Orange Stairs, a project of the corporate foundation of CEZ, the Czech utility company, aims to help elementary and secondary schools with eliminating structural barriers. Our intensive PR campaign launched Orange Stairs into major national media (television, radio, print, internet), drew attention to the societal issue of physical barriers in schools and put the CEZ Foundation into limelight as an expert authority in this area. The campaign whose external costs did not exceed CZK 10,000, did not use any celebrity endorsement – only a set of statistics about the disconcerting situation in Czech schools with regard to accessibility, and a powerful personal story of a boy in a wheelchair, whose life was changed by Orange Stairs for the better. We succeeded in instigating a public debate about the new issue – accessibility in Czech schools. Furthermore, Orange Stairs became one of the most publicised corporate philanthropy projects in 2010.
The Orange Stairs grant was for the first time made available by the CEZ Foundation (a corporate foundation of the power company CEZ) in 2010; elementary and secondary schools may apply for funding to purchase equipment to improve accessibility (elevators, stair lifts, etc.). AMI Communications’ brief was to design a communication strategy which would propel the project into the regional and national media with minimal budget requirements. There was a concern that the media will ignore Orange Stairs because it is a grant scheme of a corporate foundation, namely the foundation of the largest Czech power utility.
AMI Communications deployed a strategy that combined a personal and touching story with hard facts and opinions of stakeholders illustrating and describing the serious and so far neglected problem in the Czech society. The strategy is based on the following pillars:
? Build a powerful story and turn a thirteen year old boy in a wheelchair into a celebrity
David, who is thirteen and in a wheelchair, goes to a grammar school that is not barrier-free. Older students or teachers must carry David up the stairs. In spring 2010, the school applied for a grant from Orange Stairs, and from 1 September David has been rolling around the school without assistance.
? Without putting the CEZ Foundation in the forefront, to draw attention to the issue, and to the foundation’s project that presents a solution only in the second plane.
On the one hand, elementary and secondary schools try to integrate disabled pupils and students into regular schooling, but on the other hand, the majority of schools are not barrier-free. The staff often has to carry disabled students up and down the stairs. There is no law that would put schools under the obligation to remove structural barriers.
The Campaign Layout
The PR campaign for Orange Stairs consisted of two main phases:
1. Data collection
? Hard data collection – in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and the Czech Statistical Office
? Soft data collection – interviews with school representatives, parents of disabled children and with disabled children themselves
We collected data about the integration of the disabled, number of barrier-free schools and about the applicable legislation. Teachers and disabled students told us how they cope with barriers in schools, and how much a lift or a platform would help them. Using this wealth of information we wrote content for the media which was packed with new and interesting facts.
? Press breakfast
o We informed the press about the accessibility situation in Czech schools and about potential solutions – including Orange Stairs
o Speakers were not only representatives of the CEZ Foundation but also David, the disabled boy, his mum and also the principal of the grammar school in Dubí, and they gave their personal account of the accessibility issue
o In tune with the theme, we chose a cafe where the staff is also disabled people as the venue
o The media literally jumped at the opportunity – the press breakfast was attended by several radio stations and a national daily
? Exclusive publicity
o We offered the accessibility subject exclusively to the national media
o We registered interest from, among others, the most popular Czech television channel (TV NOVA) and the Czech Radio (public-law radio corporation)
o The CEZ Foundation was invited by the media to give an expert opinion on the matter of accessibility with regard to schools
? Events in the regions
o Eight elementary and secondary schools received the grant in 2010
o An ‘Orange Stairs Ceremony’ was held at each school
o Additional positive publicity for the project came from the regional media
? We generated a lot of buzz within the society and penetrated major national media. Orange Stairs was propelled into the ranks of major corporate philanthropy projects with a wide publicity. We drew attention to a societal problem and built CEZ Foundation’s expert capacity on the issue of accessibility in schools.
? Over a period of four months, we recorded 86 articles/publicity outputs that were 100% positive in all types of media (TV, radio, print, online). Compared with other major corporate foundations in the Czech Republic, the CEZ Foundation generates absolutely largest number of media outputs.