Client: The South African High Commission
PR Team: Shandwick
Mandela’s UK visit
Timescale: June-July 1996
On 8 June, South Africa’s 77-year-old president, Nelson Mandela, arrived
in the UK for a four-day visit to build trade relations. Shandwick
Consultants was hired to co-ordinate his communication with the UK
To highlight the economic aspects of the visit amid the pomp and
ceremony, targeting both the City, in order to encourage inward
investment, and the business media.
Six weeks before Mandela’s arrival, Shandwick contacted his office to
arrange interview slots with him and his six ministers. Business
journalists, rather than news and political reporters, were targeted to
ensure the inward investment message was covered.
Reporters were invited to the South African High Commission on 28 June
to receive a briefing on the forthcoming visit and press packs.
Mandela’s ministers and over 100 business leaders arrived on Saturday, 7
July, a day earlier than Mandela himself, and were scheduled to meet
representatives of merchant banks, including Rothschilds, SBC Warburg
and Morgan Stanley, throughout the week. They were also lined up to have
discussions with fund managers and direct investors.
On Monday, Mandela’s first full day in Britain, Trade and Industry
minister Alex Erwin was interviewed on Radio 4’s Today, BBC Radio
Scotland and BBC 1’s Business Breakfast giving the first interviews of
the visit a trade angle.
Mandela spoke at a Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference on
his government’s pledge to restructure and privatise public corporations
On Thursday Mandela met with the chairman of BP and took part in a
photocall outside the Bank of England with its governor, Eddie George.
The last day involved breakfast at the High Commission attended by four
ministers and 13 financial journalists.
Shandwick is still evaluating coverage, though it achieved its main
targets with Mandela interviews in the Financial Times and on Radio 4,
while the Times and the Daily Telegraph ran surveys on South Africa’s
economic prospects. Other business press coverage included the Sunday
Times business section and Sunday Business.
Results of the public affairs drive to woo investors are harder to
gauge. Shandwick is conducting a survey to see if attitudes to the
country’s economy have changed, but we will have to wait to see if
cheques are signed.
Mandela was bound to make front page news and, with such a huge trade
delegation, economics was clearly on his agenda, making it easier to
shift coverage onto the business pages. However Shandwick ensured the
trade issue was raised first and kept it in the front line with a
tightly controlled campaign in the face of 200 media requests for
interviews with Mandela.
Sunday Telegraph economics editor Bill Jamieson says: ‘Meeting with
bankers and fund managers were behind closed doors, so I was not able to
form a view on how successful they were.’ However, he adds, the media
relations were handled ‘very well and professionally.’