Case study: Samaritans

The 'Sam' campaign aimed to boost the number of volunteers at the charity. What did our expert think?

Samaritans Sam campaign
Samaritans Sam campaign

Confidential support service Samaritans launched its 'Sam' campaign, which ran for about four months, in late September 2008. In the three years before the campaign, the charity had run campaigns to increase the number of calls to its helpline. This time, it decided to focus on volunteer recruitment instead.

- Which media were used?

The charity ran advertisements in the UK and the Republic of Ireland featuring an existing volunteer, a former volunteer and another 'ordinary' person. The campaign was featured on 200 billboards, in 10 local and national newspapers and magazines, and on 10 radio stations. It was also used on the organisation's branch materials, such as posters, leaflets and 'talent' cards - the postcards it gives its volunteers to pass on to their friends.

- Communicating the message

"There are lots of barriers that stop people volunteering for Samaritans, particularly to do with people feeling they have to be a hero or an angel," says David Stedman, communications manager at Samaritans. "What our volunteers do is amazing, but they are ordinary people and this is just something they have a passion for."

As well as putting across the message that everyone has the potential to be a volunteer, the campaign also focused on the benefits of volunteering, including learning new skills, and the range of support roles available.

- Costs and practicalities

The Vodafone Foundation covered the campaign costs of about £80,000.

- Did it work?

In the month after the campaign, enquiries about volunteering for the charity increased by more than 100 per cent. Between November 2008 and January this year, the charity received 2,300 more enquiries than it would otherwise have expected.

"We had a lot of branches report that they had to put on extra opening events to cope with the demand," says Stedman. Many also enjoyed their fullest training sessions to date, he says.

Samaritans is planning another campaign to run in January next year. Its aim this time will be to recruit night-time volunteers.

Expert view

Nicky Bullard, Head of copy, LIDA

So who's Sam? Oh, it's that bloke with the blonde hair. And apparently I could be a Sam too. Eh?

Right, now I've read the copy I get it - if you become a volunteer for the Samaritans, you become a 'Sam'.

This is a recruitment poster that, in the visual and headline, tells me nothing about the job I'll be doing. Or the amazing emotional rewards. And I probably won't have time to read the copy to find out.

It also assumes everyone's got it in them to be a Samaritans volunteer. Could all of us handle a caller saying "I want to kill myself"?

I think this is a wasted opportunity. It would have been great if the poster had attempted to strike a chord with people who do have, and already know they have, that 'I-want-to-help' gene. Still, I hope it continues to get a good response.

Score

Creativity: 2

Delivery: 2

4 out of 10

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