Campaign: The 'Original Bridget' Oxfam Diary
Client: Oxfam Trading Division
PR team: Banc Communications
Timescale: September 2004-January 2005
Budget: Part of retainer
Oxfam's retained agency Banc Communications encourages managers of individual stores to notify it when items of interest are donated. When the manager of Oxfam's bookshop in Bristol, Jen Brown, received a diary written by a woman, Ilene Powell, during the 1920s, she contacted the agency - telling it that the book reminded her of Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, even down to Powell's records of her weight, dress size and love life.
To publicise the diary locally. To handle media enquiries. To drive sales of the diary after it was published.
Strategy and Plan
Having positioned Powell as a protoBridget Jones (the diary was found one month after the second spin-off film, The Edge of Reason, was released at the cinema) Brown drafted a press release, which was sent to a local newswire, to contact relatives of the writer.
The Press Association picked up the release, resulting in a deluge of interview requests from regional, national and international press and broadcast channels. Because Banc was already working on Oxfam's Christmas catalogue, it was able to channel resources into the promotion of Powell's diary.
Banc advised Brown which interviews to accept, focusing on women's press and national newspapers, and provided her with media training. Oxfam trading director Chris Coe also made himself available for interviews.
Oxfam published Powell's writing as a desk diary, timing the launch to coincide with the run-up to Christmas. Photographs of Powell throughout her life, supplied from the executor of her will, were printed alongside her entries, and copies of the diary were sent to those journalists who had covered Brown's discovery.
Banc provided additional information, such as cost and availability, as well as the charitable aspect of publishing the diary - each book sold could buy five chickens (providing food and income for a family in the developing world), a radio (giving life-saving information to remote communities) or one month's food for a child in poverty.
Measurement and Evaluation
The story was picked up by local media, including the Bristol Evening Post, Western Daily Press and Meridian TV. It also featured nationally across newspapers including the Daily Mail, The Sun, Metro, The Times, The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express.
Broadcast coverage included BBC Radio Wales and Radio 4's Today, as well as globally on BBC World Service, Australia's news.com.au, CNN.com and CBN News Philippines.
UK print coverage was measured by Metrica, revealing that in the first two weeks of December 2004 there were 97 million opportunities to see.
More than 30,000 copies of The 'Original Bridget' Oxfam Diary were sold by the end of January. Banc continues to handle enquiries from long-lead publications and Oxfam is entertaining interest from production companies wishing to buy the rights to the diary and turn Powell's life into a TV drama.
Telegraph.co.uk news reporter Nicole Martin says: 'It was a late story and there was a bit of a fight to contact the living relatives, but the release was well written with ready quotes, and Oxfam was incredibly helpful in helping us meet our deadline.'
Jo Stetzel is business development and marketing manager for the Association of Charity Shops.
Wow, what a gift! To have found this diary just a month after the release of the second Bridget Jones film (which also happened to be in the run-up to Christmas) was either fabulous karma or a well-thought-out piece of activity by Banc Communications. Either way, lucky Oxfam.
Banc did a stellar job and moved quickly to make this chronicle of a 1920s single gal relevant and meaningful to a modern-day audience.
Yes, linking the diary to that of 1990s heroine Bridget Jones is pretty obvious, but sometimes you don't need to reinvent the wheel.
Gaining access to a wider audience to demonstrate the great, unique items you can unearth in charity shops was very positive for Oxfam. Linking the sales of the diary to the charity's core activities of international aid meant it remained very much an Oxfam story, rather than a more general interest feature.
But I'm surprised that the story did not receive wider TV coverage, being a perfect 'and finally' feature.
The result - 30,000 sales of the diary - is impressive and would have provided significant additional income for the charity. The rapid response of Oxfam and Banc to this discovery and the creativity with which it was dealt made this a great campaign.