Culture, media and sport: Military Wives sing their way to the top

Although the military had a constant presence in the UK media, soldiers' next-of-kin were underrepresented. BBC Two ran a documentary created by production firm Twenty Twenty called The Choir: Military Wives. It united two choirs of military wives to perform for the nation and was hosted by choirmaster Gareth Malone. After they performed at 2011's Festival of Remembrance, Decca Records decided to release a single by the choir entitled Wherever You Are, with proceeds going to two charities - The Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help.

Military Wives Choir: Led by Gareth Malone
Military Wives Choir: Led by Gareth Malone

Campaign: Military Wives Choir
Client: Twenty Twenty/Decca Records
PR team: In-house
Timescale: November 2011-January 2012
Budget: £25,000

Objectives

  •  To establish a voice for Military Wives and raise awareness of their cause
  • - To make the single a Christmas number one.

Strategy and Plan

Both Twenty Twenty and Decca Records wanted to create a voice for the choir through a campaign promoting its cause to a global audience. It was important to capitalise on Malone's growing profile as someone who had become attached to what the choir represented.

Malone promoted the Christmas single on BBC Radio Two before the show's final episode. DJ Chris Evans was an early supporter and the campaign capitalised on this by making Malone and members of the choir regular guests on his show. The choir also performed live on the show.

The official Christmas number one bid was launched through a photo-call with Evans, Malone and choir composer Paul Mealor in military attire at the Langham Hotel. The entire choir attended, which gave them a chance to get their stories across to the press.

The PR team consulted with bookmaker William Hill about how it planned to get the song to number one. As a result, the bookmaker published favourable odds. HMV, the Ministry of Defence and Downing Street were approached to support the campaign. The choir was invited to perform at Downing Street. It also performed at The Sun Military Awards on ITV and outside HMV Oxford Street in the week the song was released.

Members of the choir were also encouraged to use social media. The campaign left members of the choir to manage their own accounts to ensure their public relationships were genuine.

Measurement and Evaluation

During the week the single was released, the campaign received front page coverage in seven national newspapers.

Columnists such as Graham Norton and Trevor Kavanagh also wrote about the choir's cause. The choir also featured in 25 national TV news stories.

Results

The single reached Christmas number one and became the fastest selling song in Amazon's history. It was also the fastest selling charity single since Elton John's Candle in the Wind. Consequently, the choir's debut album reached number one on Mother's Day 2012.

Military Wives developed its own foundation. To date it has raised well in excess of £500,000 for charities The Royal British Legion and SSAFA Forces Help.

SECOND OPINION

RICHARD DAWES, CO-FOUNDER, DAWBELL

These sorts of projects are very difficult to pull off well and the PR team had some great success.

It's refreshing to see a music PR campaign that doesn't just try to tick the same old boxes. This needed to be unorthodox, as I've no doubt that the usual approaches for interviews and news stories would have been initially met with closed doors.

It felt like there was a lot of planning and strategy to make every impact moment count and hit at just the right time to gain maximum coverage. Some PR professionals just work with what they've got. In contrast, this was a campaign that created opportunities and the news along with it.

Probably most impressive was the well-executed series of behind-the-scenes lobbying, including pushing William Hill for the betting odds story before they were even allowed to talk about a single, lobbying for tax relief on the single and some great picture set-ups including that amazing HMV carol-singing moment. A great example of thinking outside the box.

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