CAMPAIGNS: Awards reveal buried treasure - Public Awareness

Of the 650,000 people that die in the UK each year, over 70 per cent are cremated. The most common form of disposal of their ashes is by scattering, with no urn or memorial to commemorate the life lost.

Of the 650,000 people that die in the UK each year, over 70 per

cent are cremated. The most common form of disposal of their ashes is by

scattering, with no urn or memorial to commemorate the life lost.



The Memorial Awareness Board (MAB), works on behalf of memorial masons

and burial authorities to encourage the bereaved to remember their loved

ones in a permanent way.



At the beginning of this year, MAB asked its retained agency, Michael

Dewar Associates, to come up with a campaign to increase memorialisation

in the UK.



Objectives



To raise awareness about the importance of a memorial as a focus for

grief. In addition, MAB was keen to inform the public about the range of

choice available in memorials and encourage cemeteries to be more

accommodating to the wishes of the bereaved.



Tactics



Obviously death is not a positive media hook, so Michael Dewar

Associates came up with the idea of the Cemetery of the Year Awards. In

April, MAB joined forces with the Confederation of Burial Authorities

and the National Association of Memorial Masons to sponsor the

event.



The competition was divided into two categories for open and closed

cemeteries and applications were invited from around the UK.



Through press and radio coverage MAB made it clear that it would assess

each cemetery on all aspects, ranging from imaginative garden design and

variety of memorials, to the effectiveness of its links with the local

community.



In July, the PR team released details of the 12 shortlisted finalists to

each of the cemeteries’ local media and in September, targeted the

national media with information on the awards ceremony in

Eastbourne.



Results



The initial publicity generated around the launch of the awards resulted

in over 70 entries from all over the UK.



In July, regional interest in the shortlisted finalists included an

article in the Scotsman and broadcast coverage by TV stations in the

West Country, Stoke-on-Trent and Carlisle.



The final results of the Cemetery of the Year Awards proved the climax

of the campaign and were covered by all the main news agencies,

including the Press Association and Reuters. Features and news stories

ran in the Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Sun and the Express, while

Country Life magazine ran a full-colour feature.



The widespread media interest in the open cemetery winner, Carlisle

cemetery, focused on its DIY funerals, woodland burials and lack of

restrictions on memorial design and wording.



Verdict



Centring the campaign on the Cemetery of the Year Awards gave the media

the perfect foil for dealing with an uncomfortable subject. But, while

the tabloids went to town on haunting and ’RIP ratings’ (their own

cemetery judgments), the broadsheets focused on many of the issues MAB

wished to raise. For instance, the Times and the Guardian discussed the

problems of local authority underfunding and overcrowding in UK

cemeteries.



In addition, MAB’s central message that memorials are for the living

rather than the dead, hit home. There was much debate about the role of

cemeteries as open public spaces in local communities and the importance

of choice in memorialisation. MAB members were so pleased with the

campaign that Michael Dewar Associates is already organising a similar

event for 1999.



Client: Memorial Awareness Board

Campaign: Launch of the Cemetery of the Year Awards

PR Team: Michael Dewar Associates

Timescale: April to September 1998

Budget: Undisclosed



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