Having invested $96 million in a major improvement and redevelopment programme, Burswood International Resort Casino was about to experience the most significant physical and operational changes in its 15-year history.
Construction work and renovations took place over an 18-month period to develop new and improved facilities at the Resort. The changes covered four main locations and comprised more than 14 new-look facilities, each presenting a positive communication opportunity and scope to renew interest in Burswood with key stakeholder groups.
A comprehensive communication campaign was developed to capitalise upon this era of change and challenge. Strategies were designed to minimise negative impacts on Resort operations during construction, and maximise opportunities to promote and relaunch the new Burswood.
In July 2000, the multi-faceted Burswood International Resort Casino embarked on a $96 million Resort improvement programme that was completed 18 months later in December 2001. The programme was designed to address fundamental operational problems and business growth opportunities identified in recent years. Importantly, it provided a unique opportunity to relaunch Burswood, following 15 years of operation without major refurbishment or any marked improvement in the product/service offering.
The improvement programme covered four main Resort locations and comprised more than 14 new and improved facilities (see Appendix 1). The physical and operational changes taking place were the most significant the Company had seen since its inception in December 1985, and presented a host of communication challenges and opportunities.
Challenges & Opportunities
- The potential impact of financial/investor market perceptions about the Companys overcapitalisation and excessive investment (versus revenue-generating capacity of the new facilities), coupled with the significance of future plans.
- An emergence of poor employee morale following major organisational restructuring and redundancies, and a lack of interest and understanding among staff about the physical improvements.
- Various negative impacts resulting from major physical disruption to Resort operations over an 18-month period (from July 2000 to December 2001). This included construction noise; dust; pedestrian and traffic obstructions; temporary relocation, reduced capacity and unavailability of facilities and amenities; rescheduling of venue bookings/activities; and a general unsightly physical appearance and loss of five-star ambience.
- The diversity of communication messages and target audiences.
- The narrow timeframe for completion of the improvement programme components and short intervals between launching/opening the new facilities (between October and December 2001).
- Effects on the entire tourism industry from September 11 and the Ansett collapse.
Each new facility, upon completion, presented a positive communication opportunity and the scope to develop media messages; create launch events; develop public awareness and renewed interest in Burswood; and to build generally upon relationships with new and existing key stakeholders.
2001/2002 was undoubtedly the most sensitive, disruptive, yet exciting time in Burswood Resorts 15-year history best described as an era of change and challenge.
A comprehensive analysis was undertaken of various quantitative and qualitative research, which provided direction for tailoring communications to key stakeholders. Research information was gathered from the following sources:
Various in-depth market research was undertaken by NFO Donovan Research including Customer Opinion and Perception surveys in 1999, and Patron Visitation Behaviour Research in March 2001. These results were analysed to assist in the design of customer-based elements of the communication campaign.
Aggregate results and qualitative information from the Resort-wide customer feedback process were compiled from fortnightly management reports. This provided a snap-shot view of customer likes, dislikes, concerns and expectations.
Feedback from Opinion Leaders
Feedback received over recent years from key stakeholders and opinion leaders, including members of local and State Government; financial market / business analysts; institutional investors; corporate sector leaders; tourism, hospitality and convention industry representatives; and business/finance media, was used to establish an understanding of external perceptions and key issues.
Valuable information was collected the year prior to the Resort improvement programme, via shareholder question forms mailed out with the 1999/2000 end-of-year results. An analysis of this direct feedback outlined shareholder interests and concerns, which assisted in formulating some key elements of the communication programme.
Shareholder Reward Redemption
Recording and analysis of the redemption rate of Burswoods 2000/2001 shareholder reward vouchers, provided a clear view of the most popular Resort facilities among shareholders. These results were central to planning communications that would effectively reach this audience.
An internal Culture Audit was conducted in October 2001, involving a survey of 100 management, supervisory and frontline staff across 18 departments. The results included significant qualitative information about employee issues, perceptions and concerns. Additionally, PR conducted a readership survey of Burswoods internal staff magazine, HoCas Focus, in November 2001 (see Appendix 2). These results were valuable in planning and tailoring internal communications for the campaign.
Staff / Management Feedback
Both formal and informal discussions were conducted with key Burswood personnel at all levels to develop a broad understanding of internal perceptions, feelings and awareness about the Resort improvement programme and the changes taking place.
- Existing customers
- Potential customers
- Burswood employees
- Mainstream and specialty media
- General public / local community
- Individual shareholders
- Institutional investors
- Financial/market analysts, ASX, securities agencies
- Members of local and State Government and Opposition
- <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Perth business leaders, socialites/A-list, sporting identities/representatives
- Tourism, hospitality and convention industry representatives and associations
- Business partners (eg; Burswood Park Board, Gaming Commission, Mirvac Fini)
- Major suppliers / consultants
The communication strategy was devised in two distinct stages:
- Stage 1 Pre-launch (during construction)
- Stage 2 Launch / post-launch
Different stakeholders were targeted throughout the two stages using various communication messages and tools.
During the second stage, it was important that public relations activities were closely aligned with Burswoods overall marketing programme, to promote a consistent image for the new-look Resort. All communications were therefore designed to complement new marketing collateral and promotional materials (see back of folder, Appendix 3), as well as a major advertising campaign prominent across all mainstream media.
- Burswoods investment of $96 million was to improve the Resort by developing new and improved facilities for the enjoyment of guests.
- The characteristics, benefits and selling points of each of the new and improved facilities.
- The improvements provided the opportunity to grow the profitability of Burswoods key operational areas, with Resort visitation expected to increase progressively by around 10% in the first year.
- In light of the major physical disruption during construction, it was not business as usual, but rather a period of work in progress.
- The changes were the most significant since Burswoods inception in December 1985.
Given the diversity of the messages and target audiences, a comprehensive communication programme was required to achieve our objectives. This involved a series of communication strategies and tools applied over a 12-month campaign.
- Written materials
- Burswood publications
- Media campaign
- Shareholder communications
- Major investor briefings
- Analyst roadshows and research visit
- Government and Opposition briefings
- Business leader briefings
- Staff briefings
- Staff competition
- Launch events
- Press insert
- Shareholder Reward Vouchers
STAGE 1 Pre-launch (during construction)
During construction, various customer communication materials were developed. In addition, the need for a generic communication piece was identified, to provide explanation about the disruption and changes taking place, and the new and improved facilities soon to open. A versatile A5 leaflet was produced (Appendix 4) and distributed to Resort guests via Hotel rooms, Concierge, Guest Information, reception areas, restaurants and bars, and direct mail. A quantity of 15,000 leaflets was utilised over a six-month period from July to December 2001.
Burswoods (then) external publications, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Winning Ways
and Club Extra were utilised as regular communication tools to publish updates about the improvements and the new facilities to come (Appendix 5). Internally, the staff magazine, HoCas Focus was used to update staff about the programme (Appendix 6).
Ongoing Media Campaign Stage 1 & 2
All key media segments were kept informed of progress at the Resort via regular media releases distributed at milestone stages of the project (Appendix 7 includes most recent samples). In addition, tailored editorial, artist impressions, photography, fact sheets, briefings and site inspections were provided to various media on an ongoing basis, in an effort to generate new story angles and exposure (for samples, see Appendix 8).
Working in conjunction with the WA Tourism Commission, the Perth Convention Bureau and other industry bodies, a comprehensive programme of media familiarisation visits was undertaken. This covered national and international travel/tourism, lifestyle, beauty/fashion, and convention industry media from around Australia, Asia, America, the UK and Europe.
The Company Annual Report and Half-Yearly Report (Appendix 9), as well as the Annual General Meeting presentation were all adapted to give emphasis to the programmes key messages. Themes such as return on investment, shareholder benefits and the Companys future vision were focused on, in an effort to address shareholder concerns, issues and expectations.
Given the decline in financial results reported to shareholders, details of the physical disruption caused by construction were also given, to promote an understanding that the year was one of work in progress and not business as usual for Burswood.
Major Investor Briefings
Personal briefings by the Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer/Company Secretary were provided to some of the Companys top 10 shareholders, locally and around Australia, with the release of the annual and half-year financial results (in August 2001 and february 2002 respectively).
Analyst Roadshows & Research Visit
As part of the Companys bi-annual results roadshow, presentations were also made to key groups of financial analysts, stockbrokers and fund managers in Perth and Sydney.
As a precursor to the 2001/2002 roadshows, Burswood had hosted a special analyst research visit in March 2001, which provided influential market analysts with the opportunity to view and experience the Resort and the operational improvements first-hand, and to build relationships with key Burswood personnel. Nine Sydney-based analysts and six Perth-based analysts participated in the two-day site visit, hosted by Burswoods Managing Director and senior management representatives.
Government & Opposition Briefings
Following the expiry of Burswoods period of exclusivity and State operating agreement, and in light of the continuing discussions with Government to negotiate a revised agreement, a series of breakfast briefings were implemented. The briefings were held just prior to the completion of the Resort improvement programme (between August and November 2001), and involved a presentation by the Managing Director followed by a site inspection. The communication theme focused on how the Resort improvement programme and Burswoods vision for the future would benefit Perth and Western Australia.
Among the 36 members of the Government and Opposition who attended, was the WA Premier Dr Geoff Gallop, Leader of the Opposition Colin Barnett, key Ministers and members of Cabinet.
Business Leader Briefings
A similar approach was adopted for a series of business leaders briefings held between June and September 2001. More than 350 guests, comprising high profile and influential members of Perths corporate sector, attended either a breakfast or lunch session which involved a presentation by Burswoods Managing Director and question time.
The Companys bi-annual staff briefings (held in August 2001 and March 2002) were tailored to promote key messages about the major changes taking place, and the exciting and challenging times ahead. Question time provided an opportunity for staff to clarify their concerns and raise any issues directly with the Managing Director.
In an effort to stimulate interest, excitement and a sense of ownership among staff, a competition was conducted to name four of the new outlets (see Appendix 10). More than 1,200 entries were received from all departments across the Resort. Winning entrants were rewarded with an accommodation prize package and an invitation to attend the official opening of the respective outlet they named.
STAGE 2 Launch / post-launch
Ongoing Media Campaign Stage 1 & 2
Refer to Stage 1 above.
To generate media attention, public interest and general awareness of the new Burswood, four special launches / opening events were staged over the period from October 2001 to March 2002. Appendix 11 provides an outline of the events and the respective PR activities.
To reinforce the Resorts new look, a revamp of Burswoods existing customer publications,Winning Ways
and Club Extra was undertaken, resulting in modern, fresh designs to reflect characteristics of the Resorts new image. They were replaced respectively by Live It magazine and Club Burswood News (for first editions, see Appendix 28 and 29).
Internally, the quarterly staff magazine HoCas Focus was redesigned to reflect employee preferences resulting from a readership survey conducted in November 2001, as well as budgetary restrictions imposed in 2002. The result was a more timely and informative newspaper-style gazette, The Buzz, published bi-monthly and launched in July 2002 (Appendix 30).
As part of the re-launch advertising campaign, a booklet insert was placed in one Saturday edition of The West Australian in February 2002 (Appendix 31). The eight-page booklet was used to communicate the Burswood story, including the Resorts history, highlights, community contribution, and new and improved facilities. The back page featured vouchers containing special offers/discounts, as a sales incentive tool to stimulate trial.
Shareholder Reward Vouchers
Given the timing of construction completion (December/January), a special mid-year distribution of shareholder reward vouchers was undertaken, to provide shareholders with an invitation and incentive to experience the new-look Resort first-hand (Appendix 32).
Results & Evaluation
Key customer and stakeholder research, involving six different surveys, was conducted by NFO Donovan Research from November 2001 to January 2002. The results show a high level of awareness about the improvements among all groups, even at such early stages of the campaign, with awareness of different facilities ranging between 36% and 69% among patrons and between 46% and 85% among business partners. These results clearly demonstrate the successful achievement of our launch / post-launch objectives.
Media Coverage Analysis
The quantity of press and broadcast publicity items generated progressively throughout the campaign was significant. Of the exposure, 90% was local, 8% national and 2% international.
Press<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The Ruby Room
General / Resort-wide
Review of Visitation Levels
A relatively small impact on Resort visitation levels was recorded during the construction stage. Levels declined by a maximum of between -0.8% (January 2002) and 11.5% (November 2001), against the previous corresponding period, which also followed the events and industrywide impact of September 11 and the Ansett collapse. In some months, increases were achieved, as high as 27%% (February 2002), attributable to the effectiveness of Burswoods overall communication campaign.
Shareholder Reward Redemption
A comparison of redemption rates for shareholder reward vouchers for 2001/2002 against the previous year, show a marked increase across every Resort venue, with increases ranging from 152% to 2,589% (almost 26 times greater than the previous year). While a portion of this increase may be attributed to the distribution of an additional set of vouchers (with the half-year results), the high increase clearly demonstrates the strategys success in driving new and repeat shareholder visitation.
Financial Market Assessment
An analysis of the growth in share price and total shareholder numbers (Appendix 34), shows a significant improvement over the 2001/2002 financial year. Particularly positive, is the increase in the number of shareholders, by 48%. These indicators further demonstrate the campaigns success in exceeding our pre and post-launch objectives.