70 years of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service

HGSS izložba 2-min

About the client

Over a thousand volunteers of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS) have dedicated their time and extensive experience to rescuing the missing and injured and helping during extreme situations since the 1950s. In 2020, the Service celebrated the 70th anniversary of its official existence. With the  HGSS70 campaign that anniversary was brought closer to the general public.

Challenge

The challenges of the HGSS70 campaign were twofold. In addition to the traditional challenges of the communication campaign for non – profit organizations which imply an exclusively organic reach of all publications to reach the whole nation and beyond, the year 2020 brought its own challenges in the form of the epidemiological situation and devastating earthquakes. Thus, the four-month campaign was divided into two parts – February/March and September, October, and November of 2020. The main challenge was to carry out a quality campaign for HGSS, whose work is based on the physical presence in the times of physical distancing and restrictions regarding the number of people on gatherings.

The main goal of the campaign was to raise public awareness of Croatia’s 70-year-long tradition of mountain rescue service’s work, while the specific objectives were to increase the number of media announcements about the project HGSS70 and general activities of HGSS, raising awareness of HGSS activities among target audiences, mobilization of citizens and the greatest possible response to the actions and presentations of the HGSS as part of the campaign, as well as an increase in the volume of communication in the aspects of comments and messages through HGSS digital channels (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube).

Solution

In the first part of the campaign with educational and fun events and through entertainment and informative multimedia content in the media and on social networks, the work of the HGSS and its members were presented closely to the public throughout Croatia. In the second part of the campaign the multimedia part became crucial, with one exception, an exhibition of HGSS tweets that merged the digital and analogue.

The campaign started at the end of February 2020 with a press conference in the Zagreb-based headquarters of the HGSS where the first part was announced and events were distributed by locations throughout Croatia called Niti koje nas spajaju/The Threads That Connect Us so that the citizens themselves can get to know their neighbours who volunteer in HGSS, talk openly to them and try out certain activities and rescue techniques themselves. All events were designed to convey information in a fun way, to spectators and participants that could save their lives one day.

The first two events took place just before the spring closing of the borders between the counties aroused the interest of the citizens, as well as of the media. Descent from the walls of Dubrovnik using the abseil technique attracted a lot of Dubrovnik women and men to Luža, where they could try out how it feels to be a HGSS volunteer. The next activity was organized as part of the 56th birthday of another HGSS historically important station, in Ogulin. While HGSS normally does exercises almost exclusively for its members and training, this time, through the media, the local target community was notified to observe an attractive rescue from Đula’s Abyss. After the demonstration, one of the oldest members of HGSS and one of the founders of the Heritage Museum of Ogulin, Borislav Aleraj – Akac spoke to the visitors about the exhibits from the Alpine Collection of the museum. Mr. Aklaj was the Head of HGSS for 24 years.

Throughout the day, all those interested could observe and try out the equipment of the Ogulin station at the Open Door Days and talk to rescuers about all the topics they were interested in.

After successful initial events that got over 90 media releases in just 14 days, the first wave of SARS-CoV-19 virus occurred, which is why a strategic decision was made to cease all activities regarding the celebration of 70th anniversary of the HGSS until the epidemiological situation stabilises.

Realising the seriousness of the crisis caused by COVID-19 and the restrictions needed to responsibly preserve the health of the citizens, in the summer of 2020 the communication strategy of the HGSS70 campaign completely changed. In order for the HGSS to remain a responsible role model, emphasis was placed on communication via the Internet and a single event marking the 70th anniversary of the Service in an entirely different and unexpected way through an exhibition of tweets Trending #HGSS70 from 18 to 25th September 2020 in Zagreb’s Urania Gallery. Since HGSS follows innovation in the field of new techniques and technologies, in 2017 they turned to an innovative approach to communicating with domestic and foreign public through social media, which is why the idea of tweets in the form of exhibits came almost naturally.

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With 0 kuna and in just ten days, which is time the event and its announcement lasted, the results of HGSS brought down many previous records. There were more than 660 visitors at the exhibition in one week, which is far above the average of Zagreb exhibitions, museums, and similar set-ups. In addition to 90 posts on media portals, 13 articles in the press, eight guest appearances and television services, and fifteen radio shows the numbers on social media also rose significantly. In addition to a guest appearance in Dobro jutro, Hrvatska the exhibition was announced in all central news programs of national televisions, and media portals in Croatia and beyond also wrote about it.

After the great success of the exhibition Trending #HGSS70 and re-raising awareness about the campaign on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Service, communication about their importance continued through social networks. In addition to the series People of HGSS (#humansofhgss) in which the life and work of Vinko Prizmić, Josip Granić and Berislav Aleraj (HGSS members of valuable experience) were presented, a giveaway was organized for the most loyal among Facebook followers. The eight most creative authors of congratulations for the 70th birthday of HGSS received gift packages with branded HGSS items to their addresses.

In cooperation with the leading Croatian media company 24sata, additional articles about various parts and persons of HGSS were published during the campaign and instructive and interesting videos were recorded, bringing the everyday lives of volunteers closer to the public. Hence it was possible to read an interview with the youngest Head of the HGSS Josip Granić, or watch a video displaying the work of search dogs and their trainers, speleologists or rock rescuers, useful tips for going to nature, as well as a video of a journalist who spent the day under the strict HGSS regime.

In total, the HGSS70 campaign collected 233 media releases and attracted public attention, as testified by the numbers from social networks. Only in the period that included the exhibition Trending #HGSS70, with exclusively organic reach and with a 0 HRK budget, profiles of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service on all social networks got almost 1,350 new followers, while the posts reached more than 460,000 of them.

Facebook users alone had over 8,500 interactions with posts related to the exhibition tweets Trending #HGSS70, while the Facebook event itself reached over 29,500 people in less than two weeks. On Twitter, the number of profile visits increased by 63% since the beginning of the Exhibition, while on Instagram the reach of posts was more than 73,000.

This achieved all the goals of the campaign, and most importantly, provided many individuals with valuable information about responsible staying in nature and reducing hazards, which is one of the fundamental purposes of the Croatian Mountain Rescue Service. The exhibition Trending #HGSS70 in April 2021 was awarded the Grand PRix of the Croatian Public Relations Association (HUOJ) in the category of Event Communication.

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