From early beginnings ESB realised that the education of the public as to the progress and possibilities of the Shannon Scheme was essential to its success. Following a visit to the United States where Thomas McLaughlin investigated the publicity systems of many of the big Public Utility Companies, he recommended that a Public Relations Department should be established. The Public Relations Department was established on 1st July 1928 and a Dublin based journalist, Ned Lawlor became the first Public Relations Manager, the first appointment of its kind in Ireland. The Department was charged with the duty of looking after all publicity matters and its operations were widespread.
The first national advertising campaign took place from 1st September 1928. Advertisements were a regular feature in the daily newspapers, on a local and national scale, as well as additional weekly and monthly publications. At first, advertising was broadly propagandist dealing with the possibilities of the Shannon Power Scheme and the general advantages of electricity for domestic and industrial purposes. This was followed by a campaign advocating the complete and adequate wiring of houses, emphasis being laid on the fact that unless a home was well fitted with ‘convenience outlets’ or wall plus advantage could not be taken of electricity for general domestic purposes. Following the opening of sales showrooms by ESB, an advertising campaign for the sale of fittings and appliances was inaugurated.
In April, 1928, an agreement was entered into with the First National Pathé Film Company to film the Shannon Power Works. The film was taken during the Summer months, and during the following autumn and winter, it was exhibited by the Pathé Film Company in their Pathé Irish Gazette and Pathé pictorial in sixty of the principal cinema theatres in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Portion of the film was also included in the British and American editions of the Pathé Gazette and Pathé pictorial. ESB purchased a copy of the film for exhibitions in schools, colleges, etc. Facilities for taking films of the Shannon Scheme were arranged for other film companies at their own request.
In October 1928, a lecturing tour was arranged, beginning with towns in Leinster. The lectures dealt with proper systems of both lighting in the home and in the shop. In addition, many lectures of an informal kind organised under local umbrellas were given throughout the country based on material supplied by the Public Relations Department. In addition, many booklets and pamphlets were circulated to perspective consumers. The publications dealt with all aspects of domestic electrification in an informative way; including instructions on the proper method of wiring the home; the cost; labour saving and efficiency of domestic electrical appliances. Pamphlets were also devoted to each appliance so that all uses of electricity in the home were concise to the consumer and prospective consumers. Booklets dealing with shop and industrial lighting were also widely circulated.
Anticipating the desire of a large number of people to visit the Shannon Power works during the construction period, ESB established a guide bureau at Limerick to facilitate and conduct visitors to the works. An office was opened in the Strand Barracks, Limerick and a hut at Ardnacrusha. An agreement was made with the Irish Omnibus Company to run a bus service twice daily from Limerick to Killaoe and back, via O’Brien’s Bridge, Parteen, Clonlara and Ardnacruhsa. Arrangements were also made with the Great Southern Railways for the issue of special three-day return tickets at single fares to Limerick from all stations on the Company’s system.
In the first two years, specially organised excursion parties visited the Scheme from all over Ireland, United Kingdom and overseas.
In order to participate to the fullest extent in advertising and other publicity facilities, ESB became subscribers to the Electrical Development Association of Great Britain and the American Society for Electrical Department. ESB also had the benefit of the advice of the Publicity Manager, General Electric Company of America while he was visiting Ireland. ESB also sought advice from the National Electrical Light Association of America, Society for Electrical Development of New York and the Public Relations Departments of the Public Utility Companies in the United States.
A model of the Shannon Scheme was made by Siemens-Schukert and was first exhibited at the Spring Show in May 1929 at Ballsbridge. The model also travelled nationwide .