Charity PR agency helps spread festive cheer with ‘living’ advent calendar door campaign

by Fraser Clarke

Monday, February 11th, 2019

PR case study: Ensuring children’s hospital charity enjoyed a Christmas cracker full of coverage

Charity PR experts at Holyrood PR shared ECHC's Christmas Advent Calendar Doors campaign far and wide

IT’S AN uphill struggle to cut through the daily noise of the busy modern world – and difficult to be heard when there is an important message to get across.

Worse, there are times of the year when this is even tougher to cut through, because key events in the calendar mean there will always be bigger, brighter and brasher things to talk about.

Like the Christmas period, when everything from telly schedules, department store ad campaigns, office parties and even turkey trimmings are hogging all of the attention

The much-loved Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity faced exactly this problem when launching its Big Christmas Door Appeal campaign in late 2018. The concept involved a ‘living’ advent calendar door in the hospital opened up each day in December to reveal a live performance behind it.

As the ECHC’s trusted PR advisers, our challenge was to help the campaign stand out, grab attention – and in the crucial weeks and months before the event to attract corporate sponsors to each support a door.

Did we help the campaign to cut through? You bet we did, with some of the highlights including:

 

  • At least 32 significant items of media coverage in a host of target titles
  • Creation of 1,018,430 opportunities to see (OTS) ECHC’s important messages
  • Television feature on Sky Sports News
  • National coverage in titles such as the Daily Record, The National, The Herald and The Scotsman among others
  • Key local coverage in Edinburgh Evening News, West Lothian Courier and East Lothian Courier
  • Countless shares across social media with engagement on Twitter and Facebook, racking up a reach running into hundreds of thousands
  • Key trade coverage in charity titles such as Third Force News

So just how did we manage to deliver these amazing results at the most challenging time of the year? Read on to find out:


While the ECHC campaign was designed to put smile son the faces of children and young people using health services during December our planning and delivery had to start well before that.

As well as raising awareness of the campaign, another aim of the campaign was to attract supporters – particularly business and corporate sponsors – and ordinary people across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

So we broke down the campaign into a series of eye catching, standalone stories with a carefully planned roll out schedule which included:

1 – KICKING OFF THE CAMPAIGN – GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS

Charity PR work by the expert team at Holyrood PR reaps rewards for ECHC's Advent Calendar Doors Campaign

We masterminded a major pre-launch appeal urging local and national businesses to play Santa Claus – by sponsoring one of the living advent calendar doors.

That story enjoyed widespread coverage in a number of places read by the business community – including Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce website; Edinburgh Live, the exciting online news site dedicated to the city; and respected hyperlocal news site The Edinburgh Reporter.

It also started the steady drumbeat of coverage for the campaign.


2 – CAMPAIGN LAUNCH – FLICKING THE SWITCH

Charity PR agency Holyrood PR spread news of ECHC's Jenners light switch on across the media

To make sure the launch was a high profile hit it was timed to coincide with one of the biggest dates in Edinburgh’s festive calendar – the switch on of the Christmas light at Jenners department store on Princes Street.

The annual fixture became a huge headline grabber thanks to our story explaining how Sick Kids patient Bella Rennie, seven, was switching on the lights. The youngster, from Prestonpans, East Lothian, has been a regular patient at the hospital since she was two.

The heart-warming story of the youngster’s big day switching on 10,000 lights was a hit across the media and also lit up social media channels.


3 – PIPING UP FOR THE FIRST DOOR OPENING

Holyrood PR's expert Charity PR team ensured great coverage across the media for the Advent Calendar Doors Campaign

To keep the momentum building we told the story – in words, photos and video – of the first door on the living advent calendar being opened.

Thrilled young patients at the hospital, in Sciennes, Edinburgh, were treated to a rousing performance by the renowned Haddington Pipe Band.

Coverage across a number of Edinburgh’s biggest and most influential news sources – the Evening News, Edinburgh Reporter and North Edinburgh News – kept the buzz building.

Meanwhile the story also enjoyed a chorus of approval across social media platforms.


4 – THE PERFECT SWEETENER

Chatiry PR success for ECHC's Advent Calendar Doors Campaign thanks to experienced team at Holyrood PR

We ensured the campaign stayed in the headline again, by conceiving and delivering a story about a glut of chocolate donations – appealing for well-intentioned supporters to find other ways to help the charity.

Every year the ECHC is swamped by chocolate donations from kind-hearted contributors who want to provide treats for young patients, particularly the festive staple of Christmas selection boxes .

However, our story revealed that so much chocolate is donated that huge amounts go to waste.

We used that story as the perfect launchpad to remind would-be donors that they could support the “doors” campaign as an alternative.


Charity PR success for ECHC's Advent Calendar Doors Campaign

Keeping up the intensity may be a problem for others – but it’s never an issue for the team at Holyrood PR – and we made sure the media was treated to a diet of great stories and photos.

That included an appeal for primary schools across the Lothians to join in the campaign, by creating their own decorated “door” while raising cash for ECHC.

We also delivered a series of further photo opportunities and stories round high-profile door openings by Hibs and Hearts football teams, a Scottish Ballet performance and a visit from singer Caitlyn Vanbeck.

This was a truly integrated campaign and we were involved at every stage arranging photography, interviewing patients, their families, medical staff and charity volunteers. We also planned and shot a number of videos.

As well as delivering a bumper crop of newspaper, broadcast and online coverage, we worked with ECHC to help them amplify that coverage via social media, providing extensive social media activity. Every element of the campaign was crafted to make it eminently sharable across Facebook and Twitter.

On top of that we delivered a detailed proposal mapping out exactly how paid Facebook promotion would massively boost the reach of the campaign by targeting the ideal audiences.

Throughout the campaign we worked closely with the ECHC team to ensure the tone of voice was exactly as the charity wanted. We even mucked in to help the fundraising team by researching and compiling a list of every primary school in Edinburgh and the Lothians, the launchpad for the ECHC team to develop a major strand of their campaign.

The timeline and roll-out of stories created momentum to build the campaign so that when the first ‘living’ advent calendar door was opening, a platform had already been built to spread it far and wide across the media.


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Young PR professional Fraser Clarke, who works with public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Young public relations professional Fraser Clarke is part of the multi award-winning team at Holyrood PR, a leading Scottish PR agency

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