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Attracting media attention

'FIND THE erogenous zone of your audience,' young engineers were advised last Friday during the launch of the Palmer Award at Great George Street.

'You have got to light a spark about your project.' Former Eurotunnel public relations specialist Simon Storer was explaining to the teams which have entered the award how to target an audience, then catch their attention with a chosen message.

Storer's accomplished presentation to 80 graduates and students in the Telford Theatre for the launch was an exemplary demonstration of the metaphorical, advice.

Object of the Palmer Award is to devise a strategic campaign to promote civil engineering, then put it into practice over the coming year. The graduates and students national committee, which devised the award, has inspired 50 teams to enter with the promise of holidays in New York, Barcelona and

Rome as the first three prizes.

Storer said that having decided on the subject matter and audience, it is vital to keep to 'three, four, five or six messages; more than that and it won't get across'.

As an example he described how at Eurotunnel he had transformed the Institution of Electrical Engineers Faraday Lecture for school children from 'something out of the 1950s' into a role playing drama.

Format of previous Faraday lectures was typically that 'a boy was summoned up to the platform did an experiment and sat down again.'

Storer turned the Channel Tunnel into a role play with an actor as 1830s French tunnel pioneer Aime Thome de Gamond asking questions of a Eurotunnel engineer. A video clip demonstrated to the Palmer teams that the idea worked brilliantly.

Guardian OnLine editor, and one time NCE writer, Bill O'Neill emphasised that journalists are 'suspicious, arrogant and extremely cynical'. He explained that if you want a precise message published saying what you want it to say and when: 'It is best to take out an advertisement.'

Getting your chosen message into the editorial section of a newspaper was a question of first understanding the paper and then targeting the message to suit. 'Look at it from the reader's point of view. What do you read?' said O'Neill. Simply sending a story in and expecting it to find the right section can be a waste of time, he explained. 'You need to treat each section as a separate part of the paper.'

He reminded the Henry Palmer teams that the keys to getting published are: 'entertainment, topicality and relevance'.

Introduced by ICE vice president Professor George Fleming as 'one of the brains behind the Palmer Award', Shona Cooper of GSNC said the idea of the award was 'to get people to go out and talk about what they do'. It was important to explain 'the range and diversity of civil engineering,' she said. 'We're not just bridge and road builders!'

Working out a strategy for the year teams had first to decide on six key points said Cooper: 'What, who, why, when, where and how'.

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