During that memorable opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, I tweeted to Sandie Dawe, then CEO of Visit Britain, that there was a great opportunity to promote the ‘real’ countryside to overseas visitors. Over the last two and a half years, I’ve been working with Sandie, her successor and their team at Visit Britain to do just that.
The journey I’ve been on with Visit Britain started, as most things do, with a few meetings in London where all sorts of ideas were thrown around – we could work with the travel trade, some celebrities, bring all the countryside bodies in? We need a major, multi-channel campaign with business and Government backing it? We all got very excited. Then we went back to our day jobs.
I kept coming back to the idea (including on a memorable visit to Beijing with Visit Britain) that we needed to do more to promote the British countryside. Things began to crystallize with the launch of the new British tourist strategy, ‘Delivering a Golden Legacy'. In summary (and you can read the full document here http://bit.ly/1DYw6R4) the strategy was for Britain to ‘play to its strengths' – London, heritage, culture – and 'address the perceived weaknesses' – food, regions and countryside.
The discussions continued and the ideas developed. Then one afternoon I received an invitation to Downing Street, yes Number 10. Just before Christmas 2013 half a dozen of us pitched up in best suits to meet the team who run the GREAT campaign -the Prime Mnister's brand that the best of Britain is promoted through.
‘Yes’ they said, ‘we want to do a Countryside Campaign’. ‘Yes’ they said, ‘we have some money and plenty of it because we want to do it right' (£5M actually) and ‘Yes’ they said, ‘we’ll get some big British brands to back the campaign'. Then came the but. ‘But’, they said, ‘you’ve got to up your game with the way the British countryside is presented’.
The next step was to engage the talented teams at Visit Britain and their agencies and creatives. I’m really proud that to inspire them all, they all visited the Peak District and I showed them what I thought was the best we had to offer. Over the next few months the creatives got going, the planning team put together a plan and the national Visit Britain PR teams from all over the world got their plans together, culminating in a big briefing session at the Institute of Directors last autumn.
Now, it’s all happening. Some serious money (that £5M again), some serious celebrities (watch Katherine Jenkins here http://youtu.be/_XNd3I7eDsU) and some big brands are all now delivering. To get a flavour of the campaign, have a look here http://vimeo.com/117843491 at the US launch in New York in January. And Number 10 this week described the campaign, so far, as progressing well and ‘a model of the GREAT campaign’.
I’m continuing to work with Visit Britain, supporting the development of content and stakeholder management. It’s a privilege to be working on such an important project for British tourism and with such a talented group of people. Do contact me on [email protected] if you’d like more detail of this amazing campaign.