By any measure, 2014 to 2015 was an extraordinary period for the eight man in-house team at Historic Royal Palaces, who manage PR, corporate communications, social media and filming activities at six attractions.
The team had to deliver campaigns for one of the most enduring commemorations of the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the poppies at the Tower of London, as well as manage activities to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Hampton Court.
As a not-for-profit organisation, Historic Royal Palaces relies heavily on visitor income and, as a result, the focus of the in-house team’s activities is to encourage ticket sales and support the organisation’s charitable cause.
The installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red involved planting 888,246 ceramic poppies in the Tower of London’s moat, each representing a British fatality. The team created a programme of announcements, visits, photography and filming opportunities, following the planting of the first poppy in July 2014. It also created digital content, such as ‘making of’ and drone footage, and promoted #TowerPoppies.
Their work led to more than 1,700 UK media reports, record breaking visitor numbers and the sale of each poppy for the benefit of five service charities.
To commemorate the 500th anniversary of Hampton Court, the team partnered with BBC on several initiatives, commissioned a three foot high white chocolate birthday cake showcasing the palace’s history and arranged several press days. Historians David Starkey and Lucy Worsley presented documentary A night at Hampton Court, which aired on BBC2 to 3.2 million viewers, while The One Show was live from the palace. There were also reports on Radio Four’s Today show, BBC London News and BBC Radio London celebrating the anniversary, alongside 16 national, 17 regional, nine local and nine magazine print features.
These activities coincided with a 15 per cent increase in visitor numbers on the month of launch, and an almost doubling of visitors over the important Easter holiday period.
Working with Manchester-based agency Smoking Gun, the team also promoted ‘Tudors on Tour’, a three day family event at Tatton Park in Cheshire to commemorate the visit of Henry VIII’s court.
The event comprised a mix of jousting, feasting and royal entertainment and a digital pop up royal palace. The team organised photography of Henry VIII visiting local landmarks, including Manchester United’s grounds and the Albert Docks in Liverpool, and hand delivering invitation scrolls to media. A cookery blogger challenge invited participants to create their own Tudor dish, while a Storytellers competition invited young people to tell a short story of Henry’s Royal Progress through any medium.
More than 90 pieces of coverage were generated, including five national piece, while social media content about the event had more than 215,000 items of engagement. More than 11,000 people also visited the event.
‘I know all these events,’ said one judge. ‘There was very high creativity and very high captivity. This was a really excellent entry. This could so easily have been very boring.’