Captain Tom's birthday

Prominent has worked alongside the Bedford School's in-house marketing team for a long time – offering them support when their four-man department were stretched and giving them some extra help during their busier school periods and bigger stories.

However, without a doubt the biggest of these happened when pupil Benjie Ingram-Moore suggested to his 99-year-old grandfather Tom that he complete 100 laps of his garden by his 100th birthday – raising as much money as he could for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.

Capt Tom 7

Not only did we support the school to publicise this incredible feat – which captured the hearts of millions at home and abroad, led to Captain Tom being elevated to Colonel Tom and a whopping £30 million (and counting) raised for our health service.

But we were also asked to provide the back up to Captain Tom’s 100th birthday celebrations during which Bedford School played a major role.


It became clear early on in Colonel Tom’s walking challenge that when it ended on his 100th birthday, the public would want to join him in celebration.

As his local post office started to receive an influx of mail from well-wishers, Bedford School stepped in and offered to house the birthday cards as they arrived.

They also offered to use the school hall to display the cards.

However, nobody expected quite the vast number of cards that started to arrive and Prominent were brought on board to help when 35,000 had arrived at Bedford School and BBC Breakfast had been in touch asking to film from the school hall on his birthday.

Two Bedford school pupils had stepped in offering to create videos of the cards being set out – including a time lapse – and the Bedford School communications team had started taking photographs to document the process.

Our role was to support the school in what was to become one of the biggest stories they have ever had to manage and provide expert advice on handling the media where required.

Our strategy

Our aim was to make the most of the opportunity to get exposure for Bedford School. However, it was important the school did not look like it was detracting from Colonel Tom’s exposure. We wanted the school to provide the backdrop to the hero of the hour.

Our strategy was to act as facilitator to the local, national and international press, to manage messaging from the school that supported that of the family and to maximise exposure.

We also needed to manage all the administrative side of dealing with multiple media requests so the Bedford School communications team could be on the ground at the school with the media and the family.

Our delivery

Our role in the birthday celebrations included:

  • Writing a press release about 125,000 cards being received and issuing to media 
  • Handling all subsequent media enquiries
  • Advising the school to allow every media outlet to have content – they wanted to keep it at a minimum to start off with
  • Despite Bedford School’s initial concerns about allowing a media outlet control over the story, we advised them to work with the Press Association. This meant the agency was allowed in to take their own photos and do their own story which was syndicated and probably accounted for 1,000 of the clippings
  • Sending the release overseas to countries from which they have overseas students
  • Advising all media on social distancing measures at the school and creating a document with guidelines
  • Advising that Benjie should accompany his grandfather in the ‘official’ Bedford School images to keep the link to the school
  • Setting up a photo call of Benjie showing an A1 photograph of his school hall filled with birthday cards to his grandfather
  • Issuing the image to national picture desks to meet deadlines the day before his birthday to secure some front pages in the Times, Express and Metro
  • Spreading coverage to release the videos created by the Bedford School pupils after the birthday celebration to allow for further coverage

Measurement and evaluation

Every single newspaper in the country covered the story

To date we have received 2,000 UK media clippings mentioning Bedford School

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