Why PR Works: Number 5 (With a wee bit of help from Peter MacMahon)

If you’ve got a kid at nursery or with a childminder, or an older relative in a care home, then be very, very glad the Care Commission exists.

We’ve just had the news this national care regulator wants to extend its PR contract with us at Holyrood Partnership for another year. Great news for our agency.

I hope we made that decision easy for the senior figures within the Care Commission thanks to the tremendous success of a recent proactive campaign.

Since it operates in such an emotive sector (basically the bulk of its work is to prevent abuse of vulnerable children and old people) we spend a huge amount of time dealing with inquiries from the media, which makes the whole account a bit reactive.

So we had to go well above and beyond the basic terms of the contract to deliver a three month proactive push in local media. The aim was to highlight the availability of inspection reports which tell people how care services are performing. These reports are available on the Care Commission website and should be the first port of call for anyone checking out a nursery, care home or other care service.

We agreed five key messages with the Care Commission – and in the 50 (and counting) articles generated around a third carried all five of those KMs. Such a staggering result, it even amazed us. It also means we got the message out to a million local newspaper buyers.

From the Care Commission viewpoint they have seen traffic to the website soar as a result. Which is the ideal way to start preparing the Scottish public for an even simpler and more useful system of grading care services, which is coming in next year.

Last week I presented the results of our proactive push to a quarterly meeting of Care Commission Board members I felt sure they’d be blown away by the overwhelmingly positive tone of those 50+ articles. In fairness, they did seem quite pleased.

But I couldn’t help get the feeling that they were even more impressed by asingle article (unfortunately I cannot find it on the Scotsman website to link to) by The Scotsman’s political expert and former Government spin doctor,  Peter MacMahon.

Peter’s piece might not reach anywhere near the million local newpaper readers of our three month campaign – but he is influential and widely respected in the corridors of power and you can be sure his comments would have been widely read in Holyrood, St Andrew’s House and the offices of the SNP, Scottish Labour and the other main political parties.

This has to be viewed against the backdrop that the public generally – and the media specifically – are a wee bit suspicious about regulators. It makes them think of characters like the over-zealous and crazily bureaucratic Bottom Inspectors from the irreverent comic, Viz.

Likewise, Peter MacMahon and The Scotsman are not normally noted for their sympathetic stance when it comes to public bodies. So to have Peter give a broad welcome to the Care Commission’s introduction of a new grading service was gold dust – a real recognition of the painstaking three years of careful consideration and hard graft everybody at the Care Commission has put into developing the new grading system.

Of course, my chance for glory in front of Care Commission bosses and board members was somewhat eclipsed by Mr MacMahon’s article. But the combination of reaching a million ordinary punters and a handful of Scotland’s most important movers and shakers is a potent one.

For us at Holyrood PR, the whole thing couldn’t have come together better, or at more ideal time – and though I don’t know Peter MacMahon personally, I feel I owe him a pint!



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