Client Profile

By The Drum, Administrator

October 27, 2006 | 8 min read

It’s unlikely that Richard Hammond had much time to consider Newton’s third law of motion as his 300-mph rocket car left the runway at Elvington airfield near York. The thing that was primarily going through his head was his brain as it was chucked about like a blancmange in a tumble dryer. If, however, he did have time to ruminate over what the equal but opposite reaction to all that rampantly unbridled kinetic energy might be, he may have allowed himself a brief smile before he was wedged upside down in the sodden Yorkshire turf.

The reason for this small snatch of pleasure would have been all the good he was about to bestow upon one of the county’s highest profile, but criminally under-funded, charities; Yorkshire Air Ambulance, as all that rapidly dissipating energy was set to be channelled straight into its fundraising drive.

As you may be aware by now, as soon as news of the crash and subsequent rescue by the YAA filtered out to the readers of they set up a Just Giving webpage to raise funds for the charity by way of thanks. As Hammond’s life appeared to be hanging in the balance, this took on one of its own, racing to almost £150,000 within the first few days. Although this figure’s acceleration has since levelled off, and indeed partially come off the track itself, as the much-publicised £50,000 anonymous donation failed to materialise, it’s still climbed to the dizzy heights of £177,000. Which is better, as they say, than a kick in the knickers.

Anyway, all this frenzied activity has meant that Hammond’s world wasn’t the only one that was turned upside down on Wednesday 20th September; Martin Eedes, the CEO of YAA, appears to be suffering from the effects of shock himself.

“You know it’s a bit like riding the tiger,” imparts the jovial, yet still slightly incredulous Eedes. “But a medium sized charity like ours will only get that sort of opportunity once in a blue moon and you have to use the moment.”

Eedes has certainly being doing just that, seizing the day and appearing media-wide on everything from national TV to local newspapers, driving home the message that the YAA needs over £3,500 of funding every day just to stay airborne. And if he’s appeared like the consummate professional while doing it, then that’s no accident.

“Since I came on board here I’ve pushed the fact that we all need to get to grips with media training,” he explains. “Working with the media is the oxygen of charities and if you can’t hack it you shouldn’t be there, or you should get someone in who can.

“I have a little saying that I use: profile equals influence equals income. The higher your profile, the more notice people take and income reflects that. We know that we manage to get more publicity than any other charity in Yorkshire, and reflecting back I think we had more publicity than any other charity in the UK for about two weeks. It’s difficult to overstate how much that’s helped our cause.”

In terms of awareness, it’s certainly catapulted them up, up and away straight into the firmament. The YAA website stats provide compelling evidence of that.

“It’s been absolutely astonishing,” concurred Eedes. “We normally have 5,700 hits a day and the day after the Richard Hammond incident we had 157,000 hits. We then ran at 9,600 hits an hour for that weekend and more of them were coming from the US than the UK. I don’t know the latest figures, but it’s still running very very high.”

Eedes notes that this has helped the charity re-assess the power of the internet and the audiences it’s capable of attracting, helping YAA to reach a younger age group that doesn’t fit its regular ‘grey’ donor profile. “We’ll be looking at exploring new ways of doing things,” he admits. “To make the most out of all the available mediums. That is one of the great things about the incident: it’s brought new money and new audiences into the giving arena.”

Hearing Eedes enthuse about the after effects of the crash, it’s difficult to resist proffering that Richard Hammond isn’t the only one that’s been lucky. The good natured, yet brazenly committed, CEO is as honest as he is unabashed to admit to this.

“One of my colleagues in another air ambulance service said this is the job we’ve all been waiting for, and they were absolutely right,” he says.

“Obviously our first thought was about him and his family, we weren’t going to go chasing the helicopter with a collecting tin, but we do have the long-term future of the organisation to think of. Of the £1.3million that we need to keep operating every year, 92 per cent of that has to come from charitable donations, so if some good can come out of the accident in respects of that fundraising we’re not going to turn our backs on it.”

A lot of good has clearly come from YAA’s response to the Top Gear filming smash, chiefly that the Hamster is looking fit enough to get back on his wheels at some point soon. However, it’s not all positive for the charity itself and Eedes is quick to postulate over the potential pitfalls.

“It’s vitally important how we manage the next phase,” he considers, with some concern. “As the downside is that people think the Richard Hammond appeal has made us rich and we’re definitely not. All the money raised from that will be going into a capital fund to get the second helicopter that is desperately, desperately needed. That in itself will create its own problems as another helicopter will effectively double the operational funds we need, so it’s crucial that we can maintain the cash flow coming in.”

In an effort to do this, the YAA has filmed - with a little help from its friends - its very first TV campaign, set to launch regionally on November 1st. This is completely separate from the post-300mph off road excursion activity and has been planned months in advance to keep the cycle of giving in motion.

“It’s basically a reminder to people that we have to meet the costs or the air ambulance won’t be flying,” Eedes explains. “The 1,000 people that we help each year won’t receive our assistance and as a result of that a lot of them might not be as lucky as Richard Hammond was. We need to reinforce the fact that we are not a rich charity and every penny that we make is re-invested directly back into the service. That’s the crux of the campaign.”

Thankfully the generosity of two local marketing services agencies has ensured that the campaign has got off the ground with the minimal possible costs. Poulter Partners and The Mob Films North have both given their time and services absolutely free to create, shoot and develop the ad, and Eedes’ response to their largesse is swift and forthcoming.

“I really can’t thank them enough for all their time and effort,” he says. “Poulters have been working with us now for about a year and have been absolutely fantastic; very thorough and very creative. It’s great that The Mob have come on board too, it’s enabled us to target a new medium that gives us access to new markets. We always notice an upsurge in giving when we’ve appeared on TV before and now we’ll actually have our own campaign to help us take advantage of that.”

Unfortunately the media spots were not without cost across Yorkshire and Tyne Tees, but YAA did receive a special charity package that helped pare back the expenditure. Even so, the expense all comes out of the pot brandished to keep the copters in the air, leading the quick thinking Eedes to formulate a new plan to safeguard the coffers. “I know,” he says with a closing grin. “We’ll keep our eyes open and rescue the head of one of the main commercial broadcasters. Do you think that’d help?”

With the ever resourceful Eedes on board, it’s doubtful that YAA’s life support machines will ever be short of the ‘media oxygen’ they so crucially require.


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