Sight Care’s chief executive, Paul Surridge, said: “When we made the decision six years ago to mount a national PR campaign to raise the profile of independents in local communities, we had no idea how effective the campaign would be. Last year alone we reached some 15 million people via just under 100 pieces of coverage.”
Mr Surridge added: “It was also interesting to note that 45% of media coverage encouraged consumers to book an eye exam at an independent practice, with 68% of coverage promoting the importance of regular eye exams.
“Some 37 radio interviews were undertaken discussing the use of screen technology and its effects on vision, the importance of children’s eye care and the incidence of road accidents often caused by poor vision.”
Every year the foundations of the awareness campaign are built on commissioned consumer and practitioner research. In 2014 it was announced that 34% of parents canvassed in a study believed that children have an eye examination at school/
Mr Surridge explained: “Having identified the fact that an enormous number of children in the UK were not having regular eye exams which could lead to underperformance in the classroom through poor vision, the campaign team set in place a number of initiatives to dispel the myth, and at the same time, encourage parents to take their children to an independent optician for a check-up before a new term started.”
He added: “We can’t necessarily blame parents for thinking their children are having eye exams at school when they’re not. It’s up to the sector to educate people.
“As a parent myself, I would be horrified to discover my children were underperforming because I’d not taken them for a simple eye exam.”
The topic has featured highly in the campaign’s activities during the last year, involving over 30 radio interviews and including national and local media coverage.
As a way of influencing the Government, Sight Care’s PR campaign involved inviting MPs to visit constituent independent practices to witness the service and care offered to the electorate. So far, 18 MPs have taken up the invitation and were “hugely impressed” with what they discovered, according to Sight Care.
Last year the structure of campaign activity included a number of seasonal releases and main campaign stories, plus other supporting activity.
Mr Surridge explained: “Our seasonal releases tackled eight relevant topics including road safety, UV protection, firework safety, and linked up with National Eye Health Week.
“The main campaigns focused on children’s eye health, sporting success with contact lenses, and a community optician’s day, giving participating practices the opportunity to benefit from promotional collaterals and local press activity.”
The new campaign runs through until April 2016. Mr Surridge said: “The platform for our campaign this year will be based on both consumer and practitioner research to uncover the realities and myths attached to eye care and eyewear in Britain, with the key objectives of turning those findings into stories that can educate and inform people about the importance of regular eye care and the value of visiting an independent community optician rather than just defaulting to the High Street.”
He added: “Independent opticians do a fabulous job in local communities, and our campaign contribution for those that participate is to help them raise awareness of their practice and what they can offer.”
Working in collaboration with Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Sight Care is encouraging as many independents as possible to join the group to take advantage of the campaign.
Mr Surridge concluded: “Independent practitioners rarely invest adequately in promoting the good work they do. It’s understandable that marketing and PR is not high on a list of priorities when there are so many other priorities to concentrate on in running a successful practice. I would encourage independents to join Sight Care and be a part of this exciting campaign.”