Friday, July 21, 2006

Media Relations Manager for the Objective One Partnership of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

Clare Morgan, Media Relations Manager for the Objective One Partnership of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are well known in the UK as a place for traditional bucket and spade holidays. British families have stayed in bed and breakfast accommodation and sunbathed on beaches.

This led to seasonal, low paid jobs and while the holiday image is known nationwide, the region as a place for successful business is a new message.

The message that the Objective One Partnership is tasked with getting across is that the region has a burgeoning knowledge-based economy as well as top quality food and drink producers.

The obstacles to relaying this message include distance; Cornwall is about five hours by road or train from London. National journalists will often not travel yet the best way to challenge preconceptions is by demonstrating the evidence.

Because the next generation of European funding is likely to be different the Partnership also wants to demonstrate that the region has handled its first round of Objective One investment wisely.

The theme is not only present successes but also the need for partnerships to work well in the future. We believe that Objective One has been used so effectively in our region because of the uniqueness of the Objective One Partnership.

The Objective One Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was created solely to work and speak for the Programme. It fulfils an essential role as the independent voice of the Programme, and has been crucial in ensuring common ownership across the region. It is the public face for the Programme.

This partly arose from the Objective 5b Programme, which ran until 1999. It was discovered that not enough communication had gone on and the people of the region did not feel involved and did not see investment benefits.

Partnership communication challenges include gaining high visibility regionally, nationally and across Europe. The partnership team needs to communicate to the media, programme partners and interested parties such as MEPs.

One of the main ways of doing this is by gathering and publicising evidence of successful projects ranging from the largest such as the Combined Universities in Cornwall to the smallest which can include buying a bicycle for someone out of work so they can get to a new job on time.

The Combined Universities in Cornwall is the region’s first and the Objective One flagship project. Because of this it has generated a lot of media interest. Publicity includes stories about its opening, about students working with businesses and about their achievements.

The main campus building is an iconic design and the Objective One Partnership hosted an architecture conference there in September. This was an excellent chance to demonstrate the concrete and visible difference O1 has been making. Speakers included Partnership Director Carleen Kelemen who could emphasise the people in the buildings who are working to increase the region’s knowledge and wealth.

Another great story opportunity to come from the university was Qemscan, a piece of machinery that analyses non-organic particles. The first to be installed in a university Qemscan is usually used by mining companies but, thanks to the imagination of professors at the CUC, its applications have expanded and several murderers have been convicted with the help of Qemscan forensic evidence analysis. The machinery is also being used on ancient archaeological remains and has spin out applications for many businesses. The fact that Qemscan is used in murder investigations immediately fascinated the media.

The CUC could be called a publicity dream because of its size and its intentions. The Hub is a purpose-built £50 million campus offering world-class facilities for up to 5,000 students. By 2010, the CUC will have created an additional 4,000 HE student places, producing 1,300 graduates a year and generating £32 million a year for Cornwall. It is expected to create an additional 1,000 jobs.

Its own team has been to Brussels to talk about the project. Even detractors of how Objective One money is being spent, particularly an economist who has long argued that the European money should not have gone to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, has no disagreement with the CUC.

The Knowledge Spa, which houses a part of a new medical school as well as business incubation units built with O1 investment is also an easy publicity target. The Partnership team is writing case studies of every business to become a tenant and undertook the publicity for a conference in May.

A project which aims to introduce locally sourced food and drink to hospitals is based at the Knowledge Spa. To celebrate Organic Week, organic breakfasts were served at Cornwall’s largest hospital. The partnership and hospital organised a media event which resulted in good coverage as well as building good relations with the media by giving them a free breakfast.

The Eden Project is another easy publicity target. The Project has its own press team and attracts worldwide attention with events such as the African part of Live Eight held this summer.

O1 money has been invested in the new education centre as well as a project to encourage local food sourcing and the Partnership communication team works side by side with Eden PRs to make sure the O1 name is prominent.

Eden is a great example to show visitors as its twin biomes are unique. In April this year a delegation of Swedish and Danish representatives, including Maria Evertsson, came to Cornwall to study Partnership communications. Eden was one of the places they were taken as it is such a visual demonstration of success.

Projects less easy to publicise often involve training. Many projects concentrate on trying to introduce or reintroduce people to work. Many of these people do not want publicity and this makes it difficult for the communication team when the question is raised – what has Objective One done for communities? Instead the team has to point to statistics or visible community regenerators such as restoration of historic buildings. This is a challenge as it is the people that the press are interested in.

Other methods the Partnership team uses to communicate messages include:

· Answering media inquiries both good and bad.
· Highlighting heroes because the press likes people.
· Working with project partners. EG: Cornwall County Council has been a major partner in investment for many O1 projects. The partnership and the council’s communications teams share events and add to each other’s press releases.

A major opportunity about to open up is in the form of businessman David Brewer. In November he will become Lord Mayor of the City of London. He has strong ties with Cornwall and has said he wants to promote the region as much as possible during his busy year. This will include serving Cornish food at official banquets. The Partnership is working closely with Mr Brewer and he has agreed to write his own articles for us.

There are various channels the Partnership uses to send out its message. One is our own Quarterly review. Themes for this small booklet have included business, food and drink, university and environment.

Other channels include newspapers; radio; TV; magazines; websites and presentations.

Stories that have sparked interest include one about a clothing store that is branching into organic cotton. The store received Objective One investment via Business Link, a business support organisation. This was published nationally in Drapers, a fashion trade magazine which that week chose an eye-catching front cover.

The Partnership has its own website – and all press releases are uploaded and the site has information for media, partners and potential applicants.

Partnership Director, Carleen Kelemen, spreads the message by giving interviews to the media and presentations to others.

Sometimes partners come up with opportunities for publicity themselves. In June Cornwall Pure Business, a project encouraging businesses to move to Cornwall, organised Cornwall Business Week. This received coverage on national television, radio and newspapers. One reporter was so interested he spent two days in Cornwall to see the effects O1 investment had really had. To generate this interest in what is seen is as a distant rural area is quite a coup.

On top of the success stories which need to be communicated two new messages have arrived. Because so much investment has gone on since the Objective One Programme began in 2000 the four funds are now almost committed. This means some applicants will be disappointed. This is now being weaved into press releases.

This leads onto the second emerging message - Post 2006. While the region believes Objective One will be followed by some form of investment it doesn’t yet know what. The partnership is represented on a new group set up to keep abreast of news on Post 2006 convergence through the whole of the South West of England. That group is also deciding a communications strategy.

In taking forward the economic agenda the partnership is determined to maintain the territorial visibility of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly as an area with a positive appetite for regeneration and change and will continue to dream up new ways to get the message across.

1 comment:

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