Campaigns: Public Awareness - Making the most of married life

National Marriage Week was dreamed up by Richard Kane, director of support group Marriage Resource. With the UK having the highest divorce rate in Europe, and family values high on the political agenda, Kane felt the time was right for his initiative.

National Marriage Week was dreamed up by Richard Kane, director of

support group Marriage Resource. With the UK having the highest divorce

rate in Europe, and family values high on the political agenda, Kane

felt the time was right for his initiative.



Objectives



To portray marriage as a worthwhile institution. To encourage couples to

work harder at marriage. To assist married couples by suggesting

measures such as tax breaks.



Tactics



In November 1996 a video and workbook were launched with the aim of

motivating church leaders to organise events during National Marriage

Week (NMW).



Later 1,000 dummy press releases were sent out to local coordinators

giving instructions on how to deal with local media.



Meanwhile a series of high-profile events were centrally organised: Lord

Mackay gave a speech in London, couples renewed their vows in churches

nationwide, the Bishop of Hull called for tax breaks for married couples

and, to round the week off, John and Norma Major were presented with a

Valentine’s day bouquet at Downing Street.



The renewal of vows was ideal for television. Keith Ewing, co-organiser

and communications officer for Evangelical Alliance, appeared with his

wife on Newsnight. A renewal service for 200 couples in Hampshire

trailed Lord Mackay’s speech on Tuesday and a pancake race organised at

Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire was covered by GMTV.



Meanwhile independent think-tank Demos launched a report to coincide

with NMW that proposed new ideas including time-limited marriages. This

boosted coverage, but meant that all those being interviewed, including

MP Gary Streeter and the Bishop of Hull, had to be prepared to field new

questions.



The Bishop and Richard Kane made themselves available to local radio

through Regional Broadcasting at Broadcasting House. The religion

correspondent for the BBC sent a recorded piece on the week to all

weekday morning shows.



Lord Mackay’s office invited the media to his speech.



Delegation was the key as it was just Kane and Ewing co-ordinating the

campaign. Church groups around the country gave the campaign impetus

while the media were centrally orchestrated. Events were designed to

appeal to different media, and its synergy with the Conservative Party’s

family values campaign allowed Marriage Resource to win the support of

high profile figures.



Results



Interviews with Richard Kane, the Bishop of Hull and Gary Streeter MP

were broadcast on over 30 local radio stations. Radio 4’s Today

programme and Radio 2’s Sunday morning show featured NMW.



BBC TV News slotted coverage on NMW into a look at the state of the

family in Britain. Newsnight debated the marriage issue and Sky News and

GMTV both covered the renewal events.



The Daily Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Times and Independent carried

features on the state of marriage and covered the renewal

ceremonies.



Verdict



For a small church-based group to gain so much coverage was remarkable

but all the ingredients fell into place at the right time. The Demos

report was timely and when John Major was quoted in Cosmopolitan saying

his marriage was his greatest achievement, it was manna from heaven.



The organisers now plan to make the week a permanent fixture. Press

coverage may have encouraged many to re-think the concept of marriage,

but long-term success can only be gauged by marriage/divorce

figures.



Client: Marriage Resource

PR Team: In-house

Campaign: National Marriage Week

Timescale: November 1996-February 1997

Cost: pounds 1,000



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