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The veterans’ charity Help for Heroes is a household name, known for the valuable work it does helping people who have served their country return to civilian life – often while living with physical injury or mental health challenges. 

The charity recognised that although its fundraising was successful, the public didn’t always make the connection between the “pound in the bucket” they donated and the individuals and programmes that gift supported. 

The communications team at Help for Heroes approached Polymedia with a broad brief – how could they reinforce that connection in the public consciousness? 

The result was the charity’s most successful campaign ever – reaching hundreds of millions of people nationwide through a viral social media sensation, national media and TV coverage, and the charity’s social channels and website. 

The concept 

Polymedia developed a campaign under the banner Facing It Together. The concept was simple – to put people who had donated to Help for Heroes opposite people who had benefited, briefed them about each other, and then let them chat naturally. 

After seeing concept designs, the team at Help for Heroes loved the idea and tasked Polymedia with delivering it.  

The pairings were identified and put together during a day’s filming. The results were compelling – each beneficiary opened up about how the charity had helped them, while “their” supporter gave their reasons for wanting to help.  

The conversations were videoed, and the pairings were also captured in evocative stills by a renowned photographer who was himself a war veteran. Footage was edited into full interviews, shorter teasers and social media snippets. Press releases and online written content was also produced to support the campaign. 

One pairing stood out – five-year-old Tempy Pattinson, who had raised £200 through a swim and bike ride, with army veteran Simon Brown, who lost an eye in a sniper attack while serving in Iraq. Their bond was so strong and touching that it was decided that theirs would be the showcase video to lead the campaign. 

The campaign rollout 

The campaign launched with Si and Tempy’s video appearing on the Help for Heroes Facebook account. The charity had set 50,000 views as a good target for views, based on experience of previous campaigns. 

It was posted at 7pm, and by 10.30pm had achieved 300,000 views – increasing to 500,000 views by morning.  

Polymedia’s rollout strategy was to wait until the post had gone ‘viral’ before pitching this as the hook to key national media. Following the national rollout would come the targeted regional releases, local radio and specialist outlets such as Forces TV. 

Coverage and views 

The results of the campaign were phenomenal. The Si and Tempy video first appeared on The Sun’s website, followed by Mail Online and the Mirror. Viral social accounts LadBible and UniLad were next -each with followers numbering in the millions. 

Regional online publications and broadcast followed – BBC Radio Leeds, for example, interviewed Si live at lunchtime, reaching about 78,000 listeners. 

As interest snowballed online, with the video now reaching five million views, the story became national TV news. ITV News featured it in daytime bulletins and on News at 10, and requests from ITV’s This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Breakfast followed. Si and Tempy were featured on This Morning, interviewed by Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Lansford. Meanwhile, views of the video on social media continued to rocket, fuelled by the coverage and reaching around 40million on Facebook alone. 

The results 

Facing It Together was a runaway success, but behind the impressive statistics were key messages that succeeded in delivering to the Help for Heroes brief. Millions of viewers saw the bonds between supporters and beneficiaries – not just Si and Tempy, but also a variety of other pairings who shared an equally strong connection. 

Help for Heroes reported a nine per cent increase in dwell time on its main website, a 35 per cent increase month on month in new beneficiaries coming forward, and a 47 per cent increase in event registrations. 

Even though fundraising was not a goal of the campaign, an unexpected £12,000 in donations arrived as a result of it. 

The campaign also achieved industry recognition, as a finalist in the Integrated Communications of the Year category in the PR Moment Awards, which celebrate excellence and recognise outstanding campaigns in the UK PR and communications sector.