Having previously established a leading event in the motor industry PR and journalism calendar, the Southern Group of Motoring Writers, launched three more initiatives in 2017.
These not only celebrated the group’s 15th anniversary year but made it the organisation’s most successful 12 months ever.
It also enabled SGMW chairman Ian Robertson, to deliver an upbeat ‘road test report’ in his debut year when he addressed the group’s 2018 annual general meeting, hosted by Kia at the Korean marque’s UK HQ in Walton-on-Thames:
“Membership stands at 29, reinforcing the SGMW’s status as the UK’s largest motoring writers’ group.
“We hosted our fourth Karting Grand Prix at Crawley, near Gatwick Airport, and it was pleasing to see so many members there in support, as well as motor industry colleagues. It really is the jewel in the SGMW crown and our PR colleagues look forward to each year’s competition with relish.
“In 2016 we raised £4,445 for charity, but we surpassed that in 2017 by donating a tremendous £4,815 to Essex and Herts Air Ambulance, bringing overall Karting GP charity donations to almost £17,000, thanks to our generous colleagues in the motor industry.
“With this year’s date already set (Thursday 26th April 2018) we should burst the £20k barrier by raising similar amount to last year, or better. This event wouldn’t happen without the considerable organisation skills of Chris Rees, Kevin Haggarthy, Massimo Pini and others who lend their time and expertise.
“In August, and in celebration of our 15th anniversary, we hosted our Heritage Driving Day or ‘Time Warp’ at Beaulieu. And despite the weather doing its best to ruin proceedings, it was a great success. So much so that we plan to repeat the format for 2018 – time and place to be confirmed.
“In October, we hosted our first Sunday ‘Breakfast Boost’ at North Weald Airfield, Essex, followed recently by another, at the Red Barn near Lingfield. I’m really pleased that both went so well and look forward to the next one, near Brands Hatch on April 8. With life so busy, it’s a great way to catch up with friends and colleagues in an informal environment.
“I’d like to thank Massimo Pini and Natalie Middleton for their work with the website and the group’s Twitter account; treasurer Chris Manning for his enthusiasm and diligence with group finances; Chris Rees for his support as secretary and events ‘guru’; Dave Ward for his great advice and assistance as vice-chairman; and Steve Loader for his enthusiasm and dedication in raising group profile.”
Reviewing the accounts presented by Chris Manning, members agreed that SGMW membership offered tremendous value for money, with Tyler Heatley stating that joining the group had definitely opened doors to furthering his career in motoring journalism.
The SGMW polices members’ credentials as motoring writers, and this includes them submitting a comprehensive file of work published online and in print annually, collated by secretary Chris Rees, who told the meeting: “The quality of the cuttings was of an extremely high standard and diverse in its nature, which explains our good profile – we have many amazing outlets between us.”
Publicity officer Steve Loader reported: “The Karting GP has been such a huge success for us, that industry awareness of the SGMW was tending to peak dramatically around spring-time and flatline the rest of the year.
“But the Heritage Day event bought us back into the limelight towards summer end, and the chairman’s Sunday breakfast initiative is also spreading group profile more evenly.
“And it had long been my aim to create an annual SGMW awards event. We staged a one-off for our 10th anniversary, only for the scale of logistics to deter us from making it yearly. We also wanted any such event to have clear differences between existing award schemes.
“So, the SGMW New Year Honours was born: with just three car awards, and four celebrating excellence by industry PR offices and people, it was relatively easy to launch and is ‘scaleable’ for the future – to use a favourite industry term. We hope it will grow in size and scope and, ultimately, move from virtual to actual event.”
Chris Rees reminded the AGM that Honda would host a driving event for members and their partners in March, with several other manufacturers proposing driving days for the group soon as well.
There was also a debate over the nominated charity for the 2018 karting: many members wanted to look further than the air ambulance charities supported in the past, and voted in favour of Mission Motorsport, as suggested by Tyler Heatley.
The group – supported by Help for Heroes – aids the recovery and rehabilitation of those affected by military operations, through providing motorsport opportunities, and using the mantra ‘Race, Retrain, Recover’.
Members also voted unanimously in favour of donating £500 to CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) in memory of the late John Slavin, of the Honest John editorial team. John was not an SGMW member, but popular and well known to all in the group.
CALM is a charity dedicated to preventing male suicide, the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK – 75% of all UK suicides in 2015 were male.
Finally, members heard how the committee had updated its industry publicity mechanism via a new ‘e-shot’ series emailed to key contacts. Instigated by chairman Ian Robertson, members heard it could be more frequent and far more cost effective than designing, printing and posting copies of the group’s Southbound newsletter. Following plaudits from inside and outside the group it was duly agreed that the next e-shot should take over as ‘Southbound’ to preserve continuity.
Chris Manning also reported that production of the Group’s next handbook was now under way. It will include more group editorial and information than before and be known as the ‘SGMW Yearbook’.
Stuart Bladon then expressed thanks to Kia PR head Steve Kitson and his team on behalf of all SGMW members present for their hospitality and hosting of the AGM and making a range of cars available to drive.
As a further ‘thank you’ the group donated £200 to Kia’s chosen charity, The Children’s Trust, the UK’s leading charity for children with brain injuries. Kia UK will have a team of eight running the London marathon in CT colours this year.
That team will include Kia UK president and CEO Paul Philpott, who also gave the SGMW AGM attendees a succinct yet highly informative review of the brand’s record past year in the UK and a preview for 2018, in which it aims to do even better.
Coincidentally, Kia had won two of the seven categories at the inaugural SGMW New Year Honours: ‘Best PR Office’ and ‘Dark Horse of the Year’ – the Kia Stinger being joint 1st in the latter category.