With growing demands on budgets and rising expectations on ever-reducing teams, it can be more important than ever to hold on to the real-life wins that rock our worlds.
by Lynsae Tulloch
Despite an irrepressible optimism that would annoy even Polyanna, it’s fair to say we professional communicators can be, on occasion, a little jaded round the edges. Planning for the next festive season in January each year can do that to a person.
While the public sector has been at the vanguard of some of the most successful and groundbreaking campaigns in recent years, it can be all too easy to become so focussed on racking up the big picture wins in the face of challenging budgets and stretched targets that we end up on the treadmill of years of empty successes.
By that, I mean when was the last time you were involved in driving forward something so fundamentally fulfilling that you wanted to shout it from the office rooftop, tag all your friends and family on Facebook and proudly own it on your Twitter feed?
As promotional professionals, outside of the annual awards season, it’s not often we are in a position to take a bow for the greater good.
But when we do, the reasons can be profound.
This festive period I’m incredibly honoured and humbled (and in all truth reduced to blubbering tears) to have played a part in bringing to life an event which reached out to a previously forgotten part of our community.
While leading commercial marketing for the University of Stirling, I was bothered by the niggle that despite delivering lifelong memories through our record-breaking festive events at the on campus Stirling Court Hotel, we were playing only to a mainstream audience.
When planning for this season’s events at the start of the year, and thanks to the relentless support of our Business Development Manager, the idea to deliver a one-off Santa Sunday Lunch specifically for children with autism and their families was mooted.
An untested market and demanding ROI could have brought the idea to its knees before we started, but the unshakeable faith that by working in partnership with local autism charities we could deliver the perfect event to an optimum guest number saw it confirmed in the 2016 Christmas brochure.
As with all new markets reach, particularly in an all but zero-budget environment, it was a hairy ride. Drawing on the genius of our business development expertise and proactive sales team activity, new audience pipelines were established. Social media also played its part, with what little budget there was used in targeted promotional posts across specific groups and geographic locations.
And then we waited for the bookings. Slowly they came at first, before gathering momentum closer to the event itself.
On Sunday 4 December 2016 the University of Stirling held its first ever Santa Lunch for children with autism. More than 25 families came along to enjoy the quiet chill out zones, face painter, a fantastic buffet lunch in a light and airy setting, fun and games in a safe and supported environment and, for these families in particular, an unforgettable visit to Santa far from the madding crowds of shopping malls and garden centres. To keep the figure meisters content, ROI targets were also smashed.
The signs are good that a similar event working with the University’s world-class Dementia Services Centre to host a unique afternoon tea specifically tailored for those with dementia and their families will also break all targets and reach new ground.
So why the gush of feel-goods for just another successful event?
While I’ve now moved on to another role, in more than 20 years of working in an industry led by words and imagery these comments from a mum on the day will remain forever amongst my most cherished:
“Usually these events are stressful for us and as such we don’t get to do them as a family. Today was very different. The setting was excellent, the staff utterly amazing. We eventually got to enjoy a day out with Santa as a family for the first time ever. For that we will never be able to thank you enough. The best gift we’ve had – both boys having the same experience and sharing it as a family.”
My new year’s resolution is to remember what a privilege it is to work in an industry where we can help make a real difference to real people, with little more than the chink of an idea, some (great) pipeline research and a lot of faith in delivering as a team for the greater good.
As 2016 draws quickly to a close, I wish you all awesome life-affirming marketing communications successes in 2017. Go get ‘em, champ.
Lynsae Tulloch is a chartered marketer and communications consultant currently working in NHS Scotland.
Picture credit: State Library of New South Wales / Flickr