This campaign demonstrated a compelling idea, responding to a clear commercial objective that was delivered with rigorous planning to produce clear business results for the client while leaving a legacy on a county-wide basis with the establishment of Northumberland Day. Catapult PR invested significant energy and drive to establish a county–wide campaign from nothing, based around a lesser-known attraction, inspiring and motivating local communities and stakeholders to participate through harnessing and winning hearts and minds. This campaign encapsulated the true spirit of public relations.

Finalists:

  • Clarion
    Bricktacular News Generation for Legoland
  • Cohn & Wolfe
    The Inflatable Sanctuary
  • Mischief PR and National Trust
    Born To Be Wild
  • One Green Bean and Virgin Holidays
    Come Back Darling
  • Taylor Herring
    ‘Flybraries’ for easyJet

Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

Medieval Langley Castle Hotel was experiencing an ever-dwindling profile amongst key target audiences – in-county consumers booking romantic stays, functions and lunches, dinners and afternoon teas. Additionally, its customer profile was ageing.

Only one publication – the Hexham Courant – regarded Langley’s news as local enough to print. Community engagement was negligible and there were no new features to promote.

Catapult (a one-person agency) aimed to:

  • Increase Langley’s in-county consumer awareness (target was 20 in-county articles)
  • Shift perceptions – positioning the castle as ‘accessible’
  • Increase Langley’s standing within the Northumbrian community
  • Boost footfall
  • Increase trade from a younger/family demographic

Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

Catapult focused on these target audiences:

  • Northumbrian/Newcastle-based media
  • Communities throughout Northumberland
  • Northumbrian networks/influencers/businesses

After contacting all Northumbrian/Newcastle titles (11 including magazines), the need for a big idea was clear. But what?

Catapult interviewed local residents, establishing media/social media usage & perceptions and studied a www.communityfoundation.org.uk report highlighting Northumberland’s:

  • division between isolated rural and underprivileged urban communities
  • need to increase awareness of heritage
  • reliance on community Catapult translated Langley’s ‘accessible’ positioning objective into ‘of the people’ and drew on its 6-centuries of history.

It suggested Langley create massive goodwill and enhanced profile through a civic-pride and heritage-focused initiative that would generate short-term trial/footfall and longer-term in-bound tourism benefit.

It chose the strategy of making Langley the champion of a ‘Northumberland Day’.

Catapult tested this in the media, issuing a call for a Northumberland Day, and researched key influencers (organisations, visitor attractions, activity providers, community networks), inviting 35 to a presentation of the vision.

Working with these stakeholders, and selling the goals of both tourism and community benefits, it gained participation pledges for an inaugural Northumberland Day – May 28 2017.

Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

An ‘N-Day’ masterplan of tactical and visual milestones ensured Langley’s continuous exposure as a tourism and community ‘champion’ and provided participation catalysts. It consisted of:

  1. Northumberland Day Workshop Roadshow (February to April 2017) to inspire event/activity development in a week around Northumberland Day
  2. Launching compelling branding (March 2017) – to evoke local passion
  3. Launching a Northumberland Day website, encompassing Langley messaging, plus event listings
  4. Facebook page establishment (April 2017) & launch of a ‘Northumberland Flag Challenge’ (taking the flag to extraordinary places)
  5. 1:1 media briefings & themed event story sell-ins (April 2017)
  6. Creation of quirky ‘Northumbie Awards’ to encourage a spirit of competition within participants (April 2017)
  7. Official ‘curtain raiser’ at Langley (May 27) – the unveiling of the World’s Largest Stottie
  8. Post-event publicity and a Valentine’s Day 2018, event-inspiring boosted Facebook post, appealing to a love of Northumberland

Implementation of tactics:

  1. An inspiring workshop roadshow visited Langley, Hexham, High Newton, Blyth and Rothbury
  2. A Northumberland Day logo, replaced Northumberland’s ‘O’ with a heart in the county colours, representing civic pride/passion behind the initiative
  3. Catapult created free website www.northumberlandday.net to blog, showcase events and control Langley’s ‘champion’ positioning. Prizes from partners were sourced to boost follower numbers via 7 Facebook competitions
  4. People’s flag feats were shown in Facebook posts as Northumberland’s flag visited unexpected places worldwide.
  5. Controlled-message content was written for U3A, Community Action and CVA Northumberland, plus parish newsletters/tourism websites. Pre-event copy was supplied to the Courant, Living North and ITV news researchers. Catapult teed up three BBC Radio Newcastle interviews, plus Heart Radio, the week before Northumberland Day and supplied the Northumberland Gazette (and sister papers) with a story per week, for six weeks
  6. Catapult created, and found sponsors for, the ‘Northumbies’ – rewarding ‘Best Dressed Village’, ‘Best Designed Event’, ‘Most Inspiring School’ and ‘Best Community Involvement’. Handmade, fused-glass trophies depicted all aspects of Northumberland
  7. Langley’s must-see curtain-raiser kicked off the county-wide extravaganza. The ‘World’s Biggest Stottie’ was unveiled at a free-to-attend event, also featuring Border Reiver re-enactment and falconry. This super-sized Northumbrian food treat created massive visual interest, whilst a pre-reveal visual exclusive was given to the Courant in return for front-page coverage
  8. ‘Northumbie’ Award presentations were held in Beadnell, Blyth, Hexham and Haydon Bridge, with sponsors Waitrose & ‘The Northumbrian’. Catapult told the inspiring winners’ stories, to encourage similar actions in 2018
  9. On February 14, an image of the Northumberland Day heart in a woman’s hands, became a boosted Facebook post, with a message of ‘Show your love for Northumberland & share’.

Measurement and evaluation:

Results: 

  • First-ever Northumberland Day, now embedded in the annual tourism calendar for long-term, in-bound tourism benefit and boosted in-county spend
  • Langley undisputedly back on the map – as Northumberland’s champion & a history-maker
  • 95 significantly-sized articles (84 in-county); 86 online articles.
  • Audience reach: Print 7,925,163; Broadcast 3,523,000
  • Online readership 601 million; 674,000 coverage views; 4,260 social shares from editorial (Coverage Book)
  • 71% inclusion of ‘Langley’ keyword
  • Full front-page (The Journal); Front-page lead (Courant)
  • Six radio interviews (5 on BBC Radio Newcastle)
  • ITV Tyne Tees, BBC Northeast, Hexham TV and Made in Tyne & Wear broadcast coverage

Engagement:

  • Flags waved in schools, villages, Spain, NZ – even Edinburgh Zoo!
  • 71 events, attracting 25,000+ people, staged by 52 participants
  • 2913 Facebook follows; 51,943 engagements & 595,296 reach, plus 19,428 comments/shares/reactions (in 4 months)

Feedback:

  • “I have never seen so many enthusiastic people all trying to make a day a huge success.” (Haydon Bridge)
  • The event attracted all sections of the community. People of all backgrounds and abilities celebrated Northumbrian culture.” (Headway ArtsSpace)
  • “We derived the feel-good factor as the village had not worked together before. We were overwhelmed with the number of people who turned up especially for our events”. (Beadnell)
  • “This had a positive impact on Hexham, attracting tourists and increasing economic activity. Northumberland Day achieved a sense of pride across the county.”

Wider Benefits:

  • Reported 33% average uplift in takings by participating traders/eateries
  • Event now backed by Northumberland County Council
  • Exciting tourism product development 2018 – including offer of the only boat allowed to land on Grace Darling’s island, for a Northumberland Day event

Budget and cost effectiveness:

£4500 fee + £750 costs (event & boosted posts).