At EAST VILLAGE., we’re strong believers in the importance of prioritising wellbeing and removing the stigma of asking for help… so much so, that we’ve baked mental health support in to our TeamEV Charter. We are a team that takes the mental health – both of ourselves and others – seriously, and with stats showing that one in four of us will experience some kind of mental health problem each year, there has never been a more pressing time for others to follow suit.
We’ve long been vocal advocates for the need for timely and accessible mental health support to be available, so when Ben Howells became the CEO of Living Well UK – the Midlands’ leading consortium of mental health support charities – and asked us to help raise their profile, having worked with us in a previous role, we jumped at the chance to help.
EAST VILLAGE. was first onboarded by Living Well UK in December 2019, as the charity was embarking on two exciting new mental health support projects for 2020. These included the launch of the city’s first wellbeing pop-up shop hosted by in The Good Intent in Great Western Arcade; and the roll out of an innovative new grant-giving scheme, which included awarding those aged 14-24 grants of up to £2k and enrolment on incubator schemes, to bring their wellbeing concepts to life.
Although a well-recognised and well-respected name in the region’s mental health support circles, the Living Well UK team was all too aware that it wasn’t well-known enough by the people in the city – despite delivering help and mental health support to over 10,000 people in Birmingham and Solihull each year as a trusted referral partner for the NHS.
Therefore, as well as promoting the two projects that Living Well UK and the Living Well Consortium members were bringing to fruition, EV. was tasked with raising general brand awareness for the charity too, through consistent proactive and reactive PR stories, internal and public marketing strategies, and social media management.
As ever, our focus was on becoming an extension of the Living Well UK team; something that was even more crucial given that the charity’s marketing manager was going on maternity leave imminently. This meant jumping in with both feet: getting a comprehensive picture of who the key stakeholders were, discerning what the aims of both Living Well UK and Living Well Consortium were, and drawing up a comms plan that plotted key milestones and the opportunities and expectations around these.
When it came to putting these plans into action, we began with the Living Well UK Wellbeing Pop-up Shop. Situated in Great Western Arcade, the Living Well UK experts were keen to capture the attention – and even more importantly the footfall – of both the Colmore BID workers and the city’s shoppers. To do this, #TeamEV was on hand to ensure that a multi-channel communications campaign was employed: from consumer-facing and business-focussed press releases being issued and broadcast features with local radio and TV stations secured; through to marketing activity including designing collateral to be used as adverts on the West Midlands Metro tramline and flyers distributed both as direct door-drops to offices and on-the-ground to those walking through the arcade. We also worked closely with the Living Well UK team, as well as the delivery partners and affiliates like Lee Longlands and The Good Intent, to organise a launch event for the pop-up space, that saw press, influencers, corporates, and stakeholders invited to celebrate the opening of the space.
Following the success of the Living Well UK Wellbeing Pop-up Shop, we were keen to dive headfirst into promoting the grant-giving scheme… until a global pandemic turned everything upside down. Less than a month after the pop-up shop closed its doors, the country was plunged into a national lockdown – undoubtedly a catalyst for speeding up an already critical mental health crisis.
Overnight, Living Well UK mobilised two free and instant mental health helplines, with one specifically geared towards supporting key workers, and EAST VILLAGE. was on hand to support with raising awareness. From engaging those doing doorstep drops to include details of the helpline in their deliveries and designing infographics for GP practices to use to breakdown the referral process; to securing both regional and national coverage for the helpline and launching a social media campaign to reach as many people as possible in the city: EV. mobilised its copywriting skills, graphic design prowess, and its little black book of contacts, to get the word out that help was available.
In the first 12 months of working together, EV. worked with Living Well UK to roll out several mental health support initiatives – from provisions for African Healing Circles with Living Well Consortium member Pattigift Therapy CIC and childhood trauma therapies delivered with funding support from BBC’s Children in Need; to the debut of an online LiveChat function, connecting people in real-time to mental health support experts, and the introduction of The Therapy Room, a free online portal giving unlimited access to wellbeing videos – and now remains the Living Well UK PR and marketing partner on an ongoing basis.
EAST VILLAGE.’s work with Living Well UK has seen the charity received huge media attention to a tune of over 2.6 million media reach in 2020 alone. This saw 79 pieces of coverage achieved, including national coverage from pitching Living Well UK’s experts to the Metro, Daily Star, Stylist magazine and Restless Network, and key regional and trade titles such as Birmingham Live, What’s On Live, Charity Today, and Dluxe Magazine. The experts were also interviewed for the likes of Free Radio, Capital Radio, Heart FM, BBC WM, and Birmingham TV.
Further to this, EV.’s social media strategy saw Living Well UK’s channels amass 1.7k followers, and a reach of 484.5k and 526.6k impressions.
Ben Howells, the CEO of Living Well UK, said of working with EAST VILLAGE.:
“The coverage and outreach that EAST VILLAGE. has achieved in their first year representing us has been outstanding. Our account manager Hattie and her team have a thorough understanding of our core values and objectives which they use to create thoughtful and interesting content. Our audience numbers have increased hugely since working with EAST VILLAGE. with consistent press coverage and hundreds of thousands of social media impressions. During a year when access to mental health services has been especially crucial, EAST VILLAGE. have stepped up to ensure our message has been communicated broadly and clearly.”
Following this success, EAST VILLAGE. is now a retained comms partner for Living Well UK, and has also been commissioned to work on further projects for the charity, including leading on the delivery of it cross-party collaboration with NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG and Birmingham Mind, the ‘It’s Okay’ campaign.