Cause UK was tasked with delivering interim media relations for Harrogate Convention Centre at the start of March 2020. But, by March 28, the army was on site, alongside the NHS and convention centre staff, planning the transformation of the venue into a functioning NHS Nightingale hospital.
Logistically it was a remarkable task to adapt a venue the size of four football pitches. Emotionally, it was the start of the pandemic, and as the nation was ordered to stay at home the convention staff worked day and night alongside the NHS to install oxygen pipes, which ran the entire length of the building, and increase water capacity to sustain a working hospital environment.
The planned PR focus targeting the exhibitions sector quickly shifted in an intensive month. From handling persistent media enquiries to telling the positive stories of community engagement, and finally, supporting the official opening by Captain Tom Moore.
Liaising with the comms teams at the NHS and Harrogate Borough Council, we positioned the centre as a beacon during the COVID-19 uncertainty to reassure residents of the Harrogate District. Work included managing media calls for regional and national media, including the BBC, Sky and the Press Association.
On April 9, Harrogate Convention Centre lit the venue blue as part of the nationwide #lightitblue campaign, coinciding with the public campaign to #clapforourcarers. Harrogate fire crews applauded as key workers came out of the centre for the 8pm clap. It was a powerful morale boost for the staff and town. The moment was captured in an iconic photo by PA photographer Danny Lawson, and broadcast by the BBC nationally, including during the BBC Big Night In charity telethon.
With 70 pieces of coverage, online readership was estimated at 942m, not including broadcast reach (stats calculated by PR tool, CoverageBook).
We helped shape messaging and press statements with the Director of the Harrogate Convention Centre. As part of this quick moving project, Clair contacted celebrities Cause UK has worked with over the years and organised video messages of support to thank the NHS, the army, and Harrogate Convention Centre staff. Celebrities included Harry Gration, Bear Grylls, David Gandy, Patrick Stewart, Steve Backshall and Edward Fox. (with thanks to This Film )