Case study: The challenges of launching One Love Manchester, less than two weeks after the attack

Outside Organisation was asked to put together the global publicity and comms for the Ariana Grande benefit concert One Love Manchester, less than two weeks after the terrorist attack.

Outside Organisation organised the comms around the Ariana Grande benefit gig, eight days after the Manchester attacks (pic credit: via @arianagrande Instagram)
Outside Organisation organised the comms around the Ariana Grande benefit gig, eight days after the Manchester attacks (pic credit: via @arianagrande Instagram)

The call came at 7.30am on the day of the FA Cup Final from CAA in Los Angeles.

A defiant benefit concert for the victims of the Manchester terror attack would take place in precisely eight days’ time. And our agency was to handle the global publicity and communications operation.

It was a big ask, but we felt privileged to be part of such a vital and poignant event.

Ariana Grande – whose fans had been murdered just days earlier – and her manager extraordinaire Scooter Braun were determined to help the city through its grief and to deliver a message to those who wish to wreck our lives.

The entertainment community would come together to honour the dead and victims of the attack would be in the audience, many still wounded and obviously traumatised.

It was clear this would be a spectacular event that would resonate around the world.

The media interest clearly would be unprecedented – and arranging accreditation, identifying crisis points and messaging in just a week would require a Herculean effort.

Like everyone else, we had had a traumatic and disturbing week trying to process the horrific events in Manchester and they were still at the forefront of my mind as we got news of the proposed line-up.

Alan Edwards and I were amazed at the speed with which the artists and venue had been put together: Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Katy Perry – the biggest pop acts on the planet rallying around a city in pain.

We immediately assembled a top tier of executives: Chris Goodman, our head of media and events who broke off from a family holiday; Jack Delaney, head of music; and our pop specialist workhorse, publicist David Lim.

We knew difficult questions would be asked about security and ticketing.

Was it all too quick? Were the people of Manchester ready for this? These crisis points were high on our agenda.

But once Michael Carrick had generously agreed to bring his Manchester United testimonial forward, the Greater Manchester Police had given the event its blessing. This was a vital moment.

The announcement went viral within seconds of pushing the button – the number one trending topic on social media and almost every front page in the UK and many more around the world.

Alan and I were on hand for 24-hour crisis management.

There was amazing reaction and support from the media and an outpouring of positivity from the people of Manchester.

The event itself was an incredibly moving and powerful. Very hard work and a spectacular effort by the team here and everyone else involved, it was an absolute honour to be part of One Love Manchester and it captured the British public’s and the world’s imagination.

So much good came out of evil.

The viewing figures exceeded any expectations. At 14.5m in the UK alone it is the most-seen TV show for years and the print media were very supportive, here and around the world.

The speed in which it was put together was mind-blowing. Ariana Grande was brave, authentic and articulate – it is hard to believe she is only 23 years old.

Her tone was exactly right and it was important for her and the people of Manchester that this took place.

The money raised was beyond belief – now the Red Cross will distribute the funds to help the families affected by the tragedy.

All our thoughts are with the victims and we hope music helped to ease their pain, if only for a few hours.

The events the night before in London led many to question whether the event should take place, but that made it even more vital and relevant.

It was more important than ever to show unity and defiance in the face of evil.

We continue to work with the organisers on follow-up projects and the music industry, media, production and operations crew came together in just a few days to honour the victims and show the world that Britain’s spirit will not be broken.

At lightning speed, we fed social and digital media and kept print and broadcast happy, too, all in a matter of days.

Quick decisions and release of information, working hand-in-hand with Live Nation, Festival Republic, SJM, Ticketmaster, Lancashire County Cricket Club, CAA and the BBC.

The hunger for information from the global media was extraordinary.

This was made much smoother by decisive and swift action from the top.

I’m not sure there will be an event quite like this ever again – the world of entertainment gave Manchester its love and what an honour to be part of such a coming together, which helped restore people’s faith in humanity.

Dominic Mohan is chief executive of the Outside Organisation

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