Turning a communications centre closure into a national success story with media narratives and political influencing.
The ACE Centre is the leading charity supporting children and adults with communication needs. The ACE Centre has historically existed as two independent centres in Oxfordshire and Oldham: however, when the Oxfordshire location faced closure the decision was taken to unify the organisations as a single national charity – with the Oxfordshire centre relocating to a new site and the Oldham centre taking on responsibility for the management of the organisation.
The Whitehouse Consultancy was appointed to promote the unification of the ACE Centre and its work in the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication.
Whitehouse identified an immediate need to explain the changes to local political figures and stakeholders, and moved quickly to organise a Parliamentary briefing event to make clear the opportunities which existed through the creation of a new national charity with a presence in both the north and south of the country. We then promoted the news of the creation of the national charity through a formal opening of the Oxfordshire site, which was attended by local dignitaries, individuals using communication aids and longstanding supporter and ACE Centre Patron, the Commons Speaker John Bercow MP. Whitehouse also secured and organised a separate private visit for the Prime Minister David Cameron MP.
To coincide with this political activity Whitehouse undertook a supportive public relations campaign, securing a stand-alone feature on the ACE Centre’s work in the G2 supplement of The Guardian, along with a feature about augmentative and alternative communication in SEN Magazine and a profile of the charity in Third Sector magazine.
The profile of the ACE Centre as a national charity was raised significantly by a full page feature in The Guardian’s G2 supplement, with the newspaper subsequently selecting the ACE Centre as a beneficiary of its Christmas appeal for 2012 and running further features on its work, including a full page article in The Observer. The ACE Centre received tens of thousands of pounds from the newspaper’s appeal.
The ACE Centre’s launch event – and subsequent event for the Prime Minister – attracted significant media attention, with the formal opening of the Oxfordshire centre being the subject of television and radio coverage by BBC Oxford and other local radio stations; along with local newspapers and specialist magazines. It has also given the wider issue of communication support services a real boost with policy makers in Westminster and Whitehall appreciating its significance and working with the sector on appropriate funding and commissioning solutions.
I have been thoroughly impressed by the professionalism, organisation and dedication of the Whitehouse Consultancy team. Their efforts have not only helped establish us as a national charity and major player in the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, they have had a very tangible benefit in the support we received from The Guardian’s Christmas appeal. They have consistently delivered and we have been enormously grateful for all their hard work.