ensure

discussion of commercial communications issues among member states.

Advertising is patently the marketing communications discipline most

affected by this move as the codes and regulations that govern it vary

markedly across the EU. In Sweden for instance TV advertising to

children is banned and in Greece advertising of toys is not allowed

between 7.00am and 10.00pm.

In the UK and Denmark, rules on broadcast sponsorship are more

restrictive than elsewhere while policy on tobacco, alcohol and

pharmaceutical advertising, to name but three categories, differs from

country to country. France’s Loi Evin, which places stringent

restrictions on alcohol and tobacco advertising is a case in point.

But as the scope of the paper extends to PR and event sponsorship, it is

clearly something in which the industry must take an interest.

Case study: Leisureplan achieves global consistency

Leisureplan International was created in September 1995 as a joint

venture between three companies: Thomas Cook Group, Philips Media

Services and TWINE Media. In July 1996 it launched Leisureplan Live, an

Internet Web site filled with information on hotels, visitor

attractions, organised tours and car rental companies from around the


Hill and Knowlton was hired as the PR agency to support the trade and

consumer launch in 10 global markets including Germany, Italy, France,

Spain, Australia, Singapore and the US. The first market to be targeted,

however, was the UK where Leisureplan Live was launched to the media at

the Cafe Internet, London SW1.

‘We created a template of core material in the UK,’ says Hill and

Knowlton associate director Melanie Martin. This included two press

packs (one for the trade and one for the consumer media). The material

was then adapted to suit the needs of the other countries.

Martin and her team kept in touch with other Hill and Knowlton offices

around the world via e-mail, phone and fax as the programme unfolded.

Leisureplan communications manager Willem Eksteen and PR executive Emily

Castel adopted a very hands-on approach, involving themselves in the

launch events from country to country to avoid any ‘distortion’ of

message creeping in.

‘With such a global thing it’s important that co-ordination remains with

the client company doing it,’ says Eksteen.

Concurrent with the PR launches, Leisureplan carried out a pounds

500,000 direct marketing campaign through its agency MSB + Co. This

included sending light-hearted ransom notes to hotels threatening to

release 50 million mice onto their premises (a pun on the fact that

there are an estimated 50 million Internet users clicking away with

their electronic mice) followed up with a computer mouse in a cage

containing further information on Leisureplan.

‘There was a good synergy between PR and direct marketing because the

people who were receiving the direct marketing material were also hit by

the PR drive in the travel trade press,’ says Eksteen.

Eksteen says he is pleased with the amount of PR coverage generated and

cannot think of any major cross-border barriers that would have hampered

the programme. The main consideration was to take into account differing

cultures and comfort level with the Internet.

‘The challenges are that you are dealing with a multi-cultural campaign

so you have to tailor each PR hit according to the local culture and

also the local way of doing business,’ he concludes.

Case study: Telenor makes the international connection

In March 1996 Norwegian telecoms group Telenor hired Euro RSCG

International Communications with a view to boosting recognition of its

name and creating awareness of its activities in the key business areas

of mobile phones, satellite communications and added value services

across Europe. The programme was led from London (where most of Europe’s

key international telecoms media are based) by ERIC agency Biss


ERIC’s first major task was an audit of the telecoms market across

Europe, probing both journalists and Government departments to identify

key issues. This was undertaken in France, Germany, Austria,

Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and the UK.

At the same time an active media relations campaign was launched, aimed

at the international telecoms press. Although Telenor was looking to

build its image right across the Continent, some markets were more

important than others.

These important markets included Slovakia - where at the end of 1995

Telenor had established a subsidiary in Bratislava after winning

contracts with the Slovakian Police and the National Bank of Slovakia -

Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Greece and Montenegro.

Biss Lancaster, which took responsibility for Ireland as well as for

the overall co-ordination of the programme, worked in tandem with ERIC

agencies Hermes Plus in Bratislava and IPR&O in Hamburg.

The reason for using an agency in Germany - even though that country

wasn’t one of the main target markets because of the dominance there of

Deutsche Telecom - was that the German communications press is read by

the audience Telenor wanted to reach in both Switzerland and Austria.

‘The biggest priority for us is to communicate that Telenor is an active

company in telecoms and a good partner,’ says Biss Lancaster consultant

director Sam Rowe.

Press trips have been a significant part of the programme to date. In

May members of the international media were taken to Oslo for the

Eurovision Song Contest, for which Telenor provided the satellite

communications worldwide.

Another press trip to Norway for the Slovakian media was arranged

through Hermes Plus to highlight Telenor’s bid for a GSM (mobile)

licence in Slovakia. There was also a trip to Spitzbergen in the Arctic

for the international telecoms and medical media to launch PathSight, a

‘telepathology workstation’ which allows for the transmission of

detailed medical pictures, such as of biopsies, enabling remote

diagnoses to be made.

In addition, the programme has centred on announcements of new Telenor

projects, among them the building of a GSM service in Ireland, the

establishment of a new company to build telecoms networks in Greece and

the Balkans, the launch of some products in the shipping area, a large

satellite project with Daf trucks in the Netherlands, the launch across

Europe in conjunction with British Telecom of the ‘world’s smallest

satellite phone’ and the opening up of additional telecoms networks in

St Petersberg.

‘The only barriers to the programme have been financial ones,’ says

Rowe. ‘We trust the other agencies to know their markets. But part of my

job has been to keep the plates spinning and make sure they’re not

twiddling their thumbs waiting for London to call.’

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