Campaign: Sky Travel finds the facts behind 'sickies'

Sky Travel claims to be the fastest-growing service of its kind in the UK, with sales increasing 400 per cent since 2002. It comprises four channels available to satellite and digital viewers – including Sky Travel Shop, Sky Travel Extra and Sky Travel+1 – with a combined reach of ten million viewers.

Campaign National Sickie Day
Client Sky Travel
PR team Taylor Herring
Timescale January -February 2006
Budget £5,000

It called in Taylor Herring at the end of last year to help boost sales in the important period around the new year.

To create a news story that would raise the profile of the Sky Travel brand across a range of media at a key sales time for the brand.

Strategy and Plan
Taylor Herring came up with the idea of 'National Sickie Day' – the day on which most people would be likely to take off work in order to put their feet up and plan their next holiday.

To provide a news hook, the team needed to establish the date on which most office workers would ring in 'sick'. Around 4,000 people responded to an online poll, revealing Monday 6 February as 'stay in bed' day.

Professor Cary Cooper, a media-friendly, high-profile expert in workplace issues, was brought on board along with Laurence Collins, an HR consultant who specialises in organisational stress and absenteeism. They were primed to discuss the underlying reasons for 'sickies' – which are very often used by people who are stressed and genuinely need a holiday.

The PR team put out a news release with sickie-related information from the online survey, such as how many days off respondents thought they could get away with (nine days on average for men, a startling 18 for women) and what they do while off 'sick' – favourites were 'having a lie-in' (51 per cent) and 'extending a weekend break' (29 per cent). The release was sent to the national press and broadcast media.

Measurement and Evaluation
There was widespread coverage in the nationals, including an article on the front page of The Daily Telegraph and pieces in the Daily Mail, The Guardian and Daily Record.

National Sickie Day also featured in later comment pieces in The Guardian, Daily Record, Daily Express and Evening Standard. The story ran on GMTV, This Morning, Tonight with Trevor McDonald, BBC Radio 4's Today programme and Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Sky Travel spokespeople were also interviewed on Sky News and for ITV's news programmes. They also did 23 radio interviews, including BBC Radio 2, Capital Gold, BBC Asian Network and BBC Radio Scotland.

All radio interviews for the campaign directed listeners to Sky Travel's website,, for which traffic rose ten per cent over the two-month campaign period.

Taylor Herring calculates the campaign's advertising value as equivalent to be £600,000, representing a return on investment of 120:1. It declined to provide any sales figures for the period of the campaign.

Simon Houston, a reporter with news agency Off The Record Press, sold the story in to a number of Scottish papers. 'A lot of PR companies put out the results of the survey without much of a regional breakdown, which is useless for us.

'But Taylor Herring went to the trouble of getting a detailed breakdown of the situation in Scotland, for example saying that people in Aberdeen were more likely to take a sickie than people in Edinburgh.'

Second opinion
Colette Hill is chief executive of specialist HR agency, CHA
Stories about the world of work readily grab the headlines because workplace issues affect all of us.

Topics such as diversity, work/life balance and redefining retirement are central concerns for everyone, including business and government. Research is, of course, a trusted route to headlines and this was a strong story.

We were aware of the campaign at CHA because of our interest in workplace communications. However, it was rather more difficult to remember a particular connection to Sky Travel, and workplace experts were bound to dominate the media in preference to company spokespeople.

The risks are clear with this type of exercise. When there is no immediate link between the research and the brand, it is easy to create a competing star – in this case the 'sickie day' – which generates its own exposure, with coverage merely mentioning the sponsor brand. Thus, there is no real opportunity to deliver any messages about Sky Travel or to educate people about its offering.
Having said that, the results were excellent, particularly given the modest budget, and they do demonstrate the value of making the effort to split results regionally. It would be interesting to understand what the recall is now and whether this activity has helped build understanding of Sky Travel in the long term.

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