City art gallery soothes workers with collection

The Guildhall Art Gallery, located within the Square Mile, houses the City of London Corporation’s art collection.

Campaign Guildhall Art Gallery Stress Study
Client The City of London Corporation
PR team In-house and Rain Communications UK
Timescale March 2005-January 2006
Budget £2,000

On display are paintings and sculptures portraying notable figures, events and views of London life from the 16th century to the present day – including celebrated works by Constable and the pre-Raphaelites.

Aware that its gallery enjoys less recognition than other London art
institutions, the corporation and retained agency Rain Communications set about promoting the venue as a haven of fine art in the centre of London's business community.

To raise awareness among City workers, residents and businesses.

Strategy and Plan
To tap in to the lifestyle of the archetypal City worker, Rain focused on the topic of stress, developing the hypothesis that viewing works of art can be soothing. To test this supposition, the PR team approached the University of Westminster's psychology department, and staff from in from the surrounding area were invited to take part in an experiment.

Twenty-eight City workers came forward last September, visiting the gallery during their lunch break and recording how they felt following a morning in the office. On entering the gallery, they were tested for the stress hormone cortisol via a saliva test, and then were re-tested after 40 minutes.

The results revealed an average 32 per cent drop in cortisol over the time spent in the gallery. When asked, participants also reported significant reductions in their perceived stress levels.

Rain presented the results to the news and features sections of national and London media.

Measurement and Evaluation
The study achieved coverage across numerous titles including The Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Times, Daily Express, City AM, Barbican Life, Daily Mail Online and Guardian Unlimited.

Broadcast coverage included an interview with the Lord Mayor of the City of London, Michael Savory, on LBC radio, and an interview with
Professor Clow of the University of Westminster on BBC News 24.

These interviews sparked further interest from the health, arts and features sections of the national press, including a half-page article in Metro and a double-page spread in The Times' T2, both of which were accompanied by visuals from the gallery's collection.

Rain also approached BBC2 early on in the PR campaign. The agency was rewarded when the channel subsequently filmed participants taking part in the study for an episode of Happiness, a new series of which is to air later this year.

As other marketing initiatives ran throughout the campaign, publicising events and the venue's programme of temporary exhibitions, the gallery is unable to confirm how the specific PR project influenced visitor numbers.

However, Guildhall Art Gallery manager Vivien Knight says: 'The study proved an excellent vehicle for raising public awareness of the gallery and we believe the PR campaign contributed to driving a notable increase in footfall.'

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