Campaign: Sue Ryder Care opens dolls house club - Voluntary Sector

Campaign: Hickleton Collectors' Club Client: Sue Ryder Care PR team: In-house Timescale: September-November 2005 Budget: £2,600

Collecting and decorating dolls houses and miniatures is a popular hobby in the UK, and charity Sue Ryder Care - which runs hospices and care centres - has become one of the largest retailers of dolls houses, both through its network of charity shops and online.

It launched its Hickleton Collectors' Club in September 2005 and designated 150 of its 380 shops as dolls' house centres. From these outlets, club members have access to special offers and are encouraged to form local groups, swap tips and run competitions.

OBJECTIVES

To encourage membership of the club and increase sales of dolls houses through Sue Ryder shops. To raise awareness of the palliative and neurological care services that the charity provides, and collect more donations.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

Regional press and radio were picked as the best platforms from which to emphasise the community focus of the club. The charity's in-house PR team wanted to appeal to regular shop customers as well as dolls house enthusiasts who might not have heard of the Ryder initiative.

It enlisted managers at the 150 designated Hickleton shops to help put together a campaign - by asking customers who bought dolls houses for their personal stories. Some of these became case studies, complete with photos, which were sent out to relevant regional press. The releases also included a section on 'five things you never knew about dolls houses'.

Photocalls were organised in 30 stores for the club's launch day, with staff putting up posters and balloons to advertise Hickleton. This was backed up with releases sent to specialist dolls' house magazines.

With the club up and running, store managers kept the PR team up to date about their progress and the people involved, enabling more releases for regional press and radio stations.

New members have been asked if they would like to receive information on Sue Ryder Care's healthcare services, and are encouraged to become regular donors to the charity.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

The campaign resulted in more than 100 items of coverage. Regional newspapers included Basildon Evening Echo, Oxford Mail, Ely Standard, Peterborough Evening Telegraph, Eastern Daily Press, and the Northern Echo. The specialist magazines to run articles were Dolls House and Miniature Scene and Dolls House World.

The BBC's radio stations in Sheffield and Wiltshire - as well as its Southern Counties outlet - also covered the campaign.

RESULTS

More than 2,700 people have signed up to the club so far. Of those, 82 per cent said they would like to receive more information about the charity.

Groups of more than 50 people regularly meet in Kent and Hayling Island, while dolls house sales at Sue Ryder Care have increased by 15 per cent since September. The charity is planning to seek celebrity involvement and a consumer press focus.

Kate Eshmade, feature writer at the Basildon Evening Echo, says: 'It was a really interesting story as I had no idea that women collected dolls houses - I particularly liked the fact box on the press release.

We set up an interview with a collector at the local branch and ran a feature on her.'

SECOND OPINION - PHIL BLOOMFIELD, senior consultant at BANC Communications, leads the Oxfam Trading account.

This campaign is a lesson in what can be achieved when tried and tested techniques are well executed and thoroughly planned.

Although the story doesn't immediately excite, the Sue Ryder Care PR team achieved notable results. Finding an income-generating, profile-raising niche would have been a daunting challenge after a year of high-profile charity appeals.

Positioning itself as a specialist for dolls house collectors provided a vital USP. It may be a minority interest, but there is a significant number of these people who are potentially sympathetic to the charity's aims.

Empowering store managers - effectively creating a nationwide PR network - and linking 'speciality shops' to local photo-led case studies was the right strategy and a sensible use of resources. This enabled the team to concentrate on steering wider strategy and maximising creativity. The fact box in the press release was a good example of how to use a simple tool to add an extra dimension to output.

I would have liked to have seen some more ambition in the initial strategy.

It suggests either a lack of confidence, or was a canny plan to ensure the campaign could be extended. They should rope in that celebrity and go after consumer media to ensure longevity.

Creativity: 4

Delivery: 4

8/10

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