Monday 23 April 2018

Irish Water's €300k bill for external PR despite own team

Michael McNicholas, Chief Executive Officer of Ervia
Michael McNicholas, Chief Executive Officer of Ervia
Emma Jane Hade

Emma Jane Hade

Ervia, the parent company of the controversial utility Irish Water, has spent almost €300,000 on hiring external communications and public relations firms, despite employing a team of full-time press officers.

The utility company admitted it has engaged the services of four well-known PR firms since September 2013, even though Ervia employs two full-time and one part-time press officer.

Details of the €283,219 spend on Ervia's "communications planning support, some of which was related to Irish Water" was released to the Irish Independent through the Freedom of Information Act.

Award-winning Dublin-based agency Fleishman Hillard Communications was employed by Ervia from September 2013 until October last year for a fee of €29,560.

Murray Consultants has been engaged with Ervia since October 2014 and, up until August of this year, had amassed a bill of €236,016. This peaked at just over €29,000 for the first month of contract.

A spokeswoman for Irish Water said these two agencies provided communications planning support over "longer time periods".

"Fleishman and Murray provided strategic proactive media planning support. This kind of external strategic support is normal for any large company with a large customer base and wide group of stakeholders," the spokeswoman added.

The company also hired Terry Prone's Communications Clinic for a fee of €15,643 in August 2014. It also engaged Pembroke Communications, which has since merged with another company to become PSG Communications.

Pembroke worked with the utility company in January 2014 and had a one-off bill of €2,000.

"These companies provided communications planning support over a short period through attendance at meetings and workshops to assist the company on issues relevant at that time," the spokeswoman said.

The controversial utility company said the internal press team is managed by three people who are employed by their parent company Ervia. Two of these are employed on a full-time basis - the head of media relations and the senior press officer - while the senior communications manager works part-time.

Irish Water said the external companies were employed to deal with the "entirely unprecedented" media interest.

"The scale of the response required from Irish Water to adequately address this media coverage has been significant and has directly contributed to a need to source additional professional communications support to address press queries and to assist in the proactive planning of specific media campaigns," a spokeswoman added.

She added that, by the end of August, Irish Water had featured in more than 62,500 "media clips".

Irish Independent

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