Jersey Royals reaps a bumper harvest

According to Jersey legend, the island’s first potato – a small, kidney-shaped variety – was harvested in 1880 after a farmer planted a large spud that he had cut into sixteen pieces.

Campaign A Right Royal Campaign
Client Jersey Royals
PR team CirKle Communications
Timescale January-July 2005
Budget £80,000

Today the genuine Jersey new potato is unique to the island and, unlike some vegetable producers, Jersey Royals only harvests them during their natural season, between March and June.

With rival new potato growers embarking on their own promotional campaigns, Jersey Royals drafted in CirKle Communications to reinforce the producer's status as the leading supplier of quality new potatoes.

To keep Jersey Royals in the press (emphasising the company's upcoming 125th anniversary). To raise awareness of the seasonality of its potatoes and Jersey's natural farming process – employing hand-lifting of crops during harvesting and seaweed as fertiliser.

To target a broad audience – from longtime potato lovers to younger consumers who may be unaware of the Jersey Royals brand. To promote facts such as the brand's 'protection of designation of origin' status – according to Jersey Royals, its potatoes are the only fresh UK vegetables to have such European recognition.

Strategy and Plan
CirKle approached consumer and trade press with a trip to Jersey. Six consumer journalists flew to the Channel Island with their itineraries tailored to allow them to cover aspects beyond its famous potato, such as the local Michelin-starred restaurants.

Separate trips for trade journalists were also arranged, while a 125th anniversary dinner was open to all media sectors. The Grocer editor  Richard Clarke was singled out for special treatment in the form of a two-day tour of the island.

Gifts were sent to journalists to raise awareness of the start of the new potato season. These comprised a limited-edition serving dish from the Jersey Pottery Centre, and a branded Jersey Royals sack containing the first crop of spuds. Press releases accompanied the gifts, one written for food titles such as Olive – referring to harvesting techniques and heritage – and another for consumer magazines that detailed celebrity chefs who were fans of the potato, and its nutritional value (100g of Jersey Royals contain 70 calories and provide 25 per cent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C).

Exclusive recipes incorporating Jersey Royals were offered to food magazines, accompanied by high-quality photography.

CirKle also hand-delivered Jersey Royals-inspired brunches to London DJs during their breakfast shows in a bid for broadcast coverage.

Measurement and Evaluation
The national coverage of Jersey Royals included features and recipes in publications such as Hello!, Olive, Sainsbury's Fresh Ideas and The Independent. CirKle claims that other magazines plan to run similar pieces next season.

Coverage in trade publications included a three-page feature and six news items across the season in The Grocer. Jersey new potatoes were also mentioned by Johnny Vaughan on his Capital FM breakfast show.

According to Jersey Royals' own monitoring, 49 per cent of the UK's adult population had a potential to read or hear about the brand. Jersey Royals experienced a 15 per cent sales increase, making March to June 2005 its best-ever season and representing a 20-fold return on investment. 

Delicious deputy food editor Kate Belcher says: 'The press trip to the island was brilliant and the PR team brought the potato story to life.'

Liz O'Neill, head of communications at the Vegetarian Society, has worked on several food campaigns

If you had mentioned Jersey Royals to me a couple of years ago, I'd have probably assumed they were distant cousins of the Queen.

These days I know better and eat Jersey Royals pretty regularly – so this campaign must have worked.  

Cynic that I am though, I'm not entirely convinced by the campaign report. Presumably the claim to have reached a potential 49 per cent of the population is based on total publication circulation/radio audience of 30 million. This sounds impressive until you consider that a single mention on BBC Radio 2 clocks up a potential audience reach of 13 million.

Similarly, if the 20-fold ROI is made up largely from the 15 per cent sales uplift then this was a great result. But if CirKle is claiming that it would have cost 20 times its budget to buy the equivalent ad space then come on folks, we all know that's not a smart way of convincing budgetholders of PR's worth – it's not real money.

Schmoozing journos is always a good plan and should bear fruit long beyond this campaign. But where were the celebrity chefs? Come to mention it, why didn't CirKle take advantage of National Vegetarian Week? It's an open opportunity to promote any food, products or services that could be attractive to vegetarians and healthy eaters.

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