Tourism - Cumbria bounces back after floods

Campaign: Wish You Were Here

Celebrity involvement: Sian Lloyd
Celebrity involvement: Sian Lloyd

Client: Cumbria Tourism
PR team: In-house
Timescale: November 2009-May 2010
Budget: £10,000

In November 2009, Cumbria suffered its worst floods in living memory, resulting in an estimated £15m of damage to homes and businesses. About £2.5m in holiday accommodation bookings were also lost, a significant blow to the county, which is heavily reliant on the £1.17bn generated annually by its tourist industry.

In response, Cumbria Tourism launched the Wish You Were Here campaign to generate positive coverage and encourage visitors to return.


- To emphasise that Cumbria was 'open for business' and highlight its beauty

- To gain celebrity support and media coverage

- To highlight Cumbria Tourism

- To boost the local community and raise money for flood-related charities.

Strategy and plan

Cumbria Tourism invited celebrities to pledge their support by writing a postcard saying what they loved most about the county. More than 100 postcards were received from stars including Dame Judi Dench, Richard E Grant and Carey Mulligan.

YouGov research was then commissioned, which found sending postcards is a dying tradition as people increasingly use modern technology to communicate.

A press release announced the launch of the Wish You Were Here campaign to bring back the 'great British postcard'. A series of press releases were then sent out with 'teasers' about the celebrity authors of the postcards.

A website was created, with sneak peeks of the postcards posted daily, plus information on tourism in Cumbria. Four Twitter 'compet'twit'ions' were also run, with questions on the postcards and prizes donated by flood-affected businesses.

On 19 May, the six-month anniversary of the floods, a free public exhibition of the postcards was opened in Cockermouth by TV weather presenter Sian Lloyd. The exhibition is currently touring the county, with collections for Lake District Mountain Rescue at all venues. After the tour, the postcards will be auctioned to raise money for charity.

In November, to mark the one-year anniversary of the floods, a book of the postcards with a foreword by the Prince of Wales will be launched. All profits will be donated to flood-related charities.

Measurement and evaluation

The campaign has to date generated 124 items of coverage, including in The Independent on Sunday, the News of the World, the Mirror, the Express, The Daily Telegraph and GMTV websites and BBC Radio 4. There has also been a partnership with BBC Radio Cumbria, which asked listeners to send in postcards of their favourite places in the county.


Cumbria Tourism received postcards from 112 celebrities. There have been more than 3,000 visitors to the campaign's website, more than 1,000 visitors to the exhibition in the first two weeks and 1,000 competition entries. More than 300 new Twitter followers joined prior to the exhibition.



Helena Beard, Marketing director, KBC PR & Marketing

When tourist destinations such as this suffer a crisis, the next campaign has a lot riding on it. I applaud Cumbria Tourism for being so creative with a relatively small budget.

The cleverest part of the campaign was to harness the biggest weapon in Cumbria's armoury; the emotional ties people retain with the places they have been to, especially as children. The team skilfully played on this to engage a number of extremely high-profile celebrities with no fees changing hands. That was brilliant value.

With regard to the Twitter promotion, its success really depends on the level of engagement generated, how much retweeting was going on, and how many qualified targets for buying holidays to Cumbria became followers.

The campaign extension through to exhibitions, a book and a charity auction, is well conceived and will secure further coverage.

The trick will be ensuring this goes online and national, or even international, reaching an audience of prospective holidaymakers outside Cumbria.

My only criticism of the campaign is around clarity. I felt the use of the YouGov results confused the campaign messaging. Bringing back the great British postcard feels like a lobbying campaign, and different to the rest of the work that was about celebrity endorsement for Cumbria and positive brand association. Also, if there was ever a good reason to revert to 'send in your answer on the back of a postcard,' perhaps this was it.

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