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How following in the footsteps of pilgrims proved a guidebook to PR success

In August’s Northern Insight Magazine we shared a tale of divine inspiration. A tale of how we journeyed into the foothills of Umbria to deliver award-winning PR and event management success to publicise the book launch of Cicerone‘s ‘The Way of St Francis’

Keep reading to find out more…!

It’s not often that our campaigns call for us to transport olives, coffee and religious artefacts over a thousand miles, from the hills of Italy to the hustle and bustle of the City of London. But when the Umbrian Tourist Board, Sviluppumbria, and publisher Cicerone, commissioned us to publicise the launch of ‘The Way of St Francis’ we knew that our campaign – just like the guidebook – would need to convey the charm, character and appeal of the Umbrian region.

So how hard can it be to promote a new walking guidebook that follows in the footsteps of St Francis as he walked through the stunning countryside of Italy, journeying from Florence, to Assisi and Rome. Well before we’d even taken our first steps, we’d hit a huge snag.

With plans already afoot to hold a launch event in the renowned Charing Cross branch of UK famous bookshop Foyles, it became apparent that many of the journalists we aimed to target were not based in London at all. Secondly, the author of the guide, the Reverend Sandy Brown, was only available for a couple of days. Lo and behold, an influential travel show, the World Travel Market, was being held on the same date, which we knew might affect numbers. So, our challenge was simple; to promote a media event to media who might not be able to go.

Unique challenges like this call for unique thinking. Luckily, unique thinkers are not that unique at Karol.

Karol team member Jenny Dawson who led the project, commented: “We immediately saw that we needed to devise a campaign that, first of all, would make the event as irresistible as the truffles and wines of Umbria itself. But we also needed a promotional campaign that would leave a lasting impression, so as to provide us with publicity opportunities regardless of attendance at the event.

“We searched for what made Umbria such a unique region, beyond the way of St. Francis itself and we spoke to the team at Sviluppumbria, to really get under the skin of what made their region stand out.”

Immediately, we recognised the sensory appeal of the Umbrian region, and saw that our campaign could play on the senses by transporting you to Umbria. If we couldn’t bring Mohammed to the mountain, why not bring the mountain to Mohammed – or, in this case, if the journalists couldn’t get to Umbria, why not bring Umbria to them?

To create a wow factor, we decided that our campaign activity was to be spearheaded with 100 rustic, tactile, boxed invitations sent out in the post. They’d contain representations of the very best of the region, to give the recipients just a flavour of what Umbria has to offer.

It didn’t take long for the key ingredients to reveal themselves. In fact we had made some hard choices about items to leave out. In the end, the boxes would contain rich green olive leaves, stones from Umbria and scented coffee beans with a personalised message, hand written on coffee stained parchment paper.

Luckily this left plenty of authentic food and drink from the region to serve at the event. We also created bespoke goody bags for guests, which included speciality Italian goods, a signed guidebook and a blessed Tau (T-shaped cross) from the region, to leave an impression well beyond the event.

Says Jenny: “Because of the challenges we faced, we knew that trying to entice journalists to the event would not be enough. Therefore alongside the event we partnered with both the Press Association and National Council for the Training of Journalists to offer trainee journalists an amazing opportunity – to win a trip to Umbria as a travel correspondent. Needless to say, the uptake was high!

“But we also worked closely with journalists, including those not able to attend the event, to develop packages of content that worked for them. In fact, 12 months after the event, the coverage was still rolling in!”

Say’s Stefan Lepkowski: “Jenny and her team should be rightly proud of the results they delivered, with over 3 million opportunities to see and hear generated in media outlets The Telegraph, BBC Newsnight, National Geographic Traveller, BBC Radio 4, The Sunday Times and Wanderlust. The two Chartered Institute of Public Relations Awards they scooped for their work is testament to creativity and dedication.

“Most importantly, I think we raised the bar for event and tourism PR – and we got to taste test quite a lot of nice wine too!”