SSE campaign wins public relations ‘Oscar’

A PRESSURE group’s overwhelming success has earnt them the top award at the 2011 PR Week Awards.

Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) lifted the winning trophy after derailing plans for a second runway at the airport.

The prestigious ceremony was held in the famous ballroom at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel and was attended by more than 1,000 public relations professionals.

Alistair Campbell, former communications chief at No 10, presented the trophy to SSE volunteers Maggie Sutton and Mike Fairchild who represented campaign director Carol Barbone.

In their commendation, the judges said SSE had “successfully scuppered BAA’s plans to build a second runway at Stansted Airport,” describing the campaign as “highly impressive”.

The judges contrasted SSE’s relatively tiny budget with BAA’s �200m war chest saying this was “proof that successful lobbying is not about contact books and huge budgets”.

Much of SSE’s success was attributed to its targeting of individuals and organisations that could influence the runway decision, including Parliamentarians, media, local authorities, environmental groups, BAA’s shareholders and the local community.

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SSE formed alliances with opponents of expansion at other airports to reinforce its advocacy at public inquiries, in three judicial reviews and in the High Court and Court of Appeal. The quality of SSE’s briefings was praised in the House of Lords during the passage of the Civil Aviation Bill. Celebrity support was given by Terry Waite, who became SSE’s patron, Jamie Oliver, Will Self and the Kaiser Chiefs.

The judges noted the pledge by all three political parties ahead of the last election to oppose a second runway at Stansted. BAA formally withdrew its second runway application in May 2010 after the first policy announcement by the coalition government opposed the Stansted plans. SSE’s campaign was also singled out for special mention by Tim Minchin, who performed the cabaret at the awards ceremony.

“This latest award is a tribute not just to the specialists who led our public affairs blitz against BAA but to the unswerving support of our army of community volunteers whose opposition to BAA’s ambitions simply could not be ignored,” said SSE’s campaign director Carol Barbone.