The Why and How of PR for chief executives and busy professionals

By Boni Sones

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Page 11. Case Studies

  • Fighting for equality!

A national QUANGO wants to launch a new equality campaign with specially designed new advertisement and inviting a government minister to launch the event. It thinks the event alone will be national publicity but the press fail to take an interest in the story until it has a human interest element added to it. The human interest is added to the story when the PR department researches case studies who have fought equality cases over the past twenty years. These individuals are invited to the national event and the press is told about it. News of the event then goes national and local. It makes most national papers and the broadcast media, radio and television. The new advertisements also appear alongside the story.

  • Caring for social workers

An arms length government body wants to deliver an improved regulatory framework for social care workers. They plan a national launch event inviting a government minister to speak. The event is planned for mid-January when new codes of conduct will be published. The PR department decides to release the information about the codes of conduct to journalists in mid-December rather than wait until January. By publishing the codes early at a time when the media has little going on ie “the silly season” and Parliament is not sitting the story and the codes are given prominence in the national and regional press.

The chief executive also decides to talk about the new codes after the trial of a high profile child abuse case. The organisation, the codes and the government receive significant publicity about the launch of the new body and its codes. This organisation has used the media’s own agenda of “topicality” to promote its story so that more social care workers get to know of the new rules and regulations.

  • Watching government investments

The government has set up a new body to distribute over £100 million of investment money to the voluntary and community sector to help deliver better public services to communities in England. A national launch is planned with a government minister. The trade press, the national and regional media are sent an embargoed press release and the broadcast media is targeted. By promoting the story to the business press as well as the social affairs correspondents the story is likely to receive significantly more coverage. The business press has set pages and times set aside for its news and therefore often needs to fill space. Stories can receive more significance there than in the general news pages where they compete against other national stories, which may be more topical on the day.

It shows that it pays to think who should receive your press releases and how giving them to more than one specialist correspondent can help your message to spread further.

  • The right strategy?

A national QUANGO which distributes public money has produced a new five year strategic plan and wants to publicise it nationally and locally in order that people may see that it has less money to spend in the future. It has devised new priorities after consultation. The strategy targets certain ethnic minority groups and maybe seen to be unfair to others by some members of the press. While some gain in priority other traditional charities and groups will not be getting as much money. The Public Affairs Department draws up a publication strategy which includes hosting an event in Westminster and sending the new plan to MPs and government ministers. The plan is well received in Westminster and some of the MPs respond in person to publication of the plan.

However, when the news is distributed to the nationals, certain sections of the media do campaign against the new priorities. The organisation is able to tell MPs and Ministers that it has been open and transparent about its work and that they all did receive a copy of the new five-year strategy and that there were wide ranging consultations about it. Ministers publicly support the work and the new priorities. Importantly, other sections of the media also support it and a national “dog eat dog” rebuttal campaign is instigated with positive messages being drip-fed out in the trade and broadsheet papers to counter what is being said in some tabloids.

  • Helping the public to understand

A national organisation representing chief executives of charities and voluntary organisations is publishing a book by four nationally known economists calling for a new more secure way to fund the third sector. The book is by its nature technical and the messages are complex. The organisation invests in re-writing and explaining these messages simply in bullet point language and explaining to journalists the current “myths” about the sector. It also sets out an action in the form of a demand from government, calling for a new “VFI” to help charities and voluntary organisations become more financially secure so that they can contract with government and health authorities to run public services. This is the headline for the press release.

The story is “placed” with the Financial Times who make it a page lead. It then runs in the Times that same week and a former government ministers adds his support to these ideas. A Commission of Inquiry is set up to investigate how to implement the ideas in the book and when a seminar is held on the issue nine months after the launch of the book, the story makes a leading national Sunday and runs on BBC news that morning. It also runs in the parliamentary pages of the nationals the next day.

By simplifying the ideas in the book for a general audience and making a demand of government i.e. setting out a clear action that is needed to take these ideas forward the professional organisation turns the launch of a book into a year long campaign which not only helps to raise the profile of the book but also the organisation itself. This impresses its members. By enlisting the support of MPs and a former government minister it is also working on its Public Affairs strategy and eventually journalists report that the organisations demands are to become part of Labour’s manifesto for the next election.

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