News: Maintaining a positive and credible public perception...

Maintaining a positive and credible public perception is central to the TUC’s PR strategy

Maintaining a positive and credible public perception is central to the

TUC’s PR strategy


Mike Love, McDonald’s’ head of communications leads a team of 12 staff

operating on an in-house budget of almost pounds 3.2 million with a

further pounds 400,000 spent on external suppliers.

Supported by two senior managers, three managers and four support staff,

Love is responsible for the whole gamut of communications at the

company. Three regional officers based in London, Salford and Sutton

Coldfield deal with PR across the firm’s six UK regions.

This year the marketing department took over responsibility for sports

sponsorship activities, leaving the communications team to handle

charity, youth and environment initiatives. Two of Love’s staff were

also handed the internal communications brief.

Love himself reports to senior vice-president Ed Oakley, although Oakley

has no direct responsibility for communications. ‘We are totally

independent in terms of our functions,’ says Love. ‘The department has

evolved from being a reactive press office to a tool of decision


McDonald’s retains three agencies in the UK: The Communications Group

for political monitoring and analysis; Scope Communications for

assistance on all other aspects of PR; and Anderson Kenney which

provides a similar service to Scope in Northern Ireland.

NatWest Insurance Services

NatWest Insurance Services is the Bristol-based subsidiary of NatWest

UK, which offers household, small business, travel insurance, income and

credit protection and independent financial advice.

Although well-respected within the industry sector for its insurance

services, NatWest had not previously specifically promoted the profile

of the products to the general public, all PR being handled by the

central NatWest press office.

However, 12 months ago a subsidiary corporate affairs department was set

up at NatWest Insurance Services and headed up by Barbara Bennett.

Bennett now works with a team of three and a budget of pounds 250,000.

Around 20 per cent of its work is farmed out to Le Fevre Communications,

which handles ad hoc project work.

Bennett reports directly to Steve Wells, managing director of NatWest

Insurance Services, and works closely with NatWest UK’s main press

office, which puts out all releases on behalf of NWIS. In fact, one of

the major challenges for Bennett has been establishing NWIS’s corporate

affairs department as a point of contact for the media on specifically

insurance related issues, around 50 per cent of all calls still being

fielded through the Nat West press office.

Bennett’s also handles internal communications for the company’s 1,400

staff, including the production of a internal magazine Viewpoint every

two months, and sitting in on monthly Nat West UK internal comms

forums. The department also supports NWIS’s national and local community

and environmental initiatives in terms of logistics, internal and

external communications.


With community care and mental health issues becoming increasingly hot

political potatoes, MIND (The Mental Health Charity) has developed a

highly effective communications machinery. The charity’s PR department

is headed up by appeals and marketing director Clive Caseley who

oversees MIND’s two press officers, a corporate marketing department and

national lottery applications.

Also reporting to Caseley is Angela Hendra, MIND’s head of corporate

communications who tackles what Caseley refers to as MIND’s brand

management. Lobbying and parliamentary affairs are handled by MIND’s

legal department headed up by Kate Harrison.

As the policy headquarters of what is essentially a loose network of

care organisations, MIND’s London office is the control centre of all

national statements on mental health issues. As an educational charity

MIND has a proactive relationship with the press, developing interest in

issues such as 24-hour access for crisis care, plus the ongoing problems

of neglect and lack of care experienced by people in mental distress.

With credibility such a central issue, communications is inevitably high

on the agenda. ‘The issue of communications is taken extremely

seriously, it is most of what our organisation is all about. How we are

perceived by the media directly affects how effective we can be,’ says




Set up two years ago from what used to be the press and information

department, the TUC’s campaigns and communications department now has a

staff of ten led by the head of communications John Healey.

As Healey explains, the TUC has actively attempted to position itself as

a campaigning body on legal rights and social issues that are relevant

to union members and non-members alike. ‘We are trying to find new ways

of talking to people,’ he says. ‘There has been a shift in strategy to

try and reach audiences that know nothing about unions and also to test

new methods of communications for unions and their members.’

As part of this new strategy Healey points to recent advertising by the

TUC and its anti-racism campaign earlier this year. This included

organising the Respect festival in London’s Finsbury Park in July which

drew 80,000 visitors and support for the release of a pop record on the

same theme. Apart from handling special projects, the campaigns and

communications department manages relations with the media and

parliament, produces a range of publications, organises conferences and

markets exhibition space at conferences and other events. ‘We are much

more active than the old department which was more reactive and just

tended to send out press releases and answer enquiries,’ says Healey.

Healey, who operates with an internal budget of pounds 150,000 and

external spend of pounds 110,000 reports directly to the TUC’s general

secretary John Monks and is also a member of the congress’s senior

management team. ‘Reporting to Monks is crucial because the department

often speaks on his behalf so you have to have that level of trust and

freedom,’ he says.

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