The charity appeals changing with the times

31st October 2023 by Kate Logan

From the Poppy Appeal to Children in Need and Comic Relief, major fundraising events have become staples of British life.

While raising money for an array of amazing causes, they also increase awareness and bring out the best of our community spirit. But with so many charities vying for our support, the pressure is on for fundraising campaigns to move with the times and combat “donor fatigue” made worse by a cost of living crisis.

Only those with the most imaginative hooks can capture our attention. They must, of course, be social media friendly, and many are moving to become more sustainable. 2023 has so far seen the launch of the first plastic-free poppy, which followed on from plant-based red noses for Comic Relief.

Comic Relief has seen donations steadily decline since its peak of raising more than £100m in 2011. Last year’s total was just £31m, its lowest since 1997. Its campaigns however are more creative than ever.  In 2022 the charity took advantage of the “unboxing trend” – a social media phenomenon which led to toy manufacturers offering “surprise” toys with extra wrapping to conceal their products. Comic Relief cleverly concealed a range of eight surprise character noses in mini cardboard boxes, even including a “rare” rainbow chameleon, a pretext to increase demand – and no doubt the talk of every playground!

In 2023, Comic Relief moved on again to meet demand for more sustainable products and created a paper nose, designed by Apple’s former chief designer Sir Jony Ive no less, and created almost entirely from “plant-based materials, paper and love”. They also launched a new partnership with Amazon to sell the noses online, bending to meet changing shopping habits.

This year’s Poppy Appeal from the Royal British Legion has followed suit with its plastic free poppy. Three years in the making, the paper design is recyclable at home and made from renewable sources including offcuts from coffee cups. The new eco-poppy has gained widespread media coverage from the BBC and Sky News to the Guardian and the Mail Online, proving change can create headlines.

Children in Need takes place less than a week after Remembrance Sunday. Its strapline this year is “Be spotacular” which challenges people to take on various fundraising endeavours. It’s fair to say that Children in Need has cornered the market for wacky stunts and undoubtedly this year we’ll see our fair share of teachers in ice baths and school children donning Pudsey ears and PJs. While its premise has stayed true to its 1980s’ roots, with weeks of fundraising challenges still culminating in a live BBC1 appeal show, this year on November 17, the charity has evolved, particularly with its merchandise. It has its own online shop and this year’s Children in Need clothing range at Asda features 80 items, all available online.

Despite ever more inventive campaigns, it’s been a tough couple of years for charities. While the Covid pandemic threatened livelihoods, charitable donor levels were at their lowest level in a decade in 2020/21. Just 63% of the population gave to charity that year, according to Statistica, down from 75% the previous year. Figures bounced back slightly in 2021/22 to 66%.

With hopes that the country is beginning to emerge from a cost of living crisis, it remains to be seen whether the overall decline in the number of people giving to charity can be reversed. Either way, charities will need to continue to be on-point with their marketing campaigns to gain their share of donations.   

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Cause celeb – adding star quality to campaigning

24th August 2023 by Rachael Bruce

THE power of celebrity is much more than drawing crowds to theatres and cinemas or helping to market a product.

Big names in film, TV, music and sport are using their star status for good.

From free school meals to animal rights and gender equality, with a celebrity championing your cause you can reach the masses.

Often, the famous faces are simply lending their name to a grassroots campaign that resonates with their personal values and sharing content to help inspire others.

This free publicity is worth much more than the price of a sponsored or boosted post to those causes as it helps them reach those they wouldn’t otherwise and at little or no cost to either party.

Last year, Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals was named the campaign of the decade.

The UN has long embraced the power of celebrity to support its campaigns. Former Harry Potter star Emma Watson advocates gender equality and fronted the UN’s HeForShe campaign.

In December, after more than 20 years in the role, actress Angelina Jolie stepped down from working with the UN Refugee Agency to work with organisations led by people most directly affected by conflict.

Joanna Lumley has lent her name to various causes including helping Gurkhas who retired before 1997 win the right to settle in the UK and calling for a stop to the clearance of unexploded ordnance damaging marine life.

Camp Beagle is the longest running animal rights protest camp in history and has embraced the power of celebrity at various levels. Last year, singer Will Young joined their campaign when he chained himself to the gates of a breeding facility, while more recently protestors were joined by Babe Station stars wearing bikinis.

But it’s the recent backing of actor Tom Hardy that’s made a significant difference to their fight for animal rights.

Within 24 hours of him sharing a link on Instagram to a petition to end animals being used or toxicity testing around 20,000 signatures were added. The star continued to push the message out to his nine million Instagram followers, thanking them for their supporting and encouraging more people to sign, even after the 100,000 target was reached.

This week saw the launch of Equity’s “Green Rider” campaign to cut the environmental impact of celebrity riders. Dubbed the ‘no jet’ set by the Guardian, it’s received the backing of more than 100 actors, including Gemma Arterton, David Harewood and Bill Nighy. The idea is that instead of asking for single colour sweets or a private jet, contracts should focus on “positive influence” and “not climate-damaging perks”.

For brands, unless a star uses their product, receiving a celebrity endorsement free of charge is unlikely. As with personal appearance fees, the cost of a sponsored post is likely to increase with the star’s status.

Influencers or micro-influencers are a great lower cost alternative to the traditional icons when it comes to promoting your business. Better still, your genuine customers who have real life experience of your product or service, are perfectly placed to spread the word.

If your marketing campaign is in need of some star treatment, contact us .

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Why planning a marketing campaign is like planning a holiday

16th August 2023 by Rachael Bruce

Schools and parliament are enjoying their summer recess. News websites and social media accounts are full of travel warnings and reminders about when to renew your passport. You’re lucky if one in four emails doesn’t generate an out of office autoreply advising that the person you’re trying to contact is on holiday. Officially it’s silly season. The time when journalists perhaps run stories that would otherwise be ignored in favour of hard news. In fact, with a question mark over whether a bear in a Chinese zoo is real, it would appear that news sense has gone on holiday.

When it comes to planning a marketing campaign, there are in fact parallels with planning a holiday.  Read on to find out why.

  1. Budget: Knowing how much you have to spend is important and can help focus ideas. If you’re budget is more weekend in Blackpool than a five-star all-inclusive trip to the Bahamas, you’ll need to plan accordingly. Low-fi social media content filmed and edited on a phone could provide a cost-effective alternative to enlisting a production crew to script, film and edit your owned content. With the right message and content, you may even be able to secure earned media coverage from your customers, journalists or influencers.
  2. Research: Checking what the weather is like where and when you want to travel, along with reviews of hotels and other facilities in that area are important when thinking of booking a holiday. Similarly, knowing your audience and how best to reach them is crucial to a successful marketing campaign.
  3. Packing:  Packing your suitcase for holiday is like preparing your assets for a successful marketing campaign. It doesn’t matter if your suitcase is ready weeks or minutes before it’s time to leave, what matters is what’s inside. For a well-executed marketing campaign, you’ll need a mix of assets for different media channels. This may be as simple as reformatting for different platforms or it could be changing the tone and creative completely to target different demographics.It’s important that your assets are on brand and that every detail is correct before you go live with your campaign, just as you’d check you have your passport and it’s in date before heading to the airport.
  4. Timing:  There are two types of traveller – those who arrive at the airport hours ahead of their flight time to allow for delays at security, duty free shopping and people watching and those who race through the terminal and arrive at the gate just as it closes.  Some brands are still working on their summer 2023 campaigns, while others are already planning for Christmas and beyond. There is no right or wrong time. The advantage of the digital age is that while deadlines still exist and can help focus efforts, we’re not as tied to timing as we were when print was the primary medium. Social media channels will even recommend the best time to post based on when your audience is active.

If you need some help planning your next marketing campaign, think of us like a travel agent. Yes you could plan your next trip yourself, booking everything from travel and accommodation to excursions direct, but why not leave it to the experts. Our services include press release and copywriting, social media management, event planning and more. Contact us to find out how we can help.

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Why it’s time to take your comms back to basics

29th June 2023 by Rachael Bruce

When it comes to developing a communications strategy, there are no hard rules and it’s not a case of one-size-fits-all. The sheer volume of different channels now available to communicate with your business, your peers, existing and potential customers, plus the media can seem overwhelming. With society increasingly time poor, good communication is key to delivering your brand’s message.

Read our guide to improving your communication.

  1. Keep it real and explain in simple terms. The quote ‘if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough’ is often attributed to Albert Einstein. Ensuring your message is easy to understand is important. Complicated sentences should be avoided. Break it down so it’s easy to digest. A listicle is a great way to organise the points you want to convey.
  • Go back to basics. Explain why something is a good idea rather than the intricacies of your industry. Avoid jargon as it may confuse the lay reader. Instead use phrases that are more widely understood.
  • Cause and effect. Be transparent and explain why you’re doing something. People want to know how something will affect them – how will they benefit, what will it cost them or how they will save.
  • Be solutions focused. Highlight how you’re overcoming an issue or addressing a need. Make technical challenges and, details of any solutions, easy for consumers to understand.
  • Tell a story that resonates. When I was a journalism student at the University of Central Lancashire, a lecturer instructed us to think about how we’d tell our mates at the pub about something when we were writing a news story. The same principle can be applied to writing media releases or social media posts.
  • Back up your claims. Use statistics to support your case. This could include a consumer survey you’ve commissioned or the results of your product being tested.
  • Know your audience. Adapt your tone and choice of language depending on who you’re communicating with, the medium you’re using and the message you’re sharing.
  • Photography and videography. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million. Still and moving images, either real or virtual reality, help illustrate what you’re trying to explain and are a great visual aid. Adding captions to photography or videography can reinforce your messaging, particularly on social media.
  • Speak up. Have people who are prepared to stand up and speak out on behalf of your business. While the written word can be carefully considered and proofread, sometimes it’s good to talk. Having briefing notes before picking up the phone or dialling into a video call will help keep you on brand and on message.

If you need support in developing a communications strategy, including social media along with traditional media, contact us to find out how we can help.

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The Value of Volunteering

25th May 2023 by Rachael Bruce

The gift of our time is perhaps one of the easiest yet most valuable things we can give to others.

Volunteers Week (June 1 – 7) recognises the contribution volunteers make across the UK. Now in its 39th year, this year’s theme is ‘Celebrate and Inspire’ with the aim of encouraging more people to take up volunteering.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ Community Life Survey found the proportion of the UK population who had volunteered at least once a month in 2021/22 was 16%. This was down from about 23% in 2019/20.

I currently volunteer as a befriender for Age UK. I was asked recently how I found time with a full time job, but it’s only a couple of hours out of my week and is as simple as being a friendly face for someone who’s lonely to chat to.

Previously I helped children living in family hostels run by the Whitechapel Centre, a homelessness charity in Liverpool, with their homework.

As part of the Coronation celebrations, people were encouraged to join the Big Help Out to support good causes in their communities. The Prince and Princess of Wales and their children joined volunteers at Upton Scouts Hut in Slough earning the Scouts widespread media coverage.

At Active PR colleagues are encouraged to pursue volunteer roles and we can offer flexibility to help them fulfil these commitments. Two of my colleagues volunteer for Home-Start Flintshire, which helps to support local families with children.

We also encourage our clients to play an active role in the communities they operate in. Lending a hand by sharing practical skills can often go much further than a financial donation, while also contributing to corporate social responsibility goals.

Helping someone in even the smallest ways has a feel-good factor for both parties. There is of course PR potential in helping good causes.

People will talk about the help they’ve received or given more openly and widely than a cash gift. Doing something practical also provides better photo opportunities than a financial contribution.

Several of our housebuilder clients have carried out garden makeovers for charities, schools and other community groups. Feedback is that these projects have helped with teambuilding, bringing together people from various departments. In some cases a one-off visit has developed into long-term volunteering.

If you’re feeling inspired to be active in your community, check out Becoming a volunteer – Volunteers’ Week (

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The recipe for a great event!

24th April 2023 by Philippa Probert

The sunny spring days we’ve had recently are giving us glimpses into the fast-approaching summer months, and with that comes lots of outdoor event planning for our clients here at Active PR.

We’re asked to arrange events for a whole host of reasons; show home openings, development launches, community celebrations, company milestones and charity events, so I think it’s safe to say we have become event experts over the years. But what’s the perfect recipe for a successful event?

  1. Identify the audience

Knowing exactly who will be at the event may sound like an obvious one but we have attended events in the past where the audience hasn’t been catered for properly. And we don’t even just mean with food options! Development launches or show home openings tend to attract families so make sure that there is something there to entertain the kids. Face painters, balloon modellers, craft activities are all bound to be a hit with younger visitors. We find that having some sort of competition on the day too works well. You could ask guests to share photos of themselves in the show homes on social media or share a photo of their favourite part of their day with a hashtag. It’s great to be able to look back at photos that have been shared by people who had a great time at your event.

  • Have a back-up plan

If planning an event runs smoothly, you are winning! But a hiccup or two is common, which is why it’s always good to have a back-up plan. That could be having another supplier lined up to contact if you’re let down on the day by the booked supplier. Or having indoor options as well as outdoor options just in case the weather takes a turn for the worse!

  • Check, check and check again

Once you’ve booked your suppliers and confirmed everything, check all the details again. Check the date and timing is correct. Check the venue address is listed correctly. Check the number of items ordered (such as the number of cupcakes isn’t 5 instead of 50!). You don’t want to discover something has gone wrong on the day and it ends up being down to a small mistake that could have been easily rectified if you’d checked beforehand.

  • Ask for feedback

After the event, we always like to ask for some feedback from our clients and suppliers to see if anything might work better next time. It also allows us to manage client expectations and be even more prepared for organising a similar event in the future.

If you have an event that needs planning and want seasoned professionals to take charge, get in touch today!

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