CAMPAIGNS: Charity - Raising cash for cyclone survivors

A cyclone struck Orrisa, India’s second poorest state on the east coast, on 29 October. It lasted for 12 hours, moving across a large area.

A cyclone struck Orrisa, India’s second poorest state on the east

coast, on 29 October. It lasted for 12 hours, moving across a large


Around 1,500 villages disappeared overnight, and the best estimate is

that 10,000 people are dead and 10 million were affected in some


More than 50,000 fishing boats, and many acres of farmland were wiped

out, and there was massive disruption to schools, hospitals, and the

communications infrastructure.

The Disasters Emergency Committee, a body made up of the 15 leading

international aid agencies in the UK, had to move swiftly to raise money

to enable its workers to help with the short-term needs of food,

shelter, and hygiene, and the long-term aims of rebuilding the



To obtain prominent media coverage for an appeal, raising public

awareness of the Indian cyclone, and showing that all the participating

agencies were working together.

Strategy and Plan

The core team of three press officers met for the first time when the

decision to mount an appeal was made by the DEC on 4 November, by which

time the Indian cyclone story had virtually disappeared from the


The disaster had barely grabbed the headlines, mainly because of the

difficulty of getting around in the region and lack of facilities to get

stories and pictures back to the UK.

The DEC team had to work quickly to get the disaster back onto the news

agenda for the appeal being launched on 9 November. One of the main

worries was that the appeal would be launched in a vacuum, and fail to

catch the attention of the media and the public.

The committee has a standing arrangement with the BBC and ITV that if

there is a major disaster it approaches the broadcasters to seek their

co-operation in putting together an appeal. Both agreed that the cyclone

was a worthy cause, and filmed and recorded an appeal launch broadcast

for TV and radio with Joanna Lumley and Tom Conti. The angle taken by

the DEC was to emphasise the sheer scale of the disaster.

In the meantime, before the launch the DEC re-ignited interest in the

story by sending out early press releases about the appeal and

highlighting the celebrity involvement. On launch day, a press

conference was set up with an aid worker who had returned from the

region that morning, and gave a harrowing account of what he had


Measurement and Evaluation

The story returned to the news agenda of 8 November, with the impending

appeal covered in four national newspapers, including the front page of

the Express, and national radio.

On 9 November, Lumley was interviewed on GMTV and BBC Breakfast News,

and the appeal itself was covered in all major news bulletins across

terrestrial and satellite TV. Coverage continued the following day.


Even before the celebrity appeals went out, more than 10,000 callers had

pledged money to the appeal, estimated at pounds 200,000. Only two press

ads had featured the telephone number by this time, so much of this must

have come through editorial coverage of the appeal. The appeal total to

date is around pounds 2 million, and is expected to reach up to pounds 5

million by its close on 23 November.

Client: Disasters Emergency Committee

Campaign: India Cyclone Appeal

PR Team: From Action Aid, CARE International, and Save the Children UK,

supported by press officers in all participating charities.

Timescale: 9-23 November

Budget: pro bono

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