"Taking sex therapy and Relate to the high street" is how Kim Atkins, head of marketing and PR at the counselling charity Relate, describes its collaboration with Ann Summers, the lingerie and sex accessory retailer.
But the partnership has taken the charity a lot further and proved to be irresistible PR. It resulted in the publication last month of a survey of sexual attitudes called The Ann Summers Sex Census, which was reported in The Sun, the Daily Mail and The Guardian newspapers and the magazine Cosmopolitan. "We have only a small communications team and a limited charity budget, so teaming up with Ann Summers allows us to reach a whole new audience," says Atkins.
One motivation for the partnership was an attempt to change the public's perception of Relate, which has struggled to shake off the image that it is about relationship breakdown or marriage guidance only.
"Not a lot of people know about our sex therapy service," says Atkins. "The partnership gives us an opportunity to de-stigmatise counselling and get people talking about it and accepting it in their lives."
Work on the survey was shared.
Both organisations worked hard on participation, which resulted in 24,000 people filling in the survey. Ann Summers designed the survey and collated the results, while a Relate sex therapist wrote the accompanying report.
Katie Byrne, the retailer's PR manager, says: "It has allowed us to understand better what makes relationships tick." Both partners hope the Sex Census will become an annual event.