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FEATURES - CURRY FAVOUR

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One way to pique the interest of local and national media is to give them what they want: a little fear, a dash of ...
One way to pique the interest of local and national media is to give them what they want: a little fear, a dash of emotion and that essential touch of glamour, says Angela Lovell

The Surrey curry club is the latest in a series of operations by Surrey CC Trading Standards that have left dodgy builders, workers, tradesmen and now local restaurants and caterers quaking in their boots.

It is also one of our most successful media campaigns to date and follows 'house of horrors', 'name and shame' and 'cowboy traders', which achieved widespread media coverage.

The Surrey curry club was set up by Trading Standards to recognise the county's restaurants and caterers that follow legal guidelines and use minimum amounts of artificial colourings. But samples collected from 102 restaurants in Surrey revealed 58 culprits were breaking the law - some using more than double the legal limit of food colouring.

So how did the work of the food standards operation find itself on London tonight and just about every national and county paper?

For a start Trading Standards' work is not as humdrum as it might seem. Over 100,000 complaints are registered with the Office of Fair Trading every year. The campaign's success was down to high-level planning and partnership working. Without the team's support and co-operation, we would not have been able to pull together the essentials for a good news story - catchy sound bites, fly-on-the-wall photography and emotive angles - and tailor the story to various audiences.

Celebrity chef James Martin attended the media launch at a local Surrey restaurant, and gave a food expert's view on the results. Camera crews had access to examples of 'good' and 'bad' chicken tikka masala dishes to illustrate the team's findings and embargoed press releases ensured the story was not leaked in advance.

This tailored approach, delivering what local and national press needed - visual, vocal and written material - helped our campaign to reach an audience of over 20 million people and secured coverage on GMTV, ITN, Sky news and BBC London. Newspapers included the Financial Times, Daily Mirror, News of the World and The Times.

There was coverage on local and national radio and in other regional papers across the country.

Our close, long-term working relationship with Surrey Trading Standards - the first campaign, 'house of horrors' was in autumn 2002 - has helped to raise awareness of its work. This reassures Surrey residents, particularly vulnerable ones, that their voices are heard and action is taken on their behalf. It has established a national profile for Surrey Trading Standards, and resulted in new partnership working with agencies such as the Department of Trade & Industry.

The campaign shows that, by working closely with a client, you can find and exploit media opportunities that might otherwise be missed: just give the media what they need, when and how they need it.

Angela Lovell

Communications Officer for Sustainable Development, Surrey CC

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