CAMPAIGNS: Charity; A helping hand in one number

client: The Samaritans PR team: In-house team Campaign: One Number Timescale: Four months Cost: pounds 100,000 including PR and advertising by Ogilvy & Mather.

client: The Samaritans

PR team: In-house team

Campaign: One Number

Timescale: Four months

Cost: pounds 100,000 including PR and advertising by Ogilvy & Mather.

The Samaritans has been saving lives for 42 years, since its first

branch opened in the City of London. Today it has a national network of

202 branches, manned by 22,350 volunteers receiving 3.75 million

contacts a year from people in distress. An attempt was made to ease

this huge volume by introducing, on 2 November 1995, a single number

for callers from anywhere in the country, charged at a local BT rate.

The linkline system alleviates pressure on the busiest branches by

transferring calls to one nearby.


To imprint the One Number - 0345 90 90 90 - on public perception; to

explain the way calls are routed; to appeal for more volunteers, and to

raise cash, with a target of pounds 5 million to fund the One Number for

the next five years.


The in-house team, based in the Samaritans’ headquarters in Slough,

started planning a year ago for the launch of the 0345 90 90 90 number.

The publicity campaign’s budget was set at pounds 100,000: the biggest

in the Samaritans’ history.

The PR team, including communications manager Paul Farmer, and press

officer Emma Borton, inundated 2,000 publications and radio and

television programmes from early summer with information on the 0345 90

90 90 number. Consumer mags were invited to talk to a volunteer during a

night shift and to profile Simon Armson, chief executive of the

Samaritans. Community Service Announcements were sought, with LWT

providing a real winner by including a slot during Blind Date at peak

time. This brought in 350 enquiries from potential volunteers.

In the run up to the press conference on 2 November, a pack containing

media ideas, questions and answers was sent to every branch. Media

training was provided at regional meetings of branch publicity officers

and an expert in broadcasting ran a session on radio interviews during a

training weekend.

The campaign slogan ‘whatever you’re going through, we’ll go through it

with you’ was paraded on advertisements. On the One Number Day - 2

November - the Duchess of Kent, who has been a Samaritans volunteer,

took centre stage at a press conference at St Stephen’s Church, Walbrook

in the City of London. She was accompanied by the Reverend Chad Varah,

who founded the charity exactly 42 years earlier, to make the first

call, which was broadcast on Radio 5 Live.


Media coverage began with a prominent picture story in The Times and BBC

TV news bulletins. Agony aunts published the number along with features

and several hours of radio coverage were achieved. An interview with

Armson on BBC Radio 4’s You & Yours preceded the press conference and an

interview that the Duchess gave with Trevor McDonald and Simon Armson

for the Jimmy Young Show was broadcast almost simultaneously on Radio 2.

In the first ten days 12,000 callers used 0345 90 90 90. Ongoing

publicity is keeping the number in the public domain. Direct mailshots

to donors with envelopes stating ‘Please open immediately - time

sensitive material’ resulted in a total of pounds 58,000 in donations

within ten days.


The key message - that 0345 90 90 90 is a single, easy-to-remember

number has been taken to heart. The launch day highlighted the need for

pounds 5 million to back the single number for the next five years. An

estimated four million calls are anticipated for 1996. ‘Someone takes

their own life every two hours in Britain,’ said Paul Farmer. ‘We want

to dent that figure and the campaign has set the standard for future


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