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PR Campaign Strategy Template

Updated on August 4, 2013

PR Campaign Aims

  1. To secure widespread and continued support for the ban.
  2. To inform publics and encourage them to prepare for the implementation of the ban.
  3. To counter-act opposition from the pro-smoking lobby

PR Campaign: Context and Brief

In April 2007 new legislation came into effect in Northern Ireland banning smoking in all enclosed public spaces, including workplaces, announced by the Health Minister Shaun Woodward on October 17th to an audience of health professionals and members of the licensed trade. Mr Woodward (an ex-smoker himself) had visited the Republic of Ireland and New York to gauge how both cities had administered their bans. During that summer he revealed the results of a public consultation in Northern Ireland, which showed that 91% were in favour of a total ban.

Understandably, there was both support and criticism for the move, from many different quarters. Gaining public and trade support for the move will be important, as it is somewhat ground breaking. In the European Union at that time, 16 countries had legislated on smoking in the past two years, but only two - Norway and Ireland - had implemented a full ban. In March 2004, Ireland became the first European country to establish a complete ban on smoking in the workplace, including the country's some 10,000 pubs. Although it was received well, it was crucial in Northern Ireland to create attention for the ban, increase understanding of what it will mean and encourage all workplaces into action to prepare for the ban.

It was at this time, as PR students, that we were tasked with creating a PR Campaign proposal for the Department of Health to implement the ban in Northern Ireland. We had just 24 hours to compile the strategy and the template in this hub was mine. It remains relevant to this day, despite the lack of social media and digital strategy, which was not a mainstay of PR as it is today. But I hope it will be useful to you nonetheless.

PR Campaign Situational Analysis

Success of ban in Republic of Ireland
Reliability of statistical data questionable
Many national health days already achieve PR coverage
Risk of unemployment to licensed trade workers
Research facts and figures support ban
Financial restraints on Dept. Health for advertising campaign
Lifestyle trends – smoking viewed as glamorous?
Human rights activists groups VERY upset by ban
Public awareness of ban high via media coverage since Oct 2005
Timescale (13 months) leaves gap for opposition to mount campaign
Global influences – EU and America implementing similar initiatives
Pro-smoking lobbyists have support from millions of smokers
Health benefits of proposition
Previous public knowledge of health effects of smoking have not succeeded
Possible partnerships are numerous
Reduced tax revenue from cigarettes
Lifestyle trends – smoking no longer as glamorous
Research needed to support campaign
Loss of tax revenue for health service, schools etc.
European/international legislation coming into effect
Consumer attitudes – many people still smoke despite previous health campaigns
Information and communication systems like Internet and E-mail
Taxation may be raised elsewhere to compensate loss
Pressure groups and lobbyists for and against campaign
Role models and Celebrities photographed smoking e.g. Britney Spears, Charlotte Church etc.
Associated technologies, e.g. effect on Air Conditioning industry, glass producers of ash trays, street cleaners, etc
Interest or exchange rates affected? Any effect on economy in general? Hard to tell as ban only implemented in two EU countries
Funding/grants from Gov. available for pubs, workplaces etc. to build smoking rooms/gardens would encourage support

PR Campaign Objectives

The research results should provide a good foundation on which to base the strategy. With the research findings analysed, it is then important to break down the aims into specific objectives. By defining these, the PR programme can be planned and accomplishments or failures can be assessed. For this particular strategy the priority objectives are:

  1. To encourage positive attitudes towards the smoking ban.
  2. Achieve media coverage in terms of PR activity and support advertising.
  3. Inform publics of details of the smoking ban to encourage understanding.

PR Campaign Research

From the research conducted, the following information will be highlighted;

  • Tobacco smoke contains around 4,000 chemicals, including arsenic, benzene and ammonia. Around 60 of these chemicals are known or suspected to cause cancer (Smokefree NI online).
  • Many of the toxic chemicals are actually more concentrated in the smoke that’s given off by the burning tip of a cigarette (sidestream smoke) than in the smoke inhaled by the smoker through the filter (mainstream smoke).
  • It has been estimated that exposure to passive smoking in the workplace causes about 700 deaths each year across the UK, including the death of one hospitality worker per week. This is three times the number of people killed in all industrial accidents in the UK (Professor Konrad Jamrozik of Imperial College in London, May 31st, 2005).
  • A MORI poll conducted in March 2005 found that 69% of respondents were in favour of an outright ban on smoking in public places (NI Chest Heart & Stroke Association online).
  • Latest figures show the proportion of Irish people who smoke regularly is now just 25% (BBC News online).
  • A recent report published by the Royal College of Physicians suggests that the amount of smoking in the home may be reduced if a total ban on smoking in enclosed public places is put into effect.
  • By the year 2007 cancer will have overtaken cardio-vascular disease as the biggest killer in Northern Ireland, with 1 in 9 of all cancers being diagnosed before the age of 45 (Ulster Cancer Foundation online).

PR Campaign Audiences and Messages

OPPOSITION Anti-smoking ban groups such as FOREST and Smokers With Attitude see a total ban as a violation of smokers’ human rights and freedom of choice
Increasing their media coverage with larger campaigns viewing the introduction of more smoking bans throughout the UK and Europe as a threat. They need to be defeated with a core message of clear facts and statistics –smoking 1st hand and secondary KILLS.
MEDIA • Television - news/discussion programmes/documentaries • Radio discussion forums • National and Regional, daily and Sunday newspapers • Free weekly newspapers • Weekend colour supplements • Women’s magazines • Special interest magazines (health/fitness/mother and baby etc.) • Specialized trade publications • Professional journals (medical)
The tone of future coverage needs to be positive by reiterating the facts and ensuring that journalists are well informed of what the ban will entail, highlighting advantages. Magazines need to be provided with facts and personal stories supporting the ban. Professional journals should also focus on research findings. Trade coverage should be aimed towards the economic benefits of the ban such as reduction in profit loss due to sick days and smoke breaks.
GENERAL PUBLIC • Smokers • Non-smokers • Taxpayers • Parents • Tourists and Tourist Boards • Community interest groups
The message will be that the ban is in everyone’s best interests in terms of health, entertainment and business. Smokers must focus on the fact that their right to choose is overshadowed by the fact that a ban is the right choice to save lives of those who do not smoke. “Fresh Air” could be a niche selling point for the North as a tourist destination.
TRADE • Pub/Club/Restaurant owners • Office Managers • Employees • Potential employees • Consumers (entertainment industry) • Trade Unions • Voluntary organisations – anti-smoking and cancer research • Professional bodies
Business owners and workers should be assured of their safety as well as the security of their jobs (those in the entertainment industry) by focusing on the success in the South. Trade Unions could aid the dissemination of such information. Benefits should be highlighted above costs incurred by refurbishment demands. Voluntary organisations and professional bodies will be encouraged to voice their support for the ban through as many media channels as possible.
Public Relations activity does not concentrate on one large audience, but on many specialised groups of people. It is therefore vital that publics are defined so that media can be selected and messages can be tailored to satisfy individual needs.

PR CAMPAIGN: Secondary Public and Messages

The elements of the secondary campaign would focus on the personal aspect of the ban and smoking in public places or the workplace and its effects. Research from original findings could be used alongside interviews with hospital patients suffering from smoking related illnesses who contracted them through working in smoke-filled environments (especially non-smokers). This kind of reporting would work particularly well in women’s magazines, trade journals and television documentaries or discussion programmes such as BBC’s Nolan Live.

Schools could be targeted with student and teacher-friendly information packs that would enable them to be slotted into aspects of the curriculum pre-existing. This would be a good way of addressing the issue of whether or not a ban would encourage smokers to stay at home, endangering their children through passive smoking. We should be encouraging children to be anti-smoking themselves and bring this attitude home to their parents.

The prospect for the most successful PR angle, however, would be to highlight the practice of “smirting” (smoking and flirting) made popular in Dublin after the ban was implemented there. “As it took hold, enterprising pubs and bars introduced outside areas for smokers to gather and with them came a more relaxed attitude to meeting people” (Guardian unlimited online). The potential for quirky, entertaining lifestyle editorials on this aspect would attrac

PR Campaign Strategy Proposed Publicity Materials

Proposed Beer Mat Publicity Material - designed by Leanne Reilly
Proposed Beer Mat Publicity Material - designed by Leanne Reilly

PR Campaign Strategy Website

Proposed dedicated website for PR campaign
Proposed dedicated website for PR campaign

PR Campaign Strategy: Proposed Slogan

SLOGAN: The Right Choice!

This has been chosen to counter-act the main criticism of the smoking ban – the fact that many people involved feel that the decision was taken away from them and made on their behalf. Subsequently, a feeling of loss of democracy and freedom and accusations of communism has resulted. The font would remain consistent because it is bold but also because it recognisable to those who work in buildings where ‘tag guns’ are used to identify company property.

PR Campaign Strategy: PR Stunt

Abseil Banner Down Europa Hotel in Belfast - PR Stunt Campaign Idea to Launch Smoking Ban
Abseil Banner Down Europa Hotel in Belfast - PR Stunt Campaign Idea to Launch Smoking Ban

PR Campaign Strategy Proposed Elements

  • Launch event – protest for World Health Day April 7th 2006

The Trigger Event will be a conference in the Odyssey Arena Belfast at 11am on Tuesday April 3rd 2006 with guest speakers Shaun Woodward (Minister for Health) and Mike Mendoza (TalkSport DJ), a non-smoker who developed pneumonia via secondary smoke. The event will be attended by local government officials, specialist journalists, trade union officials and representatives from Northern Ireland’s biggest pubs, clubs and restaurants (examples of guests named in Media Relations section). It is here that the campaign will be launched with a slide show preview of the website and e-communication network that will be setup for anyone searching for information on the ban. A question and answer session will follow. Press packs will be available for media containing news releases and photographs available.

The interest from the media will derive from an exciting protest march of employees from many business sectors across Northern Ireland, campaigning for workers’ rights to healthy environments. They will be provided with T-shirts, banners and over-sized cigarette boxes which they will carry, sporting the motto “Smokefree workplaces save lives” and the campaign slogan “The Right Choice!” The protesters will walk from the Odyssey Arena, across the Lagan Bridge to the Waterfront Hall for photo opportunities.

  • Partnerships and Additional Media Activity/Support Advertising -

It is recommended that the campaign focus heavily on partnerships because there are so many days in the calendar now devoted to health awareness with particular attention to cancer, as it is so widespread and affects so many. Support from the voluntary and government bodies that already sponsor such events and receive media coverage would be an asset to the argument for a ban on smoking in public places. The possibilities for interesting newsworthy stories and photo opportunities are endless.

  • Cancer Prevention Week May 22nd – 28th 2006

(Ulster Cancer Foundation)

A spokesperson from the Department of Health to join those from Charitable organisations and health practitioners on a debate on the Stephen Nolan discussion programme on Radio Ulster one day during that week, to emphasise the importance of the smoking ban because of the dangers of passive smoking.

  • Child Safety Week June 19th – 25th 2006

(NSPCC and Asthma UK)

Information pack sent to larger Primary and possibly Secondary schools in Northern Ireland to be used when teaching the “No Smoking” message, supporting ban and telling children to discourage their parents from smoking in the home.

  • Belfast Bank Holiday BEER GARDEN BASH August 28th 2006

(Tenants Lager)

Sunday 27th hold large party for the public in Botanic Gardens to advertise the fun of drinking and socialising in a “beer garden” which the pubs and clubs will be encouraged to set up when the ban is introduced. Trying to book a good band to play – popular with the youth market who tend to drink, smoke and generally socialise a lot – would be a bonus (e.g. Snow Patrol, Coldplay etc.)

  • World Heart Day September 24th 2006

(Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association)

A focus on the new trend of “smirting” (detailed above) about people who have fallen in love after meeting each other while they were outside a bar or workplace smoking, making a connection between ‘heart’ and ‘love’.

  • Northern Ireland Stage Rally – Omagh October 2006 (see below)

(, Ford Motors and Action Cancer NI)

  • “Safer Christmas Party Season” campaign November/December 2006

(Belfast City Council)

Ambient media Advertising campaign through the month of December on taxis and buses around the North as well as the ad space in bar and club toilet doors and in-club promotional material such as beer mats and T-shirts provided for staff to any business that wishes to join the campaign.

  • New Years Resolutions introduction of Main Advertising Campaign January 2007

(NiQuitin CQ and Federation of Retail Licensed Trade NI)

A good time and angle to introduce the widespread campaign. NiQuitin implement advertising campaigns at this time and would probably agree to a joint venture. The advertising would be on a mass scale to reach a mass audience – the ‘general public’. This would include radio, billboards and possibly television if budget and time restrictions allow. They need to be informed of the benefits of the smoking ban for health, entertainment and business purposes.

  • “Kiss a Non-Smoker” campaign Valentine’s Day February 14th 2007

(British Heart Foundation Valentine Appeal for Heart Nurses)

Promotional activity outside large Boots stores in Northern Ireland as people purchase Valentine’s gifts like perfume, with banners, balloons and informational literature (leaflets) to hand to passers-by and collection boxes to raise money for Heart Nurses Appeal.

  • No Smoking Day March 8th 2007

(ASH action on smoking and health)

With all the normal PR and Advertising activity that this day always receives, a different angle discussed on the current affairs programme Nolan Live on BBC 1 that week, with representatives from the Licensed Trade sector as well as business owners who are welcoming the introduction of the ban for economic reasons.

  • World Day for Safety and Health at Work April 28th 2007

(International Labour Organisation)

The month signalling the beginning of the ban would be an important time to create awareness and attract attention to the final efforts of the campaign. Northern Ireland businesses with sizeable workforces could sponsor employees who were willing to abseil down the Europa Hotel in Belfast, unveiling a huge banner advertising the introduction of the smoking ban in public places for workers’ rights on Safety and Health at work day.

  • Sponsorship -

Following on from the landmark move by Formula 1 in 2003 to implement an anti-smoking sponsorship deal and allow the British team to be sponsored by NiQuitin CQ – the brand leader in nicotine patches and other aids for smokers attempting to quit – it could be a very successful move to try the same thing in Northern Ireland, although Rally Motor sport is more popular here.

The ban of tobacco sponsorship in Formula 1 comes into effect in 2006 and will soon expand into almost all other sports. It is therefore also to the benefit of the sports that they try to be innovative in their sponsorship deals and attempt some form of corporate social responsibility, as it were. And, as the drug giant who produce NiQuitin CQ have found, such sponsorship deals can also add a touch of glamour to the very dowdy subject of quitting smoking. Non-smoking can become a more aspirational behaviour.

PR Campaign Strategy: Public Affairs

Liaise through website, regular postal/e-mail updates, meetings, briefings, conferences and information packs with…


Secretary of State

Police Chief Constable

Minister for Dept. Culture, Arts and Leisure

Dept. Environment and Dept. Health, Social Services and Public Safety

Dept. Education and Employment

Dept. Enterprise Trade and Investment

Representatives from 24 Local Councils


Action Cancer


Cancer Research NI

Chest Heart and Stroke Association

Macmillan Cancer Relief

Marie Curie Cancer Care

Parent’s Advice Centre

Ulster Cancer Foundation


Representatives from some of Northern Ireland’s most famous eating establishments…

Representatives from some of Northern Ireland’s most famous pubs and clubs…

PR Campaign Strategy: Media Relations

Through articles and features, press conferences, press releases, interviews, photography, website and e-mail the following important media contacts will be kept informed…


Head of News and Current Affairs, BBC NI

Business Editor, BBC NI

Health Correspondent, BBC NI

Head of News and Current Affairs, UTV


News Editor, Belfast Telegraph

Health Correspondent, Belfast Telegraph

Features, Irish News

Health Correspondent, Irish News

News Editor, Sunday Life


Editor, The Big List (entertainment guide)

Editor, Catering and Licensing Review

Editor, Constabulary Gazette

Editor, The Gown (student)

Editor, Ireland’s Homes Interiors and Living

Editor, Licensed Catering News

Editor, Northern Woman

Editor, Recruitment

Editor, Ulster Business

Editor, Ulster Tatler Wine & Dine Guide


Cool FM, CityBeat, BBC NI, BBC Radio Foyle, Downtown Radio, Q97.2FM, Q102.9FM, U105.

PR Campaign Strategy: Internal Communications

From the Department of Health, information would be disseminated down to Doctors, Nurses and other Health sector staff via their workplace notice boards, briefings, intranets, e-mails, memos and possibly even a hotline for specific enquiries…

PR Campaign Strategy: Crisis Management


  1. Develop a detailed crisis strategy and keep it up-to-date
  2. Create media materials in advance (e.g. press releases) and prepare key policy statements in advance
  3. Arrange media training for key figures
  4. Quality information gathering should stop problems becoming crises – ensure all information disseminated is truthful

PR Campaign Strategy: Crisis Management

Backlash to campaign from lobbyists and pro-smoking/ anti-ban groups
Have representatives prepared with facts and figures to counter-act criticism in public who are good, confident speakers
Heavy redundancies or rise in unemployment as a result of fall in revenue in entertainment industry
Have plans in place to announce relocation or redundancy policies for employees if problem becomes a crisis
Injuries/fatalities due to consumers having to exit premises late at night to smoke
Liaise with PSNI and premises owners to highlight need for security outside drinking establishments and announce funding/grants for beer gardens, etc. if crisis arises

PR Campaign Strategy: Evaluation

Assessing results is essential to the campaign because it is the “practical conclusion of objective planning” (Frank Jefkins). It is useful to know if tactics used were good/bad, successful/unsuccessful, if expenditure was over or under budget, etc. Unlike advertising, Public Relations activity cannot be viewed in terms of sales or profits. It is summarised as the “total picture”. If the results meet our aims and objectives, the campaign has been a success. Results are measured by observing change, experiencing change and using market research to measure change.

i. Media Coverage – collection and content analysis of standard press clippings and broadcast clips (as detailed at start of strategy), advertising value equivalents (not recommended but can be quite rewarding to view figures anyway), volume of media coverage calculated by counting words, considering page/column sizes and type sizes. Readership figures and tone of coverage must also be evaluated.

ii. Campaign – awareness of campaign messages among all publics (repeat data collection tools used in beginning), understanding of issues raised (more in-depth knowledge requires qualitative data collection, e.g. focus groups).

iii. Website – using counters, the number of hits can be measured and feedback comments and e-mails can also be tallied.

iv. Sponsorship – effectiveness can be gauged by counting how often the logos and slogans were seen at the events.

PR Campaign Strategy: Budget

Would be agreed between the PR Consultants and the client (the Department of Health) after final agreement of campaign ideas, tactics and strategies unless specified in advanced tender. It is safe to say that in order to be a success, this campaign will require a multi-million pound budget. However, this cost can be significantly reduced by the amount of partnerships included in the above proposal.

PR Campaign Strategy: Conclusion

This strategy and creative campaign proposal would be extremely successful because of the great strengths it possesses –

  • It involves sustained Public Relations activity with an intense Advertising Campaign leading up to the implementation of the smoking ban in April 2007.
  • The internal and external environments have been analysed to identify strengths/ weaknesses as well as opportunities and threats and a crisis management plan has been outlined to prepare for any issues that may arise to endanger the success of the campaign.
  • The creative ideas are attention grabbing, exciting and will attract media attention easily. They are also seasonal and integrated well into the calendar year.
  • The numerous partnerships give more weighting to the smoking ban argument because support will be coming from so many different sectors including health, sport, education, economic, political, industrial and the public in general.
  • Research and evaluation techniques are efficient and effective and can be administered with relative ease.


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    • profile image

      Hulo 3 years ago

      Thank you.

      Thank you very much