Manchester Pride, the annual ten-day lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) festival, culminates in The Big Weekend, a 72-hour celebration held over the August bank holiday. Working with community partnership Operation Fundraiser, the event aims to raise money for LGBT and HIV charities in the North-West.
As part of its CSR programme, Manchester-based Impact Media PR promoted this year's event on a pro bono basis.
To raise the profile of Manchester Pride 2005, encourage people to attend and push ticket sales for the festival and The Big Weekend.
Strategy and Plan
To ensure Pride gained regular coverage in the build-up to the event, Impact rolled out a six-month programme of mini-events, including an official launch in early May.
Alongside the provision of full press office services, the Impact team initiated regular liaison between Pride organisers and a variety of media, including non-traditional LGBT titles such as lifestyle magazines and sports publications.
This activity culminated in a pre-event international press reception on 26 August, which attracted over 150 media outlets from across the globe.
Journalists met the Pride team and representatives from the region's LGBT organisations, while the Deputy Lord Mayor of Manchester, councillor James Ashley, delivered a keynote speech alongside Marketing Manchester CEO Andrew Stokes.
For The Big Weekend, Impact set up an on-site press office, providing comment and press packs, and co-ordinated celebrity interviews. Post-event, a round-up press release was issued, containing statistics and comment from organisers.
Measurement and Evaluation
The Big Weekend attracted widespread regional, national, and international coverage. This included TV slots on the BBC, Granada's North West News and ITN, plus radio items on stations including BBC GMR and Radio 2, Key 103 and Galaxy 102. Interviewees included Graham Norton and members of Liberty X.
Pre-event and post-event coverage appeared in most North-West newspapers, including the Manchester Evening News and Liverpool Echo. LGBT and lifestyle titles profiled The Big Weekend, including Gay Times, Queer-I, Diva and City Life.
The festival also featured in the Sunday papers, including The Sunday Times and the News of the World, while film crews from Norway and the Czech Republic attended.
Ticket sales for The Big Weekend were up by 50 per cent on last year, with an estimated crowd of 45,000 taking part, raising more than £115,000 for charity.
Seventy-eight floats, the highest number in the event's history, took part in the Pride Parade. Over the ten-day period of the festival, attendance reached 250,000.
'Impact Media did a good job,' says Smyth Harper, senior broadcast journalist for BBC News Online.
'The PR team let us know what was going on, picking out items that would be of particular interest, and was helpful with anything I approached it about,' he adds.
Marc Prema-Ratner, MD of Z'est Public Relations, has worked on the London Gay Mardi Gras.
It can be tricky to run a campaign for a niche population segment, especially one associated with titillating media coverage.
Pride festivals, once restricted to the major international gay capitals such as London, Berlin and San Francisco, are thankfully now far more widespread, with secondary cities in many countries celebrating the inclusiveness and vibrancy this community brings.
So, hats off to Manchester's Pride team in engaging PR experts to create a strategic difference in terms of impact this year.
The results speak for themselves. However, the creative tactics could have been more far-reaching. Given the luxury of the long lead time that Impact had for the campaign, it could have utilised more ingenious initiatives - which gay culture is certainly not short of - that could have resulted in extending positive attention to even more media channels.
Gay lifestyle publications should be a given for coverage, but wooing the conservative News of the World, which hasn't tended to lead the parade with the best gay-friendly editorial in the past, was impressive.
Another measure of success would be how many non-LGBT audiences enjoyed the festival as a direct result of PR. Now there's a challenge for next year.
Creativity: 3 Delivery: 4 7/10