For the second year running, we were tasked with doing the PR for Castle Howard’s all-important Christmas season, and for the second year running Castle Howard celebrated a bumper Christmas opening, with new records set for festive afternoon teas and visits to Father Christmas, as the stately home’s Angels on High drew the crowds.
Working alongside the in-house marketing team, our remit was to help drive visitor numbers, predominantly from across Yorkshire and within a 1.5 hour drive time, and ticket sales. Our strategy was to promote Christmas at Castle Howard as more than a simple walk-through – but as an amazing day out that truly captures all the essential elements of Christmas from glorious decorations to exquisite food and essential shopping. Tactics included setting up media visits, radio and press interviews, news releases and commissioning photographs.
Key objectives for Christmas 2017 were to launch Castle Howard’s ‘boathouse Santa’, a new add-on to the Father Christmas and Santa experiences, and to build on sales of the special Festive Afternoon Tea, which launched in 2016 and for 2017 included a new menu featuring savoury dishes by Castle Howard’s head chef, and a host of new festive sweets prepared by the head pastry chef.
- Positive response to the new boathouse Santa experience led to an increase in the number of special visits to see the man in the red suit by 30% this year.
- All the Santa sessions in the main house sold out before Castle Howard opened its doors for Christmas.
- The Festive Afternoon Tea proved phenomenally popular, with a 90% increase in bookings for Christmas 2017, and superb feedback from those attending.
- The PR activity generated nearly £400,000 worth of coverage with a reach of 10 million people (excluding magazine, TV and Radio), plus special Christmas features that we set up with BBC Look North, BBC Radio York, Yorkshire Life Magazine, Homes & Antiques magazine, Georgey Spanswick show syndicated through local radio, photo of the week BBC website and Waitrose Weekend. Local and regional coverage included The Yorkshire Post to the Scarborough Evening News and the Malton Gazette to the Harrogate Advertiser Series. National coverage included The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, and the MailOnline.
- In total more than 36,000 visitors enjoyed Christmas opening at Castle Howard, with the Angels on High themed decorations in the house receiving thousands of positive comments.
This year’s success shows that visitors embraced the idea that Castle Howard delivers a unique, high quality, all-encompassing Christmas experience that is hard to find elsewhere. This helps cement Castle Howard’s aim to position its Christmas offering as among the best in the country.