News: Eurobell is channelling...

Eurobell is channelling the majority of its PR budget into community relations

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

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

tree planting.

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.

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