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20 years of Maxim: From hosting prime ministers to difficult sporting heroes

March, 2015

Three prime ministers, an oversized lion, Manchester United, the world’s most powerful offshore wind farm, the country’s first Angry Birds theme park, hungover England rugby players, cocktail cherries and a campaign for Vatican reform. Maxim’s 20 years have been varied, enjoyable and challenging. 

It was in 1996 when Tony Blair, then leader of the opposition, came to Kings Hill, in a visit organised by Maxim’s Alison Hardy. Accompanied by Alastair Campbell, the future prime minister declared the mixed-use community “an excellent place for people to live and work”. The politician’s failure to bring his speech also provided a good opportunity for Canon UK – one of the companies he was visiting – to demonstrate the worth of their fax machines.

For his successor Gordon Brown, it was explaining what the government was doing to help businesses weather the credit crunch that prompted a visit to the county.  With Peter Mandelson at his side, the prime minister struck an upbeat note, saying: “We should be confident of our future, because our basic skills, our basic strengths, our scientific genius and also our stability are a very good guide to how we can do well in the future.”

The visit was a golden PR opportunity enjoyed by Andrew Metcalf, who handled the media relations for the visit to Kent Science Park.

Champagne and celebrities 

It was a very different event that had Maxim’s Alison Hardy manage the launch of Manchester United’s own-label champagne. The day saw Alison ferreting out the club’s star footballers and rubbing shoulders with scantily clad models (for more on this see sport).

Another of Alison’s projects involved promoting cocktail cherries.  To the admiration of her colleagues she even managed to write an eminently readable 1,000-word feature for a national magazine on the central role cherries could play in the Christmas kitchen.

For Philip Jones, an encounter with rugby stars while managing the PR for the National Power Festival of Youth Rugby was a far less enjoyable experience.

“The festival was a big sporting event and a number of well-known players had agreed to attend,” said Philip. “Among them was Martin Johnson, who certainly looked as though he had had a very late night and could think of better things to do with his Sunday morning. He’s a very big bloke and in cranky form he was terrifying. After he’d glowered a couple of times for the camera, I decided it might be wise to leave him alone.”

Friends in high places

Far more gentle was a project carried out shortly before the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Maxim was contacted by a group of liberal Catholics, led by Dutch theologian John Wijngaards, seeking to encourage reform within the Vatican.

Working to a tight timetable and with limited budget, Maxim organised a press launch in the House of Commons, secured the attendance of national politicians and achieved national and international print and broadcast coverage.

London Array launch

For Prime Minister David Cameron, it was the prowess of British businesses – and the country’s engineering expertise – that was the central theme of his speech when he formally inaugurated London Array, the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm, in July 2013.

The media side of the event took place over two days. Journalists from around the world came to Thanet for a pre-visit to the wind farm – by boat or helicopter – before attending the official opening the next day.

Andy Rayfield ran the press room while Philip Jones liaised with Number 10 and set up media interviews.

“It was a crazy couple of days but great fun,” said Andy Rayfield. “The logistics of the event were extraordinary and we were dealing with the competing demands of dozens of journalists – local, national, broadcast and trade from across the UK, mainland Europe and the Middle East – but the coverage achieved was phenomenal.”

Angry birds and an oversized lion

There was also a remarkable amount of press interest when Rachel Knight oversaw the launch of Angry Birds theme parks in the UK on behalf of client Lappset.

The event, which was organised by Maxim and held at the Residence of the Finnish Ambassador in London, resulted in more than 100 of the world's major media outlets covering the story including the BBC, The Times, The Telegraph, Reuters and Metro International.

In another animal-themed promotion, Erica Jones travelled by boat down the Thames with Langdon, the lion mascot for an educational programme to introduce primary school children to engineering.

As well as directing the photography and filming, Erica’s role was to ensure the human within the Langdon costume – with its oversize feet, large head and limited vision – didn’t fall overboard as he pointed out the different bridges along the river.

“It had to be one of my best days at work ever,” said Erica. “Being the guardian of a lion is a scary experience, but the satisfaction of seeing everything come together, and the joyful reactions of the children we sailed past, made it all worth while.”

For Andrew Metcalf, variety is the spice of life, and unusual assignments are there to be embraced.

“No matter what the challenge, Maxim has risen to it whether it is organising large events, promoting professional practices, dealing with senior politicians, managing a crisis or grabbing the attention of the media,” he said.

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