Eurobell is channelling the majority of its PR budget into community
Dorset County Council
In contrast to many local government bodies, Dorset County Council
eschews the notion of a centralised communications department dealing
with the full range of council activities. Instead it encourages its
employees to manage their own public relations.
‘Dorset is unusual in that we run a devolved system where all the
departments are empowered to talk to the press,’ says head of
communications David Bennett. ‘For example, if someone wants to talk
about roads they can ring up the department and talk directly with
someone who knows all about that area.’
Until 18 months ago the council maintained a single public relations
department which responded to all media enquiries. Now a range of
individuals within each of its 12 departments are authorised to speak on
the council’s behalf. These include five dedicated press officers across
the council and 15 staff in the education department alone. ‘They know
their own product intimately and are experts in their own field,’ adds
Bennett himself handles Dorset’s ‘corporate’ PR with the help of one
assistant. This includes general media relations, producing council
publications, maintaining its Internet site, organising events and
overseeing occasional public opinion surveys. He reports to chief
executive Peter Harvey. In addition Bennett heads up a number of working
parties in which communications may have a role to play.
Dorset County Council has a budget of pounds 60,000 per annum and does
not retain any external public relations consultancies, although it does
call on the services of outside suppliers from time to time. This tends
mainly to be for one-off projects, such as a recent waste disposal
campaign when it used the Winchester branch of DTW Advertising and
Exxon Chemical steers clear of the hierarchical approach to corporate
communications and instead adopts localised grassroots structure.
In the UK the company runs two major manufacturing sites at Southampton
and Fife, in addition to its corporate headquarters in Hampshire. Each
location has its own PR representative, with Fareham-based public
affairs manager Niall Watkins in overall charge. Head of public affairs
Eve Baker manages PR for Southampton while public affairs adviser
Catherine Cubitt handles Fife.
Watkins and three assistants work primarily on corporate positioning and
public affairs issues coming out of Westminster and Brussels for both
Exxon Chemical and its sister company Esso Petroleum. Internal
communications at corporate HQ also falls within his remit. Watkins
reports to Pat Lavin, the site manger at Fareham, but also has a dotted
line to Exxon’s regional publicity manager Marcel Daniels in Brussels.
At each of the manufacturing plants Baker and Cubitt tackle external
communications for their respective regions. Baker points out that Exxon
practises a hands on approach to PR: ‘We believe in the empowerment of
individuals and in employing the right people to do a job, so I can to
be fairly autonomous. There are worldwide directions that are
implemented on a local level and it’s my job to do that.’
Eurobell, the smallest of the multi-franchise cable companies, has
completed its initial project in the Sussex region and is now
undertaking major construction in the south-west England and west Kent
In the south west alone this will involve connecting up a quarter of a
million homes by the year 2001 and an investment of pounds 200 million.
To offset public opposition to all this digging, Eurobell is channelling
the majority of its PR budget into community relations. This takes the
form of sponsorship of county shows and charity-based ventures such as
While residential cabling forms the bulk of its development, the company
is also targeting the commercial sector and has already signed up more
than a thousand businesses in the south-west.
Eurobell recently appointed corporate marketing director Roy Emerson at
its headquarters in Crawley, Sussex, however to date it has done little
in terms of centralised PR, preferring to concentrate activities on a
regional basis. Eurobell South-West uses agency Bruce Pell Associates
for PR advice support in this region.
Imperial Chemical Industries
Each of ICI’s five business areas, which include the world’s biggest
paper and explosives companies, possess their own PR function. However
the communications department at headquarters in Westminster remains the
nerve centre. Public affairs and financial and corporate PR are managed
from here and the department, headed by former BBC industrial
correspondent Martin Adeney, acts as communications adviser to the group
The eight-strong team handles the bulk of its internal activity,
although Brunswick has been retained for financial media advice for the
past six years.
The past year has been marked by ICI’s property group handling the
largest industrial development in the UK at Severnside (Bristol), but
the biggest initiative has been the massive internal communications
drive undertaken by new chief executive Charles Miller-Smith.
In March, Miller-Smith spoke live, via satellite link-up, to more than
3,000 employees across 25 countries. ‘The chief executive was seen by
employees from Memphis to Malaysia. Our entire workforce had an
opportunity to hear directly about ICI’s future plans and strategy,’
said Adeney. The momentum created by this TV initiative has been
followed by a programme of briefings by divisional heads.
The communications budget, at around pounds 1.5 million, is considerably
smaller than in the past, principally due to a cut in major initiatives
like its previous TV advertising campaign and Formula One sponsorship.
The size of the department has also been in decline, but senior press
officer Geoff Paddock says this has now stabilised.