TOURISM CAMPAIGN: Bedgebury's 'green alternative' to Lapland

In August 2007 Pennington PR was approached by Lapland UK about promoting a new winter attraction, to be built in Bedgebury Forest, Kent. Research suggested that there was a captive market for a Christmas attraction that mirrored the real Lapland without spending thousands on flights.

Festive spirit: Father Christmas gives presents to children in the UK's very own lapland
Festive spirit: Father Christmas gives presents to children in the UK's very own lapland

Campaign: Bring Lapland to the UK
Client: Lapland UK
PR team: Pennington PR
Timescale: August 2007 - January 2008
Budget: £22,000

The 'Christmas doesn't need to cost the Earth' slogan promoted the attraction as a cheaper alternative to flying, and the growing benefits of reducing your carbon footprint.

So that all environmental concerns would be addressed, Lapland UK worked with The Forestry Commission, ensuring that the original forest would be fully restored after the event.

To build the Lapland UK brand nationally. To sell 35,000 tickets. To promote the attraction as the green alternative to travelling by plane to Lapland.

Strategy and plan
Pennington organised a tour for journalists to witness creator Mike Battle's plans for the scheme. A launch press release was sent to national media and targeted mothers on blogs and websites such as Mum's Net.

Measurement and evaluation
Even before the attraction was opened, coverage included full pages in The Observer and The Sunday Times, as well as 48 regional pieces of editorial. Radio coverage included BBC Radio Kent, Arrow FM, BBC Southern Counties and a two-week free campaign on KMFM. Both local TV stations (Meridian & BBC Southeast Today) covered the event just before opening.

More than 160 journalists came to the press launch, resulting in stories in the Mail on Sunday, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Observer (Escape section), The People (Take it Easy magazine), Tesco Magazine, The Independent on Sunday, The New Statesman and 24 regional titles.

Television played a part in building brand awareness with a week-long competition on ITV's This Morning, coverage all morning on Christmas Eve on BBC Breakfast, BBC News 24 and BBC World. Other notable television appearances include Blue Peter, Newsround, Reuters, ITV National News, RUSSIAN NTV, Kent TV, BBC South East and Meridian regional channels. A further ten TV stations approached Lapland UK but could not be accommodated.

Radio was used locally to get the green message across including a campaign to find Kent's greenest family. At the end of the campaign there were 150,000 people on the waiting list for 2008.

Corporate and celebrity bookings with the Crystal Lunch package also proved a success. These were available after all the main tickets were sold.

A further 26 publications have articles bagged for the Christmas 2008 period, including Good Housekeeping, The Christmas Magazine, Tesco Magazine, Bliss and Bella.

Online coverage was monitored with 64 websites reporting on Lapland UK including The Times, The Guardian, Daily Mail, Metro, Visit Britain, Tiscali, ITV's This Morning, Eurostar, Daily Telegraph, Mumsnet, Netmums, Tripadvisor, Scenta, Travelconnect, Travelscope and World Events.

PR activity before the opening drove visitors to the website and it took just over five weeks to sell all 35,000 tickets. To date, 150,000 people are on the waiting list for 2008's repeat event.

In-house estimates put the AVE of all media coverage at £1.2m.

James Allen, director at travel and tourism specialist, McCluskey International

For what is, essentially, a log hut in a woodland clearing covered with fake snow, I was really impressed with what has been achieved here. The volume of coverage is quite staggering.

Securing 160 media to a press launch is equally impressive - the PR agency obviously spread their net far and wide. When I looked a bit more carefully though, I found that some of the national newspaper articles were quite scathing about some of the attraction's 'teething problems'.

James Allen
James Allen
The reviews that appeared in the Mail on Sunday and in The Observer were critical of the long wait their children endured before seeing Santa.

So volume is not everything. It is important to ensure that if you are going to invite high-profile media to an event, their experience has to be flawless. It is crucial to work with the client to make sure the product and staff involved are ready from the day of the press launch.

Otherwise you run the risk of securing coverage that goes against your key campaign message - in this case, saving the environment by visiting a UK-based Lapland.

This is proved when, at the end of the Mail on Sunday article, the writer announces that she intends to take her family to the 'real' Lapland next year. Her final, cutting remark: 'Sod the Carbon Footprint.'

However, I am sure I am being much too critical here - every campaign is going to result in some negative coverage, especially when so much has been generated.

In terms of return on investment, the client must be extremely happy. You really cannot argue with the campaign results when it has resulted in such a high demand for tickets.

As they say, it is all about bums on seats - or in this case, bums on Santa's knee.

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