Kathleen Graham picked up a finalist award in the Marketing and PR Effectiveness category at last year’s Isle of Man Newspapers’ Awards for Excellence. Here, Kathleen explains how the Curraghs has taken on a more family-orientated diversification to raise its profile and increase visitor numbers.
The Curraghs is a committed member of two international zoological organisations dedicated to inspiring people to help conserve the natural world.
Specialising in wetlands animals it is also home to several endangered species and a key aim is conservation and breeding.
Since May 2012, Kathleen Graham, who previously spent 14 years working at Edinburgh Zoo, has had the job of ensuring that visitor numbers are high enough to bring in the revenue to support this vital work. And that’s not easy with a population the size of the island’s.
‘I arrived here just in time for that very rainy summer, but still visitor numbers increased by 5 per cent while in parks in the UK they were down by 4 per cent – I put that down to the “jumping pillow effect!”’ said Kathleen.
The jumping pillow is an enormous, inflated plastic mound that practically begs you to come and bounce on it – and everybody does, apparently, parents as enthusiastically as their children.
It’s just one of a number of new attractions that have been added to the park in the last few years, designed to make it more family-friendly.
She said: ‘It has helped to drive forward our membership which is up by 200 per cent. It costs £85 for a year for a family with two children which is very good value. And once people have their membership it’s like a light goes on and they realise they don’t always have to come for the day to make it worthwhile, they can pop in with the kids just for an hour on the jumping pillow, or to play in the new Enchanted Wood, as often as they want,’ explained Kathleen.
So, while the animals will always remain central to the Curraghs, these new initiatives are giving it slightly more of a commercial edge.
With only a very small marketing budget, Kathleen has relied heavily on social media such as Facebook and Trip Advisor, along with three email newsletters a year to members.
These, along with the Curraghs’ website, can let visitors know about regular events, such as the daily penguin feed, and special attractions such as Bugs Alive and Snake Encounter in the Rainforest Theatre.
Whether it’s being entertained by the meerkats, driving a mini-digger or scrambling around the tree houses in the Enchanted Wood, visitors are appreciating what’s now on offer at the Curraghs.
‘We are very dependent on the goodwill of the people of the island and the feedback has been brilliant,’ said Kathleen.
Have you entered yet?
Have you been able to demonstrate excellent PR and marketing strategies and skills over the last year?
The Award for Marketing and PR Effectiveness is just one of 16 award categories in this year’s Isle of Man Newspapers’ Awards for Excellence, with opportunities for companies, individuals, public sector teams and charitable and cultural organisations.
The winners will be presented with their awards at a glittering Awards Night on Thursday, November 20, at the Villa.
You can find details and download entry forms at www.iomtoday.co.im/afe
Entries for this year’s awards close on Friday, September 26.