- 06 Oct 2014
JPR Account Manager, Kathryn Kirk, is due to travel to Istanbul next month to collect an IPRA (International Public Relations Association) Golden World Award for work to launch an innovative product by Lecky, based in Lisburn, called the Firefly Upsee. She will pick up the gong alongside organisations like Volvo, P&G, Intel, Adidas, and the United Nations. In this blog post, she tells us a little bit more about the winning campaign.
It was a damp, dismal winter’s day and our meeting with Leckey’s marketing team was coming to an end when our client said, “Oh, and by the way, there’s this fabulous new Firefly product coming out in the Spring time – designed by a mother whose son has cerebral palsy.”
Christmas came and went, and we had almost forgotten about those remarks when an e-mail appeared in my inbox from Firefly’s marketing manager Conor McKernan. It was time to talk about the Firefly Upsee.
For those who are unfamiliar with Leckey, it’s a Lisburn-based company which manufactures products for disabled adults and children. It was founded in 1984 in a garden shed by an engineer – James Leckey – whose desire (and aptitude) to make a comfortable chair for a child with special needs spawned a company which today has 150 employees and exports across the world.
It was several years ago when Debby Elnatan, an Israeli mother of a son with cerebral palsy, first contacted Leckey. She had searched all over the world for a company to manufacture her Upsee invention and chose James Leckey because “his heart was in the right place”. Beautiful in its simplicity, the Upsee was a walking harness which allowed wheelchair-bound children to stand and walk.
We knew it was effective because the families who had been trialling it told us so. 5 year olds Jack and Daniel were both able to play football for the first time. 3 year old Charlotte beamed the most wonderful smile every time she was in it – “Up, Up” she would say – and her mum knew it was Upsee time. Parents and siblings loved it. “Daniel is walking!” shouted his little brother in equal measure of delight and amazement on seeing 5 year old Daniel in the Upsee for the first time. This was a special product which was making a genuine, joyful difference.
“Do you think we could go global?” asked Conor at our planning meeting. I exchanged a panic glance with my MD and muttered something along of the lines of “Don’t trust a PR person who will promise you the world. I can promise we’ll do our best.”
And so, our Firefly Upsee PR plan was thrust into action. Strategy in place: tick box. Extensive international media list: tick box. Countless briefings with key journalists: tick box. Good media launch planned: Tick box. The weeks prior to the launch (24th March, 2014) were filled with telephone conversations and face-to-face briefings. Only time would tell if the story resonated.
In my 10+ years in PR, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so apprehensive about a launch. Perhaps it was because I knew expectations were high. But I think, more than anything, I wanted to do this wonderful product justice and get the word out about a genuinely life-enhancing product. This mattered.
The launch went well and press turnout was good but what happened in the following hours and days left us in amazement. In a way, we struck a match at the launch and a forest fire ensued.
The story was on Mail Online within hours and by 10pm that evening, it had 10,000 shares. (That would grow to 498,000 within a week.) The photo of the parents walking with their children also started to go viral with celebrities tweeting it and thousands of conversation taking place about the Upsee. Even Ellen De Generes blogged about it. It was Craig Melvin’s ‘Invention of the Week’ on MSNBC. Radio and TV in USA, RoI, Northern Ireland, UK, France, Germany, Italy, USA and Brazil covered the Firefly Upsee. We stopped counting at 14,000 websites running the story. The Huffington Post ran with the headline: This Mom’s Invention Does More Than Help Kids with Disabilities Walk. It Lets Their Spirits Soar.”
Fast forward six months (and one global PR award later) and now thousands of families across the world are enjoying the Firefly Upsee. We are hearing stories and seeing photos of family ‘firsts’ – from walking down the street to flower girls walking down the aisle. A successful PR campaign, yes, but, more importantly, a life-changer for families living with kids with special needs.