Merry Christmas, you’ve just got your dream marketing job …
Castle Howard Marketing | Corina Inverno Communications

… now how do you do it? I wasn’t a big fan of Christmas, but I jumped at the opportunity to market Castle Howard’s ‘Christmas in Narnia’ – well who wouldn’t – a gorgeous venue, enchanting story, and beautiful artwork by Emily Sutton to work with.

If you visited ‘Christmas in Narnia’ you’ll know that Castle Howard was totally transformed into an icy wonderland, and if you didn’t believe in Narnia and Santa before you stepped through the wardrobe, you sure were a believer by the time you left. You got dramatic installations, goosebump-generating lighting and soundscapes, plus an awesome 25-foot Christmas tree. I loved it and loved marketing it even more.

So, how do you approach marketing something so high-profile when you’re new to an established team and short on time? Yes, you know the answer … prepare, prepare, prepare, and keep an eye on those details.

Before starting I’d always advise turning up with a detailed marcomms plan and try to anticipate as many problems as you can think of. Yes, I know you don’t have a crystal ball and it’s a lot of work, but it means that when you meet your new colleagues you have plans and ideas to share and adapt.

I went for a multi-channel marketing approach and worked with great partners like Visit York. The pressure to reach the target audiences and get them to buy tickets on-line in advance was high and I needed to make sure that our marketing was where the target market was going to be.

The beauty of having a working marketing plan is that you can cover all the detail and make sure that you don’t miss the low hanging fruit like keeping all on-site marketing, website copy and internal comms bang up to date and planning social in advance for all channels. Your internal audience and on-site visitors will sell the event for you, if they feel informed and included.

The artwork was already created before I started and we had some perfect snowy images of Castle Howard, so the trickiest thing to do was to get the copy spot on and make sure that the publisher was happy with everything I’d written. When you work with publishers you’ve got to schedule in time for them to approve or amend all your marketing work.

On top of that you’ve also got to make sure that you adapt your writing style to the organisation’s style guide.

Here’s a short rundown of some of the marketing campaign for Christmas in Narnia:

  • Local and regional family magazines which offered packages of print, web listings, social media posts and sometimes emails and competitions.
  • Partnerships with fan clubs and DMOs using their marketing packages to reach a wider audience, buy distribution, display space in TICs.
  • Working with influential media buyers who can access the best outdoor spaces.
  • Travel influencers from target overseas markets.
  • Local and national radio, which included competitions, interviews and mentions.
  • As much outdoor as was available (within budget) locally and regionally. Cities like York and Leeds are close to Castle Howard and were buzzing with visitors during the late summer and autumn, so I decided to get as much visibility there as possible.
  • Digital advertising of course.
  • Copy, images, and links to free listings contacts.
  • PR, which included national coverage, which was managed by the brilliant Pyper PR.

I’m thrilled to say that the feedback from Castle Howard was that the campaign resulted in fantastic exposure locally, regionally, and nationally, and that Castle Howard enjoyed the highest ever footfall to a Christmas event on record.

With that review I think that my Christmas spirit has been restored and I’m looking forward to Christmas 2022 just a bit more.

Merry marketing.

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