To celebrate the centenary of the Territorial Army (TA) and to help the British Army engage more with Scottish society, Brigadier David Allfrey, Commander 51 (Scottish) Brigade, came up with The Pipers' Trail. His plan was to focus on Scottish music, culture and tradition and use it as a channel to focus attention on the Army.
Brigadier Allfrey's idea was that The Pipers' Trail would cover the length and breadth of Scotland, starting in the most northerly tip of Scotland in Lerwick in mid-June and ending in Edinburgh seven weeks later. A total of 40 different towns, villages and cities would be visited and the route would be piped and drummed by the Army and civilian volunteers.
As well as the music, The Pipers' Trail would have a theme telling the story of a teenage boy and his own musical journey across Scotland.
- To celebrate the TA's centenary
- To advance the Army's standing in Scottish society
- To communicate the Army's core values
- To reinforce the Army's role and relationship with Scottish local communities
Strategy and plan
The Pipers' Trail needed buy-in from local communities, so it incorporated a number of features. The TA set up four-day piping and drumming workshops for locals who had little or no piping and drumming experience. The ones who wished to take part could then join the trail as it passed through their area. It also linked in with veteran day parades along the route, joining forces with marches across Scotland.
To set the scene and get the Army's key messages across, The Pipers' Trail Play - a 45-minute musical play - was also performed in local communities along the trail. The play was launched with a 12-day debut at the Edinburgh Fringe.
PR agencies Golley Slater and Media House were employed to build momentum within local communities as well as create media interest prior to The Pipers' Trail arriving in the towns and cities.
On-the-ground media support was provided by an Army press officer, who found case studies from the workshops and provided journalists with a spokesman when The Pipers' Trail arrived.
Importantly, having an Army press officer allowed an immediate response to quirky stories that emerged along the trail. One in particular concerned an American soldier who had been sent a 'Dear John' letter when out in Iraq, and had come to Scotland for a break. While in Scotland he learned to play the pipes, and a story was sold in by the Army's press officer to The Sun, which ran it with the heading 'Sgt Pipers' Lonely Hearts Club Band'.
Fundamental to the success of The Pipers' Trail was the website www.thepiperstrail.com (managed by Golley Slater). It was used as the portal for workshop registration, provided news updates and images, and promoted real-time geographical locations of the pipers. It also acted as the hub for all the other services used, including Bebo, Facebook, Flickr, You Tube and Google Maps.
Measurement and evaluation
The campaign generated 112 press cuttings, 95 per cent of which carried the campaign's key messages. More than 100 were from local media outlets. Of the 38 broadcast pieces, 30 were with local channels. Newsnight Scotland also carried a 10-minute interview with Brigadier Allfrey.
More than 1,000 people came to the piping and drumming workshops, more than 3,000 saw the play at the Edinburgh Fringe, and over 12, 180 visited thepiperstrail.com. More than 250,000 people watched The Pipers' Trail and saw the play along the route.
The Army is already organising a similar event as part of Homecoming Scotland 2009, and hopes it will be an annual fixture.
Cameron Grant, Director, 3x1 Public Relations
Unfortunately the Army tends to be mostly in the news for its deployment in hostile environments around the world, so it was refreshing to witness another important side of its role within our communities.
With the TA celebrating 100 years it was an admirable concept to take the sounds of the pipes and drums synonymous with the military throughout Scotland to engage with the public.
Golley Slater developed a sound PR plan, which delivered against the objectives. The combination of workshops, a theatrical play and the main focus of the marching pipes and drums visiting each location appear to have captured the media and public's imagination.
The workshops in advance of the main event stretched the longevity of media interest at each location and the high number of broadcast hits is testimony to precise forward planning. Something sadly overlooked by many.
The website directing users to Bebo, Facebook and Flickr will have enhanced the demographic reach of the campaign involving a more youthful audience. One message that I can't see any reference to is that of Army recruitment and one would suspect the majority of users of these viral services to be in the recruitment age category.
Clearly with the Army considering a similar event to celebrate Homecoming Scotland 2009, The Pipers' Trail has fulfilled its aim. For this campaign, I'm sure the team will have got a 21-gun salute.