CAMPAIGNS: Pipers bang drum to aid good cause - Event Promotion

Client: Gilda's Club Worldwide (New York)
PR Team: CooperKatz & Company (New York)
Campaign: ScottishPower Tunes of Glory Parade
Time Frame: September 2001 - April 6, 2002
Budget: pro bono, plus administrative costs

While the fight against cancer generally takes place in research labs and hospitals, one aspect that receives less attention is the emotional and social support needed by those stricken with the disease, along with their loved ones.

Answering this call was Gilda's Club Worldwide, the New York headquarters of an international network of non-residential home-like meeting venues where anyone suffering from the physical or emotional devastation of cancer can come together for support. A main Gilda's supporter is Scottish-Power, one of the world's largest publicly traded energy companies, which services customers across the UK and six states in the western US.

Like many worthy causes, Gilda's profile - and financial resources - needed a boost.

Strategy

New York City PR agency CooperKatz began work on the project in early September 2001. The goal was to create an event that would draw attention to the cause by using the rich Scottish heritage.

Unfortunately, like everything else, the campaign was abruptly halted by September 11. "We wouldn't let the tragedy quash our spirit, says Andrea Martone, media director at CooperKatz, who led a group of 10 publicists.

"When we decided to go forward, we were very encouraged to see how much the world supported New York."

The event was slated for April 6, 2002 - National Tartan Day, and during Cancer Awareness Month. Pipers and drummers would be invited from all over the world to participate in a New York City parade, combining the traditional lure of kilt-clad pipers and drummers, the worthy cause, and the newly fortified spirit of the Big Apple. However, the task of drawing participants, support, and public interest was still daunting.

Tactics

The first focus was attracting marchers. Epic Concepts, a UK-based piping organization, would help by recruiting pipers and drummers the world over.

CooperKatz then wrote a press release that targeted all registered pipers in the US and abroad. They, in turn, would submit the releases to local news outlets, announcing the event and their need to raise funds.

Symbolism played a key role in attracting the media. In addition to consistent press releases and pitches, CooperKatz wrote personalized letters to key print and broadcast reporters, inviting them to a pre-event tour of Manhattan aboard a plaid-encased double-decker bus. Participating pipers and drummers played on the tour, and even offered bagpipe lessons to people on the street.

When the time came to select a Grand Marshal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg happily accepted. And, of course, this was a Scottish parade, so actor Sean Connery gladly joined in. B-roll was shot of all the festivities, and included interviews with many of the pipers and shots of Connery leading the parade, clad in a traditional kilt.

Results

Seven thousand pipers and drummers from 26 countries and all 50 states marched in the parade. Gilda's and CooperKatz took great pride in the fact that the media showcased the bagpipe playing - a sound often associated with tragedy, especially after September 11 - in a positive setting.

Nearly 7 million impressions were garnered. In addition, the parade was profiled on five national morning shows during the week leading up to the event, including Good Morning America, CBS' The Early Show, Weekend Today, Fox & Friends, and CNN's American Morning.

As for print media, all New York dailies covered the event, with a variety of papers throughout the US writing stories about pipers from local areas.

Funds continue to come in, and Gilda's has collected approximately $500,000 to date from event supporters.

Future

With the parade having far exceeded expectations in terms of participation, public interest, and donations, Gilda's and CooperKatz hope to make it an annual event.

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