Communications: Poppy Support 'is just the beginning'

Far from being just a cosmetic change, the launch of the Royal British Legion's new Poppy Support sub-brand is part of an extensive process to help more exservicemen and women gain access to its services.

"Our top priority is to address the lack of awareness of what we do, but this is only the first stage in the journey," said Sue Freeth, the legion's director of welfare. "There would be no point in launching the new brand in isolation. In order to present ourselves to the public in a more appealing way, we have had to review everything."

Before christening its welfare services as Poppy Support last week, the Royal British Legion conducted a survey of 6,500 people. This found that only 33 per cent of the public could name any of its services.

The legion also received 1,200 responses to a separate questionnaire given to former service users. This found that although 70 per cent felt the charity had helped them, 30 per cent who could have benefited from other services had not gone back.

However, Freeth denied the findings indicated that the legion's old brand wasn't working. "It's a successful brand that is recognised by most people," she said. "But because people associate it with our remembrance work, the tendency is to think of us an organisation for older people."

In order to improve the way in which the charity communicates with the outside world, it also needed to address the way it communicated internally.

"We have worked very hard on our internal communications - we shared the findings of the research with staff long before we released them," said Freeth.

"Making sure that everyone is aware of everything that's going on is always going to be a challenge in a large organisation. In order to offer a more comprehensive service, we also needed to produce new marketing materials. Images we had used before didn't reflect the wide range of ages of the people with whom we work."

As part of the charity's attempts to change public perceptions, an art installation in the shape of a giant poppy was also unveiled at London's Victoria station last week. It is made up of hundreds of pictures of people the charity has helped and will be taken on a tour of the regions.

The legion is also recruiting volunteers who will act as caseworkers, helping to identify potential beneficiaries by visiting them in their homes.

"We rely on caseworkers to help identify people in need," said Freeth. "This is why it's so important to have good marketing materials they can distribute."

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