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Former hack scoops top PR 'crisis' prize

The work of former Neath Guardian and South Wales Echo reporter Neil Sterioduring major floods in York has been recognised in an industry award.

Neil is press manager for City of York Council and a key member of theauthority’s marketing and communications team.

His team has picked up the Yorkshire and Lincolnshire Institute of Public Relations Cream Award for the best crisis management campaign in 2000.

Neil (above) from Port Talbot, is the council’s sole press officer and was theonly journalist working for and advising Silver Command – the multi-agencyteam that ran the city’s flood relief operation in November 2000.

It ran the flood operation from York’s police HQ when the River Ouse rose to its highest ever level and threatened to breach the city’s flood defences.

The team played a key public information role producing emergency newsletters, a website flood information service, regular e-mail media bulletins and staffing the Silver Command press office on round-the-clock shifts.

Neil, (37), said: “The press office itself played a key strategic role during the ten or so days of the emergency and we were dealing with hundreds of calls every day from across the world. The level of media interest was incredible.”

He was called in to advise senior staff on communications issues, liaise with the media, organise news conferences, and arrange or give interviews to local, national and international print and broadcast media.

At one stage he organised an impromptu press conference after the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott dropped in to visit Silver Command.

BBC Radio York, the Yorkshire Post and the Evening Press were among thelocal news outlets to express their appreciation for his work.

Andrew Hitchon, deputy news editor with the Evening Press, said: “At a timewhen the eyes of the world seemed to be on York, with foreign TV crewsjoining the national press pack, jostling for every scrap of news they couldget, Neil always remembered the local press and their need to get accurateinformation to the community that was actually at risk during the crisis.”

Neil joined City of York Council in 1998 from the South Wales Echo where he was senior news reporter and the daily paper’s Millennium Stadiumcorrespondent.

In the 1980s he worked on the Neath and Port Talbot Guardian titles and Post sister paper the Llanelli Star.

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