Laurel Funerals (now acquired) was the third largest collective of funeral directors in the UK. Its Henry Ison & Sons branch, based in Leamington Spa, was long-established in the town and took pride in the important role it played in the local community. As part of this crucial, community-centric work, we devised a PR-driven crowdfunding campaign – a first for the funeral industry – to raise money for a replica of the Victoria Cross awarded to former resident Henry Tandey.
Traditionally, Laurel branches have always marked the wartime effort within their community through window displays and services at key times of the year. But with the centenary of the First World War approaching, we saw it as an ideal opportunity to initiate a particularly poignant act of remembrance.
Our research discovered the story of resident Henry Tandey, a recipient of the Victoria Cross and the most decorated private of the First World War. Although a blue plaque marked Tandey’s birthplace within the town, there was no permanent recognition of his outstanding bravery, with his VC medal housed hundreds of miles away in a museum in Yorkshire.
We decided to create a crowdfunding campaign – a first for the funeral industry – to raise enough money to purchase an exact replica of Tandey’s medal from Hancocks of London, the official Victoria Cross makers since 1856. While the cost of the medal was modest, and the branch could have purchased it outright, it was important to develop a mechanic that would ensure residents felt involved in the campaign and played their part in recognising Tandey’s bravery.
We utilised popular crowdfunding platform Indiegogo to collect donations and supported it with a dedicated PR campaign to encourage local residents to donate. We also developed an outreach campaign in the local shopping centre to get the branch and its team in front of local people.
Local papers and radio were keen to cover the story. Area manager James Hewison appeared live on BBC Coventry & Warwickshire, and stories featured on the front pages of the local press, prompting donations from local people and businesses.
Once the medal was commissioned, we organised a service of dedication on St George’s Day in the local church and invited army cadets to take part, connecting the town’s military heritage with those who might play a part in its future. The medal was then presented to the mayor on behalf of the town, and is now held in the town museum for people to visit for years to come.
Local press and radio also covered the ceremony, resulting in further front-page coverage for the branch, and there was a significant uplift in enquiries in the weeks following the campaign.