In December 2015, flooding devastated thousands of homes and businesses in Cumbria in the North of England. The Cumberland News & Star set up a dedicated Spirit of Cumbria Web site to serve as an online hub. It enabled people to pull together and help one another, and enabled businesses to share updates with the entire community.

The Web site also had a direct link to the Cumbria Community Foundation’s Flood Appeal, which has raised more than £5 million.

The response to this campaign was staggering: the hashtag #SpiritofCumbria captured the mood of the county, and between December 7 and 15, when 10,063 tweets were sent with the hashtag (including retweets) by 3,649 users, resulting in 23,169,964 timeline deliveries and reaching 7,117,275 people.

A special print edition was distributed not just to cover the floods, but also in an effort to support flood-affected businesses, which received free advertising.
A special print edition was distributed not just to cover the floods, but also in an effort to support flood-affected businesses, which received free advertising.

We distributed 57,300 copies of a 48-page Spirit of Cumbria supplement, designed, written, printed and carried in five CN Group newspapers, and circulated across the county. The supplement was well supported by major institutions, thus enabling us to carry free-of-charge support advertisements to the value of approximately £49,000 for flood-affected businesses.

The supplement was promoted throughout Cumbria with pre-bills, in-paper promotion, and promo bills on the day of publication together with social media, on-line banners, vendor, and store promotions.

Before the flooding occurred, The Taste Cumbria Christmas food festival, organised by CN Events (also part of CN Group) was scheduled to take place in the flood-hit town of Cockermouth. Not only did the festival happen, the event was extended from the original 27 traders to include almost 80 Cumbrian businesses, with the planning done in just three days — and they all traded free of charge.

The flood-related special supplement was heavily cross-promoted to generate as much response as possible.
The flood-related special supplement was heavily cross-promoted to generate as much response as possible.

The event was supported both financially and in kind by organisations, businesses, and individuals. Coverage on local and national media, including the BBC and ITN national news, and the BBC’s One Show, reached more than 20 million people. Traders were asked to make donations, raising more than £3,000, and 500 hampers were delivered to houses affected by the floods.

A special flood newsletter, distributed to 2,400 subscribers, provided continuing coverage, featuring profiles of flood-affected businesses. The CumbriaLive site featured an “open for business page” so folks would know which businesses were still accessible.

CN’s radio station Bay, itself a victim of the floods, was involved in organising a fundraising single that made the top 100 download chart.

This multi-faceted Spirit of Cumbria campaign was devised and led by CN Group and aimed to support the people of Cumbria, individuals, and businesses. Not only did it draw in support for the county, through charity appeals and via corporate donations, it also facilitated the overwhelming desire of those not affected by floods who wanted to step up and help.

Bringing together all the offers of help, requests for assistance, messages of support, and public information on one Web site, under one logo, reflected the strength of community spirit that held Cumbria together during this time of struggle.