Best practice from Lexia Media Ltd.
St John Ambulance Suffolk is a county arm of the UK’s leading first aid charity.
A volunteer organisation with a thriving adult and youth movement, it also features a commercial arm. Within this, individuals and businesses pay for first aid courses, while hospital trusts can also request support from the transport division.
To raise the profile of St John Ambulance within the local community, ahead of the planned implementation of the new national corporate identity in April 2007.
To increase newspaper cuttings referring to St John Ambulance Suffolk from virtually zero to several per month.
To seize upon potential ‘Big Idea’ concepts and use this to generate regional, and possibly even national, exposure.
By achieving the above – to increase enquiries and conversion with regards to course bookings, to increase transport division use, to drive up members and to enhance the morale of existing members.
Lexia set out to interview existing volunteers and salaried staff and to really grasp their perception of the organisation and their view of the public’s understanding of St John.
Through that, we hoped to establish a ‘media report’ system through which all members could quickly contact us with potential stories.
We also hoped to find existing story potential……and we found that within the new initiative of the St John Ambulance Suffolk Bariatric Ambulance.
Discovering that members of St John Ambulance Suffolk had just designed the UK’s first ever obese-patient-capable-ambulance, gave us a terrific opportunity for media exposure.
Obesity had just become one of the big ‘press passions’ and we were keen to latch on to this and achieve some column inches and airtime.
We set about telling the story of how St John Ambulance Suffolk had manipulated an existing ambulance to provide for the increasing number of requests to attend extremely overweight patients.
Our approach was to start with very localised regional press and to make them feel privileged in hearing this great ‘national worthy’ story at community level first.
We then released the material more widely, playing on the obesity message at all times and providing strong photography of a Suffolk man who had repeatedly been assisted by St John.
We used the success of this ‘Big Story’ to create contacts with various documentary makers who might be interested in utilising the St John Ambulance bariatric story. This has resulted in the organisation featuring on a More 4 documentary entitled Tax The Fat, and within a documentary entitled Fat Man’s Warning, for Channel 4.
Aside from the more traditional PR, we furthered our profile raising of St John Ambulance Suffolk by creating the first annual report for the organisation – which was then distributed among the business community to raise the profile and hammer home the message of a need for a continuous flow of funds.
In the main, our objective was to measure our success by charting airtime and press cuttings.
Within no time, St John Ambulance Suffolk was being written about not only in our local press (itself a massive success given the poor coverage they had previously experienced) but in tabloids like the Mirror and broadsheets like The Daily Telegraph.
As for airtime, it also achieved coverage on radio stations like Radio 5 Live and on TV channels like Sky News and the BBC.
Inevitably, this made the Suffolk media even more keen to keep abreast of St John Ambulance activity – not only with regards to the Bariatric Ambulance, but anything and everything connected with the organisation and its people!
Of course, one unexpected outcome was the great reputation Lexia gained in delivering this successful campaign.
Further evidence of our success came in an increase in the number of ambulance trusts around the UK coming to St John Ambulance Suffolk to pay their commercial arm for the bariatric-specific service.
In turn, this has prompted St John Ambulance Suffolk to commission two new purpose built bariatric vehicles to accommodate the increase in activity, as well as now adding a bariatric wheelchair and inflatable stretcher to their equipment.
Those signing up for training and for membership of the organisation has also continued to increase.
The fact that we have now been appointed by St John Ambulance Hertfordshire, St John Ambulance Buckinghamshire, St John Ambulance Norfolk and St John Ambulance London (Prince of Wales’s) District, speaks volumes about how her project activity was received.
This campaign discovered the ‘Big Story’ within an organisation which has long been seen as rather old, traditional and relatively ‘dull’.
Our activity around such a contemporary and ‘sexy’ issue meant that St John Ambulance could finally be seen as a charity which embraces the current social climate and is happy to alter its vision and direction in accordance with modern times and lifestyle demands.
This fitted perfectly with our intention to work up the profile of St John Ambulance Suffolk ahead of the new corporate identity implementation.
It meant we were able to ensure that photography emphasised the very bold paramedic-style uniforms wherever possible (getting away from the perceived ‘Salvation Army’ look), and also that we could push our youth forward as a feature of St John Ambulance to be celebrated by the media.
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