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
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