'It was worth taking a bit of flak', says Clean for The Queen campaign director

The director of last weekend's Clean for The Queen campaign has said he was surprised by the negative attention the campaign attracted in some quarters, but told PRWeek he did not believe it had any major impact on the initiative's success.

London Mayor Boris Johnson: One of a number of politicians supporting the push
London Mayor Boris Johnson: One of a number of politicians supporting the push

Created by the magazine Country Life, the charities Keep Britain Tidy and Garfield Weston Foundation and other organisations and businesses, Clean for The Queen was a three-day initiative to "clear up Britain in time for the June celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s 90th birthday" according to its website.

The campaign was conceived in August last year, and Four Communications was brought in to handle PR in September.

Last week, the campaign received negative comment from several journalists. While approving of the campaign’s aims, Michele Hanson in The Guardian called politicians promoting the campaign "pompous turncoats" and said that she "would rather swim in sewage than Clean for the Queen", while the New Statesman said litter problems in the UK were the result of council cuts imposed by the Conservative Government.

Other outlets fought back, including a Daily Mail piece entitled 'Shame on those "liberals" who rubbish efforts to clean Britain for the Queen', which said litter was "one of those issues, like immigration, that doesn’t really affect the metropolitan elite". Lucy Bannerman in The Times said the campaign's critics were "missing the point". The campaign has also been part of a plotline in The Archers, with its inclusion in the BBC radio soap gaining it coverage in The Daily Telegraph.

The campaign's director Adrian Evans, an events and festivals producer who was pageant master during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, said he had not expected the campaign to attract criticism, but admits that may have been naive.

"I was surprised, perhaps naively so, because actually if you have ‘the Queen’ in front of anything, it could be a red rag to certain people," he said, adding that this negative attention was "disappointing" in that it meant people were not examining the real issue at hand.

"Nonetheless, it was still the biggest litter pick there has ever been in this country - so it was worth taking a bit of flak for it, and people have now heard of it," he said, adding that he did not believe the criticism of the campaign's regal flavour had any major negative impact on participation.

Evans also said the number of people unofficially taking part in the campaign was likely to be significant, alongside those who registered with the campaign before taking part.

According to Brandwatch, the hashtag #CleanforTheQueen garnered more than 19,000 mentions over the past seven days, of which 12 per cent were positive, eight per cent negative and the rest neutral - although Brandwatch's analysis also found that the "key conversation point associated with the campaign was around government cuts to local services". As the below graph of tweet volumes between Friday and today shows, Twitter activity peaked on Saturday morning and early afternoon.

While public reaction to the campaign may have been more positive, it received a frosty reaction from PRs in a Twitter poll by PRWeek UK on Friday.

Mandy Sharp, founder of Tin Man Communications and former MD of Citizen Relations, commented to PRWeek: "From a PR perspective, because the monarchy is such a divisive subject, it’s not the most strategic move for a campaign that is trying engage and motivate the masses in what is actually a pretty good cause.

"I think there could have been a less controversial motivator behind getting the country clean that might have gathered less negativity and more action."

Martin Ballantine, who commented on Twitter that he thought the campaign was "patronising claptrap" and a "flashback to Thatcher", told PRWeek on email that the campaign had interrupted his attempts to "celebrate the 40th anniversary of punk and all the inured deference it helped blow away in our society".

The MD of agency Piracy Corporation wrote: "There was no mention of the fact that if councils hadn’t been forced to cut so many jobs, there’d be a lot less litter; that’s the real ‘rubbish’ at the heart of this story. And no, I don't think littering is acceptable – it’s just that this latest Big Society idea is yet another way of Her Maj’s Government trying to relinquish responsibility."

Although Queen Elizabeth’s actual birthday is 21 April, her ‘official birthday’ is celebrated on a Saturday in June.

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