Client: Inspire North
Inspire North’s HQ is in Leeds. The charity provides support for those affected by domestic abuse and mental health issues, as well as providing housing support across the North of England.
Inspire North has over 500 employees and 3,000 service users across all its functions. It placed 29th in the Sunday Times list of ‘100 Best Not for Profit Organisations to Work For in 2020’.
Mel & Alex:
Melanie Hill, founder of Gravity PR and Alex Mason, of Alex D Mason PR, have a modern and flexible approach to how they work together. They each have their own separate clients, along with joint ones, and they share an office in Huddersfield (along with three plants and a sofa that had a somewhat difficult journey in the back of an estate car from their local Ikea!) It works for them.
On March 23rd, just hours before UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a country-wide lockdown in response to Covid-19, Mel and Alex were approached to provide PR and media relations support for Inspire North.
The initial requirement was to raise the profile of the vital work that the charity does, but of immediate concern was how the coronavirus outbreak would affect Inspire North’s day to day services, the people it helps and how PR could be used to raise awareness of this.
Having never met in person before, and observing the home-working advice to limit the spread of the virus, Mel and Alex held a voice call with Sinead Cregan, Inspire North’s development and innovation director.
The immediate PR and communications needs were clear – there was a huge concern that, as lockdown approached, domestic violence incidents would rise as victims would be forced to spend longer than ever behind doors with their abusers. From a PR perspective, the decision was taken to push out crucial advice and information about the support available to victims during lockdown with the aim of achieving regional and national media coverage .
Key concerns around the emerging issue of victims being locked in their homes with perpetrators during lockdown were researched and turned into factual, succinct and hard-hitting key messages for a ‘media pitch’ detailing bullet points of five specific concerns. The information also included general background about Inspire North. The pitch was kept short and succinct, getting across the main facts from which the busy media could grasp the issue quickly as part of the evolving news agenda.
Alex and Mel then pushed this pitch to journalists and producers both regionally and nationally, using targeted media relations to secure interview slots and opportunities for comment for Sinead Cregan. This included maintaining a constant dialogue with journalists and providing detailed follow-up information quickly and precisely where requested, prior to print/broadcast.
Examples of the immediate media take-up:
02 April: Sinead Cregan interviewed live on the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 – circa 7 million listeners
02 April: Planned live interview with Sinead Cregan with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News – postponed
04 April: Sinead Cregan interviewed live on the Harriet Minter Show on Talk Radio circa 100k listeners
24 March (1 day into the PR contract): Interview with Sinead Cregan appears in the Yorkshire Post online: https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/health/coronavirus/leeds-charitys-fears-over-domestic-violence-spike-during-lockdown-2513893
30 March: Sinead Cregan interviewed live on the Stephanie Hirst Show on BBC Radio Leeds
3rd April: Sinead Cregan interviewed by BBC Look North, with interview broadcast on both lunchtime and teatime bulletins
Work is ongoing to gain more momentum for this important message, including key stakeholder endorsements – announcements to follow.
Sinead Cregan, Director of Development and Innovation at Inspire North, said:
“It has been an absolute joy working with both Alex and Mel especially as I have not done very much media work previously. Their proactive approach to the brief meant that we were able to get our concerns into the media really quickly and hopefully that will have made a difference to anyone affected by domestic abuse.
“As a group we took the decision to invest in a PR company and to date the return on our modest investment has been truly excellent. Alex and Mel have a great down to earth approach and we have found a way of working together whilst sat in our separate homes in the throes of the pandemic.”
These are new and testing times; organisations which already provide services for those who need it most must get vital safety messages into the public domain professionally and as quickly as possible.
Mel and Alex were able to use their combined 30 years plus PR experience to promote the message quickly, succinctly and appropriately, which has already gained excellent take up from the media in just the first two weeks of the campaign.