HSBC launched an education initiative via its website (www.education.hsbc.com) to coincide with its sponsorship of a boat in the recent Around Alone world yacht race. Given that the race lasted eight months and crossed nearly 23,000 miles, the banking giant needed a PR strategy that would interest the media for that length of time.
HSBC designed 34 weekly modules for school pupils aged nine to 12, each designed to coincide with the sponsored boat's location. Pupils would then learn about the area's climate, geography and history via the HSBC website.
To promote HSBC via the online education challenge. Other key goals were to highlight the bank's education trust and general commitment to children's education.
Strategy and Plan
While the solo yacht race began in September 2002, the PR campaign launched in July to ensure media coverage prior to the event.
Initially, MHL targeted 'key children influencer groups', through niche media such as the Times Educational Supplement, Headteacher Update and Families Magazine.
Local, regional and national newspapers and broadcasters were also contacted, as were sports pages, magazines and business publications. Competitions and promotions ran in supplements aimed at kids, such as the Funday Times.
At the five stopover sites, the PR team organised special events, such as roadshows, which local children would attend. Contact with skipper Graham Dalton was organised during the race - later with Emma Richards, when his boat was forced to withdraw.
'We needed to be proactive at the start to tell people what was happening, but, as the race went on, we were doing far more reactive PR work as the message spread and interest grew,' says MHL account manager Julian Mears.
To maintain interest in the story, the PR team held back information to certain dates to maintain the drip-feed of information to the media.
Measurement and Evaluation
The eight-month race and the education challenge attracted almost 600 articles in The Guardian, Times Educational Supplement, The Independent plus specialist education publications in the UK.
TV coverage was strong all through the race, with items in programmes including ITN News, West Country Live and coverage on BBC South.
The website received 33,581 hits per day from 35 countries, and more than 3,000 schoolchildren from around the world met at least one of the skippers.
Project director on The Guardian education website Cassandra Wells wrote one story a month on the race.
Rod Savage at the Times Education Supplement travelled to Cape Town to cover a roadshow. He says: 'Reporters go into some of these things with a sceptical view, but there was no need here. The education challenge itself was almost a race within a race."