Campaigns: Public Sector - Chinese New Year is a double delight

Campaign: Chinese New Year Celebrations 2011
Client: London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA)
PR team: Fiona Chow and Emma Johnston (freelance)
Timescale: January-February 2011
Budget: Pro bono

The London Chinese New Year celebrations are the largest outside of Asia and the second largest free public event in London, after New Year's Eve. The celebrations are funded by public and corporate sponsorship. For the past five years, PR support for the event has been handled by freelancer Emma Johnston. This year, freelance PR consultant Fiona Chow was drafted in to help manage PR around the event, to cover Johnston's maternity leave.

OBJECTIVES

- To promote London Chinatown and the celebrations for the Chinese Year of the Rabbit

- To drive visitors to the event on Sunday, 6 February

- To raise the profile of the LCCA and stakeholders.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

The LCCA already had a website, Facebook page and YouTube channel but these were underused. The PR team decided to build up social media presence alongside conventional media relations.

Working with partners such as the Met Police and local businesses, the PR team put together a series of pictures to offer to the media, including photographs of Chinatown policemen in the 1970s, and provided access to the police stables at Hyde Park. To build a presence on Facebook and Twitter, the PR team used New Year-related trivia and information on acts appearing during the day of celebrations.

PR volunteers were found using a Facebook page, and Peter Bowles, creative MD of Dynamo PR, offered two hours of time advising on social media strategy in return for a reciprocal two hours of support on business development.

Online gift shop Ditzy Doll offered to make a rabbit-shaped chalkboard as a prize for a competition on Twitter, which helped boost follower numbers.

On the day, a media tent was set up to give all media their accreditation. The PR team also microblogged from the same room as the police, event co-ordinators and emergency services, which meant they could direct followers to areas of interest and upcoming performances, and help them negotiate congestion.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

Pre-event coverage included features in Time Out, Metro, and TNT, and on BBC Radio London, BBC online, PA TV, LBC Breakfast, ITV's Daybreak, the BBC's Show Me The Money and The One Show.

The event was also covered on the day or afterwards by Channel 4 News, London Tonight, Horse & Hound, ITV, Reuters, PA, the London Evening Standard and Visit Britain, plus Chinese and international media including the BBC China Service, Chinese Channel, Romanian Radio, Agence France-Presse, TVB and C Cubed Media.

RESULTS

About 500,000 people attended the Chinese New Year celebrations, double last year's numbers.

The PR campaign generated 338 followers on Twitter and friends of the Facebook page doubled.

SECOND OPINION

Rebecca Oatley, MD, Cherish PR

London's Chinese New Year celebrations are always a major media spectacle and this year was definitely a resounding success.

But managing the media on the ground was an enormous task. With no budget, sourcing an experienced team via social media and lots of goodwill showed great PR in action.

With the team microblogging from the centre of operations, it had a real-time impact on people's enjoyment of the occasion.

It was good to see the LCCA refreshing this year's campaign by reaching out to the Met Police and local business owners to pull in extra content, such as PC Greenacre's pictures from the 1970s.

This offered something different from the Chinese Dragon and brought a bit of history and a personal touch to the event.

But it was brave to expect Twitter users to feel passionately enough about the Chinese New Year to add bunny ears to their profile pictures.

What was missing was giving people a real reason, such as a discount, to change their profiles.

It was possibly why the chalkboard giveaway had the biggest impact on the social media campaign.

Overall, in comparison to the sheer scale of the event, social media were relatively low key.

With a consistent social media campaign in the run-up to next year's event, sharing, location and networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Quora and YouTube could really grow the digital prominence of this celebration.

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