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PR: HMSO Books


HMSO Books published a wide range of popular titles, including The Highway Code. As the commercial arm of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, HMSO Books had the status of a self-funding government executive agency.

With imminent privatisation as the hidden agenda, HMSO Books committed to increasing consumer awareness of its name, and to shaking off any lingering suspicions that it might be an unimaginative corner of the Civil Service. Its tactic was daring, dynamic, and different: by emblazoning its Royal Crown logo large on the sides of a racing car, HMSO regularly put its name in front of millions of TV viewers. Through an associated PR campaign, it reached millions more.

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I was commissioned to construct the sponsorship proposal which brought HMSO Books into motor racing. This document, produced on behalf of businessman and amateur racing driver Nigel Smith, specified the returns a sponsor could expect from participating in the British Touring Car Championship, not just from the series’ TV coverage but also from an ambitious PR programme. I was subsequently appointed to handle the PR, which generated extensive media coverage in national and regional newspapers, on national and regional radio and TV programmes, and in high-circulation consumer magazines. Seeing the measurable value of this exposure, HMSO Books extended its one-year sponsorship agreement for a second year. During this time the National Audit Office reviewed HMSO’s sponsorship spending – and concluded that it represented good value for money.

Shortly before privatisation, a survey in HMSO’s city centre book stores found that 11 percent of customers were aware of the brand through national advertising, 13 percent through regional advertising, and 26 percent through the motorsport activity and associated publicity.

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