A Rail Adventure
By Jane Ainsworth on 25th January 2018
A little over a year ago, WPR won a last-minute consumer brief from the Rail Delivery Group to increase sales of the 16-25 Railcard during its peak selling period of September and October. The subsequent campaign went on to win three awards – two for consumer relations, and one for media relations.
Below you can find out what we did and what we went on to achieve. We hope it provides some inspiration as and insight as it went on to prove the true value of PR – at a time when measurement is such a hotly debated topic.
The 16-25 Railcard is one of the many Railcards managed by National Rail, on behalf of the train companies. It costs £30 a year and gives 1/3 off most rail fares in Britain for passengers aged 16-25 and mature students in full-time education.
This was a challenging brief. Firstly, we had tough coverage targets but no news story. The Railcard had been on the market, unchanged, for over 30 years. There was simply nothing new to say.
Secondly, the Railcard, whilst receiving regular traction with product placement opportunities in mainstream media was (unsurprisingly) failing to make an impact with 16-25 year olds.
Finally, we had just six weeks to set a strategy, formulate a creative campaign, agree tactics, budgets, and deliver all aspects in full, to ensure the Rail Delivery Group could take full advantage of the core late September to early October peak selling period.
Strategy and Research
While Railcards as a subject aren’t particularly interesting to our millennial audience, the overall theme of travel clearly is – so positioning the card as an enabler of travel had to be central to our strategy. The question was how to package ‘travel by Railcard’ in a way that would appeal to viral sharing sites such as LADBible – our bullseye media.
Peer endorsement was also fundamental if we were to translate brand awareness into actual sales. We needed user-generated content at the heart of our campaign.
And so, we created a new job – Britain’s first ever Chief Adventure Officer (CAO).
The ultimate part-time role to become a 16-25 Railcard CAO. This person got paid a £10,000 salary to travel around Britain for a year, using their 16-25 Railcard, and vlog their experiences. This ensured talkability and engagement around the launch of our campaign during the peak sales season, and also ensured longevity throughout the academic year.
The campaign fell into three distinct phases:
- Job launch and recruitment.
- Shortlist announcement and voting.
- Winner announcement.
The target was to deliver:
- One article in top tier media (a viral sharing site).
- Three articles in wider core media (millennial titles).
- Fifteen articles targeting parents of 16-25 year olds (national, regional and local media).
- Targeted to deliver at least one piece of coverage on a top tier viral sharing site, we hit gold with coverage on both TheLADBible (with 28m followers on Facebook, 52% of their audience aged 18-24) and Unilad (with 24m Facebook followers).
- The Unilad coverage alone was shared 1,100 times across social.
- Challenged to deliver three articles in wider millennial media, we delivered 10 times that, with 30 media hits across online titles including huffingtonpost.co.uk (twice), dailymail.co.uk, theguardian.com, the sun.co.uk (twice), aol.com, msn.com, metro.co.uk, fella.com, cosmopolitan.co.uk, lonelyplanet.co.uk, look.com, mirror.co.uk, gosocial.com, thenationalstudent.co.uk, styleetc.co.uk, udsu.co.uk and fashioninsight.co.uk
- The article on metro.co.uk was shared a staggering 1,900 times and carried three brand mentions.
- The dailymail.co.uk ran a profile of each of our finalists.
- The Huffington Post carried both a news article announcing our winner, and a by-lined blog penned by the lucky applicant,.
- The winner also had an extended interview in The Sun.
- Asked to deliver 15 regional articles, we exceeded our target seven times over. Regional coverage included the Daily Record, Yorkshire Post, Scottish Sun, Nottingham Post and Leicester Mercury (to name a few). Coverage targeting the parents of 16-25-year olds didn’t end there. We also generated coverage in the Daily Express, Prima, Discover Britain, the Independent and the Sunday Independent.
- Thanks to the online buzz and media attention, 763 16-25 year olds submitted video applications, generating 43,000 organic video views. The five finalists also received 12,597 votes between them.
Our aim was to increase unique users and website sessions to the 16-25 Railcard website, during the campaign, by 10%. Instead:
- Unique visitors increased by 21% (over 140,000 more than the same period the year before).
- Sessions increased by 18.62% (nearly 200,000 more than the same period the previous year).
- The campaign landing page also had the longest dwell time of any page on the 16-25 Railcard website.
- The number of people arriving at the site via organic search (from increased brand awareness) grew by 18.65%, the transactions from organic search also increased by 26.85% during the campaign period.
- People weren’t just searching for more information on the Railcard, they were buying them too.
- The first week of the campaign was the highest performing sales week of 2016.
- For every £1 spent on PR we were able to show a further £3.60 in sales.
The author: Jane Ainsworth is managing director of WPR. She has over 20 years’ experience in developing and delivering communications strategies for consumer brands including Dunelm, Tesco, Mothercare, Greene King, John Lewis, Bullring, Beaverbrooks and Westfield