CAMPAIGNS: Charity PR - Guide Dogs in push to raise research role

Client: The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association PR Team: In-house Campaign: Shades for a Day Timescale: December 2002-July 2003 Budget: £25,000

Providing guide dogs is the core service of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, but it also promotes eye care research.

Since 1990, the charity has funded 106 ophthalmic research projects, totalling nearly £9m, and expects to contribute an additional £3m to research in the next three years.

However, Guide Dogs was concerned that many people weren't aware of the charity's work beyond providing dogs for the blind, and set out to raise the profile of its other work.

Objectives

To raise awareness of eye care in the sun, while creating a brand that would have broad fundraising appeal. To highlight the association between Guide Dogs and ophthalmic research.

Strategy and Plan

The campaign focused solely on eye care in the sun. School children were the target audience, as Guide Dogs regarded them as a large base of future supporters.

The campaign's theme was therefore Shades for a Day because sunglasses are typically seen as 'cool' by kids.

Schools, businesses and politicians were sent invitations to participate in the event and sent a charity information pack.

Participating schools allowed students to wear sunglasses to lessons on 15 July for £1, and businesses did the same with employees. The money raised was sent to Guide Dogs, although schools were allowed to keep half the money they raised for school funds.

With no paid-for advertising, the emphasis was on media relations and photo stunts, so the PR team came up with the idea of stars in shades.

This included a photo shoot with the Manchester United squad posing in sunglasses, as well as a pair of giant shades for one of the lion statues in Trafalgar Square.

Celebrities such as Sir Elton John, Holly Valance and Greg Rusedski donated their sunglasses for an online auction in the lead up to Shades for a Day.

The press was invited to cover the story with live and pre-recorded radio interviews available, plus specialist eye care briefings provided by Shades for a Day supporter Vision Express.

Measurement and Evaluation

Coverage was obtained on 75 regional radio stations, including BBC Radio Leeds, Nottingham, Cornwall and Leicester, as well as Clyde Two and Fox FM. TV coverage was achieved on five News and BBC East Midlands Today.

Pre-publicity was obtained in The Sun with the Man Utd photo shoot. Specialist and lifestyle publications also covered the story, including Optician, Best, Eve, Bella and Prima. The Eastern Daily Press covered the story in a spread focusing on the local council and schools' participation.

Results

Around 250,000 people took part in the event, including 1,000 schools, 500 businesses and 50 councils, raising more than £125,000 for Guide Dogs.

'Lots of light angles, like pictures of exec committee members wearing shades in a meeting, made it newsworthy,' said Eastern Daily Press reporter Hugh Bowering.

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