3X1 may be one of the new kids on the Scottish public relations block, but that didn’t stop this year’s judges handing the Glasgow-based consultancy the Grand Prix at the Scottish PR Awards. Gordon Laing reflects on the results and looks at some of the winning case studies in depth.
When an invite says 7:00 for 7:30, you expect to still hear the whistle of air-conditioning and the drum of the barman’s fingers until twenty-five past. Not at the Scottish PR Awards.
At 6:55pm a number of black cabs, ferrying the cream of Scotland’s PR industry to the Radisson SAS Hotel, had already arrived. By 7:30pm 260-plus PR people had packed Glasgow’s Radisson SAS Hotel for the second Scottish PR Awards in conjunction with the IPR Scotland.
The Scottish PR industry was quick to acclimatise to its first evening award ceremony, in what was just the second year of The Drum and IPR Scotland Awards. On the night it was 3x1 that the judges deemed the top dogs as they swapped their usual (Highland Spring) water for champagne, and they scooped the Grand Prix award, among others.
The judging panel – which included Paul Geoghan, chief press officer at the Scottish Executive; Lyndsay McGarvie, political editor of the Sunday Mail, Jules Newton, founding partner of Shine Communications, Jane Cumming, director of Platform PR and chair of the IPR Scotland, Gidon Freeman, deputy editor of PR Week; and Atholl Duncan, managing editor at BBC Scotland – was impressed by the progress that 3x1 had made since the Looney Tunes Water launch last year.
The research and subsequent report that was published into the state of the country’s children was lauded, and the subsequent stance that was taken was admired for the level of opportunity and coverage it created.
The judges followed strict rules throughout the process of selection, however there were certain guidelines that were quickly identified by the judges when they assembled to debate the winners: “One of the first things I did when opening up the entrants was do a word count. Some of them were wildly over. If they were over I put a mark next to them,” said one judge.
“We’re looking for excellence, not just people doing their jobs,” said another.
Also commented on was the presentation of the entry case-studies. And with that in mind the judging process got under way.
Back to the glamour of the ceremony, and the first award of the night was presented to the Young Communicator of the Year. The Hamp Hamilton Award was presented to Linda McIntyre of Network Rail, who the judges were unanimous in their praise for.
The Best In-house team award, was then presented to HBOS.
“There was the potential for a lot of negative coverage about the merger between Halifax and Bank of Scotland, and they got none,” said one judge of the decision. “I think it was good in that the entry spoke about the team. I think a lot of other submissions dealt with campaigns and had no feel for the fact that there was a team, and the people in that team.”
Again, the judges were unanimous in their praise as Weber Shandwick shone through, to scoop the accolade for Best Large Consultancy.
While, after a great deal of debate, they awarded 3x1 their first award of the night for Best Small Consultancy, acknowledging the young consultancy’s healthy client list.
The next award to be presented was for Best Independent Practitioner. The award was presented to Maggie Wright, who beat off competition from Hot Tin Roof.
The Scottish Qualifications Authority In-house team was called to the stage next to receive the trophy for best Public Sector Team.
The presentations then moved on to the awards for individual campaigns. The Best Business to Business Campaign will decorate the desk at Weber Shandwick after the team scooped the award for its Seafish Industry Authority campaign.
“I think some things are harder to sell than others,” said one judge. “Arguably any of us could sell the Commonwealth Games and Falkirk Wheel to the BBC because they’re good stories. But to be able to sell Fish Week ... that’s impressive.”
This was followed by the Best Consumer Campaign which went to 3x1 for its Grand Prix winning Highland Spring campaign.
Next was Best Charity Campaign. CitigateSMARTS was awarded for its Starting to Stop the Stigma of Mental Ill Health work and its innovative ‘swear box’ campaign.
HBOS picked up its second and third gold awards of the night in the Corporate Social Responsibility and Financial Communication categories.
In the award for Best Community Campaign, HBOS and City of Edinburgh Council (for its fostering campaign) could not be distinguished between in the top spot, both being awarded gold prizes. Next on stage was Pagoda receiving a top award for its Strips on Prescription work in the Best Public Affairs section.
Talking of the winning entry in the Best Crisis Management category the judges said: “It’s just such an amazing turn-around.” In re-writing the rulebook on this kind of PR case, the award was given to Grampian Police for its crisis management of the Arlene Fraser murder trial.
The last award of the night, other than the Grand Prix trophy, fittingly went to 3x1. Their fourth in total for the night. The company was deemed Best New Start by the judges. And, judging by the heavy load of trophies being carted out by the team at the end of the night, it certainly seems to be a good start. Long may the good work continue.
Grand Prix – 3x1
Since Highland Spring launched Looney Tunes Water (LTW) as the UK’s first bottled water for children in 2001, copycat brands have emerged targeting 5- to 11-year-olds. To date, PR has been the key driver within the brand’s marketing mix. Initially, the PR campaign was trade-focused but there was a need to target the national consumer media to raise awareness of the benefits of drinking water. The UK consumer media are important to target since the South East is Highland Spring’s key market but they do not respond well to over product driven campaigns.
3x1 identified a lack of research showing the drinking habits of British children. While it was recognised that children don’t drink enough water, it was assumed that consumption of fizzy drinks was on the increase. But the facts on kids’ drinking trends were not established.
Highland Spring had also encountered resistance getting into primary schools and needed to start a dialogue.
To reinforce Highland Spring’s position leading the kids bottled water category and to create an issue-led campaign championing healthier drinking habits for children, building the case for water and helping open dialogue with schools.
Conduct major research highlighting kids’ increasing consumption of fizzy drinks and the associated health hazards – obesity, tooth decay, hyperactivity. Issue a wake-up call to parents and schools using third party endorsement to reinforce the benefits of drinking water and capitalise on the tidal wave against junk food and obesity time bomb facing British kids.
UK consumer media, reaching parents and kids. Schools to target teachers, local authorities and pupils and opinion formers within the medical, educational, political spectrum.
Planning & research: Research was commissioned from Youth TGI supplemented by existing data from AC Nielsen, Zenith, HEBS and the Schools Nutrition Action Group.
TGI’s findings showed 21 per cent of 7- to 10-year-olds drink 10 cans of fizzy a week (about 70 spoonfuls of sugar) and parents are the biggest culprits, buying 80 per cent, with highest consumption at home. The results were published in a report called A Spoonful of Sugar? and issued with a news release warning parents of the increasing thirst for fizzy.
The health hazards were reinforced in the foreword by Prof. Kay of Manchester University, the UK’s expert on oral health, who acted as an independent spokesperson for radio interviews. Other spokespeople promoted by Highland Spring included the British Dental Association and Water is Cool in Schools initiative since the report highlighted that many pupils still drink from taps in school toilets.
A soft-sell strategy was adopted encouraging the debate on fizzy vs. water (tap or bottled) rather than insisting on brand mentions for Highland Spring.
Media training was arranged for the client and an intensive Q&A session rehearsed to prepare for any counter arguments by the soft drinks industry.
Exclusive briefings were negotiated with GMTV, The Times and selected radio stations to spread word of mouth.
The report was mailed to a database of opinion formers across the UK including experts in health, academia and politics.
This February the Scottish Executive’s Expert Panel’s final report on school meals called for a ban on fizzy drinks at lunchtime in primary schools. Consultancy and client capitalised on this opportunity by issuing A Spoonful of Sugar? to the research participants, informing them about Highland Spring’s research and healthy vending solution for schools.
A fuss about fizz was created giving the perfect platform to highlight the case for water on the national agenda. GMTV breakfast news together with The Times T2 health feature (and Times Online) helped stimulate demand for media interviews.
Consumer highlights included ITN National News, Channel 5 News, BBC Newsround, LBC Radio, Scottish TV, Daily Mail and Scottish Sun. The key trade press also highlighted the research findings and bottledwaterworld (the water industry trade bible) featured Highland Spring as the front cover story in its April issue, crediting the brand for its innovation in driving growth in the kids’ sector.
All the coverage included the key messages and opportunities to see these messages were: broadcast – about 7.5m viewers and listeners; consumer press – 4.5m readers; and trade press – about 350,000.
Online coverage was encouraging, with Food & Drink Europe featuring the report as its lead story. Highland Spring’s website had nearly 1000 hits on launch day alone, the biggest ever, with 30 per cent increase in traffic.
There was a swell of positive feedback from opinion formers including key politicians and schools. The Scottish Executive’s new Food Tsar, Gillian Kynoch, invited Highland Spring to be a case study supporting their healthy living campaign and dialogue is underway with their Chief Dental Officer to explore promoting water in primary schools, nurseries, playgroups and oral health departments as well as universities.
Mary Whiting quoted the research in her new book Dump the Junk published in February 2003
The media coverage was outstanding in relation to a modest PR fee budget and firmly established Highland Spring as an authority on children’s drinking habits as well as Looney Tunes Water as the kids’ bottled water champion. A further 3,000 copies were produced to meet demand after only the first week.
Feedback from the media and opinion formers highlighted increasing concerns about the fizzy diet issue and prompted Highland Spring to create the first bottled water vending machines for primary schools, which have just been successfully piloted in Scotland.
Looney Tunes Water vending machines and countertop fridges are now being offered to schools providing a healthy alternative to sweetened soft drinks.
While the project was successful in reaching its objectives, A Spoonful of Sugar? is proving to have a much longer shelf life as a valuable and credible marketing and business tool. And Zenith International, the global bottled water industry expert, highlighted and praised the report in its 2002 overview
What makes this entry award winning?
Sally Stanley, marketing director of Highland Spring, said: “The research plugged a knowledge gap giving us the evidence to highlight the appalling drinking habits of British children to the media. The credibility of the report is helping to open up new partnership opportunities with the Scottish Executive and local authorities in our key markets. Our Looney Tunes Water brand is now firmly recognised as the kids’ water champion brand.”
Scottish PR Awards 2003
Best Crisis Management Campaign Case Study
Crisis PR – Grampian Police
Nat Fraser was found guilty at the High Court on 29 January 2003 of the murder of his wife Arlene, who disappeared from her home in Elgin on 28 April 1998. This marked the end of the most expensive, longest running and highest profile criminal enquiry in Grampian Police’s history. The case was unusual for many reasons, not least that Arlene’s body has never been found. Enquiries into the circumstances surrounding her disappearance lasted almost five years and cost around £2m.
The case against Nat Fraser was purely circumstantial, there was no forensic or direct evidence. In any criminal trial there is no guarantee that guilt will be proved, but because of the unusual aspects of this case, there was a very real possibility that a not guilty or not proven verdict could be returned by the jury. A crisis management media strategy was therefore prepared which considered two possible outcomes: guilty and not guilty/not proven.
To ensure that Grampian Police received a positive and supportive image in the media, and so in the public’s mind, following the court case – irrespective of the verdict.
Â· Remain open and honest in all relationships with the media.
Â· Obtain coverage of the key messages (see below).
Â· Ensure accurate reporting of the police enquiry.
Â· Ensure that Arlene Fraser’s family are supported in their dealings with the media before, during and after the trial.
Irrespective of the jury’s decision:
Â· Grampian Police carried out a thorough and professional investigation.
Â· Acknowledge the hard work and determination of all staff involved in the enquiry.
Â· The cost and length of the enquiry were justified given its unique aspects.
Â· During the enquiry, Grampian Police consulted experts in a number of specialist fields, to ensure that the investigation was as robust as possible.
Â· The enquiry was unique for many reasons including the fact that Arlene’s body was never found.
A dedicated team of two press officers was seconded to this project in March 2002: a police officer and a news manager.
Assistance was sought from Talking Heads, a Cambridge-based consultancy firm specialising in police media issues. They assisted in developing a media strategy, offered advice as the project progressed and conducted media training.
Detective Superintendent Jim Stephen, who led the investigation, was identified as the spokesperson. He received media training from Talking Heads, tailored to the type of questions that might arise at the end of the trial.
The budget for this 10-month project was £20,000.
Pre-trial, the emphasis was on building strong relationships with the media, Crown Office and Arlene’s family. Informal liaison was carried out to clarify background information, identify any issues and the media’s perspective of the enquiry and explain the unique aspects of the case.
Press officers worked closely with producers for BBC’s “Frontline” programme and Grampian TV, who filmed documentaries on the story.
For the first time in Scotland the Crown Office worked closely with a police force to produce joint materials for the media, including a website and media pack.
As a new approach was to be taken to media relations, the media strategy was presented to key personnel within the organisation and close liaison was established with Arlene’s family in order to explain the Force’s approach to media handling, and the support which could be provided.
During the trial the new website gave media access to useful information and photographs, which could be utilised at the conclusion of the trial. A press officer was at court every day in order to monitor the evidence, address unforeseen media issues and amend post-verdict statements as necessary and assist media with background information on the investigation.
To ease pressure on the family, all requests for media interviews were channelled through the police press officers. Once the family had given evidence, pool media interviews were facilitated.
Post-verdict, Detective Superintendent Jim Stephen gave a statement outside the court once the verdict was returned. Within half an hour a press conference was held at a nearby hotel with Superintendent Stephen and Arlene’s family.
Media were supplied with an information pack, which was also made available on the web.
Internally, an e-mail was sent immediately to all staff from the Assistant Chief Constable, announcing the verdict and thanking them for their hard work. A section of the internal magazine was devoted to the investigation.
Reporting of the trial occupied newspaper front pages and led broadcast news programmes for the majority of its duration. Blanket coverage followed the guilty verdict. Some print media outlets even produced special edition supplements. As well as coverage in Scotland, the story featured on ITN news and national radio. The coverage was overwhelmingly positive:
The Sun, 30 January 2003, said: “A few years ago Fraser would have got away with murder. But ... some individual doggedness, above and beyond the call of duty meant that Grampian Police got their man.”
Evening Express, 30 January 2003: “The extent to which the officers relentlessly pursued the truth is unparalleled in Scotland ... the commitment of officers was way beyond the call of duty.”
Scotland on Sunday, 2 February 2003: “The successful outcome [of the trial] is a tribute to dogged police work over five years.”
A full evaluation of the crisis management campaign included a review of the objectives, analysis of coverage received, the use of key messages and media feedback. Each of the objectives outlined had been achieved.
What makes this entry award winning?
For the first time a police force worked closely with the Crown Office on a joint approach to media handling. This was well received in both organisations and it is likely that this approach will be used in future high-profile trials in Scotland.
If Grampian Police had not taken such an open and honest approach with the media, the Force could have missed out on valuable, positive media coverage or even unfairly criticised due to an inadequate understanding.
This was avoided by ensuring the media had a thorough understanding of the unique issues in this case. The result was overwhelmingly positive reporting, with glowing praise for the actions and dedication of Grampian Police.
Scottish PR Awards 2003
Best Public Affairs Campaign Case Study
Public Affairs – Pagoda PR
In October 2002 Pagoda PR was engaged by patients’ charity, AntiCoagulation Europe (ACE), to campaign for self-monitoring strips for those on anti-coagulation therapy (such as warfarin) to be put on prescription in Scotland. They had already been put on prescription in the rest of the UK in May 2002. This would have an impact on 70,000 Scots, with the number projected to increase by 20 per cent each year.
Warfarin and other anti-coagulation therapies are used to treat patients who are at high risk of developing blood clots, e.g., those with a mechanical heart valve, congenital heart disease and deep vein thrombosis. This requires regular testing through self-monitoring strips.
Aims and objectives
The aim of the campaign was to persuade the Scottish Executive to put self-monitoring strips on the Scottish Drug Tariff by the end of the year (2002). This would be done through highlighting the anomaly and inherent unfairness to Scottish patients and securing an understanding of the issues among key opinion formers and civil servants.
Pagoda drew up three key messages in consultation with ACE, and felt these would be the most effective in the campaign:
Â· It is unfair that those in Scotland do not have the same access to self-monitoring strips as those in the rest of the UK.
Â· NHS Scotland could save money by putting self-monitoring strips on prescription, rather than the more costly process of a visit to the nearest hospital or clinic for a blood test.
Â· Self-testing is more convenient and those managing their own therapy tend to experience fewer serious complications.
It was important to be able to persuade key opinion formers and decision makers in the Scottish Executive, such as the Minister for Health, Malcolm Chisholm MSP, the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, William Scott, and other policy advisers.
The key element of the approach was to use the Public Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament to raise the profile of the issue. It was also necessary to identify an MSP to “champion” the issue and table a motion with cross-party support, make alliances with other health organisations and medical professionals who would offer support and credibility to the campaign and use media relations to raise the issue without “attacking” the Executive or making it difficult for them to respond positively without losing face.
Pagoda decided to use the Public Petition’s Committee of the Scottish Parliament because it provides an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of a campaign. Awareness of the issue would be raised amongst MSPs and there would be press coverage when the petition was presented to the committee. This avenue puts MSPs in a position to lobby the Scottish Executive, harnessing the strength of feeling amongst MSPs, sufferers and others with an interest in this issue.
The Health Minister, Malcolm Chisholm MSP, and the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, William Scott, were advised by ACE and the ACHD that the petition would be presented to John McAllion MSP, the convener of the Petition’s Committee, in the Scottish Parliament by two young children at a high-profile event.
Pagoda organised ACE briefings to MSPs. This increased awareness of the issue and allowed MSPs the opportunity to question the Scottish Executive through parliamentary and written questions. It also allowed the informal networks that exist between individuals in parties to come into play. There were many, for example, who knew of individuals who required self-testing and therefore put pressure on the Scottish Executive through these networks.
Pagoda organised two receptions with MSPs at a venue close to the Scottish Parliament on 19 and 20 November. This allowed ACE to brief MSPs from all the political parties on the campaign. A demonstration of the self-testing equipment was also given and an agreement was reached with the opposition spokespersons that they would sign a cross-party motion to be tabled by Mary Scanlon MSP.
Pagoda identified a “champion” in Mary Scanlon MSP, who was extremely supportive of the cause, and put questions to the Scottish Executive and Scottish Ministers on a range of issues associated with the campaign.
The same MSP also tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament, which was signed by 23 MSPs, again demonstrating the cross-party support.
By forming strategic alliances with other related organisations and individuals, they achieved broad support for the issue. They secured the “buy in” of key consultants and cardiologists, with a number agreeing to attend the presentation of the petition event and interviews set up for them with key media.
Integral to the public affairs strategy was media relations’ activity, which ensured that the “goodwill” of the Scottish Executive was not diminished. They briefed key journalists and details of the campaign were outlined in the Daily Record and questions posed to the Minister for Health’s office by the Mail on Sunday. The Herald also pursued this issue with Scottish Executive spokespeople and sought explanations for the Executive’s apparent lack of action.
The petition (which had 700 signatories) was due to be presented to the Petitions Committee of the Scottish Parliament on 4th December by two Scottish children.
Prior to the presentation of the petition, discussions were held at a high-level meeting within the Scottish Executive, who were facing a cross-party motion that was attracting new signatures daily, carefully targeted supplementary questions from Mary Scanlon MSP, letters from ACE and other related organisations and individuals to the Minister’s office and mounting press interest stimulated by appropriate briefings.
Shortly before the scheduled date of presentation of the petition, the Scottish Executive announced that self-monitoring strips would be added to the Scottish Drug Tariff.
Pagoda arranged a front-page article in The Herald marking the success of the campaign and in order to acknowledge the support of everyone who was involved in it.
The objective of the campaign was achieved. Throughout the process the knowledge and understanding of MSPs was assessed through telephone contact with them, as well as awareness through contacts in the Scottish Executive.
What makes this entry award winning?
The campaign’s simplicity was its key along with the fact that it was targeted and did not unnecessarily complicate the issue.
Pagoda did not create activities or generate press attention that was surplus to requirements or that could have created an adversarial situation. Maintaining the goodwill of the Scottish Executive was key to our approach.
Based on their success Pagoda won the tender (with Walsh PR) from ACE to campaign for self-monitoring strips to be put on prescription in the Republic of Ireland.