The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – New look for the Birthplace

We found that Phillips Profile provide impartial advice on how best to promote our activities in a far larger sphere than we have the time to focus on.

Director, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

A co-ordinated PR campaign culminating in a major launch to a global audience

Client

A major refurbishment of Shakespeare’s Birthplace was undertaken in September 1999 and completed in time for Shakespeare’s birthday in April 2000. At the heart of the project was a re-display of the rooms, including some internal alterations, designed to give a more accurate and vivid idea of how the Shakespeare family home would have looked when William was growing up there. A team of specialists was involved in the project and every effort was made to carry out the project imaginatively and with historical authenticity.

Type

Retainer

Services

Event management, Media Relations, Stakeholder relations

Brief

  • To make people already familiar with the Birthplace aware of the extent of the refurbishment and reassure them of its authenticity
  • To create awareness of the Birthplace’s existence amongst prospective new visitors
  • To celebrate the rich and living spirit of Shakespeare’s Birthplace

And as secondary objectives:

  • To raise awareness of the four other houses in the Trust’s care
  • To raise the profile of the Trust itself as guardian of these properties

Strategy

Given the worldwide interest in Shakespeare, the press list that was drawn up for this project was extensive including national television and radio, national newspapers – news, arts and travel correspondents – general interest magazines, travel magazines, history and heritage magazines, newspapers and broadcasters in Europe, the USA and Japan.  The sheer number of journalists to be contacted posed problems for the relatively small team and it was decided to ensure quality coverage by focusing on a small number of targeted journalists in addition to keeping everyone informed of progress on the project.

The Sunday Times magazine was approached and agreed to follow the entire refurbishment project from the start.  Photographs of the various specialist craftsmen working, were taken at each stage and interviews were conducted with the Director of the Trust and the Curator.  It was agreed that the article would appear in the magazine on the weekend following the re-opening thus ensuring that other newspapers were not pre-empted, even though they had not enjoyed the same level of access.

The BBC programme, Blue Peter, was also contacted with a proposal to run a competition for children to design a new flag to mark the re-opening.  The prize was to have the winning child’s flag made and hoisted at the re-opening ceremony.  A total of four Blue Peter programmes featured coverage of the Birthplace – announcing the competition, announcing the winner, and culminating in a live broadcast of the entire programme from the garden of the Birthplace on the day of the re-opening.

A competition offering the prize of a weekend in Stratford with a personal guided visit to the Birthplace was also arranged with Classic FM.

Regular updates on the progress of the project were issued and local television, radio and newspapers were contacted early to ensure that their requirements on the day of the re-opening were met.  International media were contacted via distribution of the main press release in four languages – French, Spanish, German and Japanese.  A photo agency was appointed to take the press photos of the event to facilitate rapid distribution of the images to the press.

Finally, Dame Judi Dench and her husband Michael Williams were invited to perform the opening ceremony.  As high-profile actors, with well-known links to Shakespeare, their involvement guaranteed media interest in the event.

Result

In addition to the live broadcast on Blue Peter, both BBC and the local ITV station sent television crews.  Both local radio stations covered the story as did all the local Stratford papers.  The Birmingham Post devoted a double page spread to the re-opening and The Times, Independent and Daily Telegraph all featured prominent stories.

 

The Sunday Times magazine article was five pages long with full colour images of the interior of the Birthplace.  The London Evening Standard and The New York Times ran the story which was also picked up in France, Germany, Japan and across the USA.  A photograph of the re-opening even made it into Hello magazine.