In this post-truth era, it can seem that honesty is out of fashion. Alternative facts are the new black and consumer trust levels have plummeted.
In response, brands are seeking to build loyalty and trust among their target audiences with purpose-driven campaigns that set them apart from the competition.
In the public sector, building trust is also key with government, education and health bodies needing effective and convincing ways to engage with the public and generate enthusiasm for publicly funded projects.
All together now
Encouraging a city to come together and break a world record can seem like a big ask. But at PR360, delegates heard how Culture Liverpool, a department of Liverpool City Council and the legacy team for the European Capital of Culture 2008, did just that.
Culture Liverpool worked in partnership with sponsor and online fashion retailer Very, along with community and special interest groups from across the city, to break the record for most people modelling on a catwalk. The record attempt was part of its Transatlantic 175 campaign, which celebrated, alongside Cunard, 175 years of cruise travel across the Atlantic from Liverpool to New York. This cruise travel opened the gates to cultural experiences for both countries, including new music, fashion, art, design, food and film.
More than 3,651 people sashayed down the catwalk in under four hours during the fashion show under the creative stewardship of renowned designer Wayne Hemingway. Those that took part included punks, goths, brownies, football fans, brides, gymnasts, local fashion designers, bloggers and vloggers, along with the general public.
"We wanted to showcase the best of our city and give all those who took part the opportunity to showcase themselves and their talents and passions," says Culture Liverpool project manager Jen Falding. "It wasn’t easy, we had a lot of challenges to overcome but the city got behind us and we achieved it."
The successful attempt generated more than 202 news articles, 164,000 Tweets and 93,500 Facebook posts. The event, part of a weekend of celebrations, attracted 200,000 visitors to the city with an economic impact of £4.8m. It has also led to lasting relationships between Culture Liverpool and the community groups that took part.
Katie Forde, VP of global product marketing at Guinness World Records, says campaigns with a purpose, and specifically CSR and community engagement, are two of the most common objectives for the brands and other organisations that it works with.
And, as Culture Liverpool showed, the challenge of breaking a Guinness World Records title can be an impactful way to encourage people to join forces in pursuit of a shared goal and fire up the imaginations of a whole community.
A valuable lesson
Earlier this year, Guinness World Records worked with poet and mental health awareness campaigner Hussain Manawer and King’s College London on a Guinness World Records title attempt for the largest mental health awareness lesson (single venue).
A record setting 538 pupils from 14 local schools took part in the 30-minute class, which was part of 24-year-old Hussain’s ongoing efforts to end the stigma around mental illness.
Making the lesson a world record attempt gave it a kudos that appealed to its target audience of teenagers and helped generate headlines, putting the issue of mental health awareness firmly in the media spotlight. Hussain estimates the organisers engaged with around one thousand students as part of the outreach around the attempt.
It was the second Guinness World Records title attempt for Hussain, whose first attempt at the largest mental health awareness lesson in December fell just short of the numbers required. Coming back to try again gave Hussain an additional angle to the story, which helped extend media coverage around the campaign and its overall reach.
Mass participation events typically come with a range of logistical considerations. However, Puma Sports India provided a textbook example of how to do it as part of its 2016 global #DoYou campaign.
The campaign, fronted by British model and actress Cara Delevingne, aimed to inspire confidence in women all over the world. Puma wanted the record attempt to be the culmination of the campaign. It wanted to break a record in a way that would celebrate empowerment and the inner strength of women.
And so the sports brand brought together 1,623 women in Mumbai to set the Guinness World Records title for most people holding the abdominal plank position.
To attract people to the event, Puma spread the word about its record attempt two months in advance, via a series of viral videos featuring everyday women sharing inspiring stories. It also launched a multichannel advertising campaign depicting female influencers performing a plank, with the messaging including a call to action to take part in the record attempt and get involved in the ‘Do you’ movement. The record attempt itself was live-streamed on Facebook, sparking conversations across social media with a number of high-profile celebrities sharing the record breaking event. More than 100m impressions were generated throughout the course of the campaign.
Of course, setting a Guinness World Records title can seem daunting, but help is at hand. The Guinness World Records team works with brands and other organisations from the planning stages of their campaigns to ensure they find the record attempt that best aligns with their objectives.
"When a client comes to us they either already have a well-formed idea, including the record that they want to break, or they may simply have a list of objectives that they are looking to achieve," says Forde. "Whatever the scenario our internal creative team kicks into action and brainstorms the best record attempt that can help that client deliver against their goals."
The presence of a Guinness World Records adjudicator helps to add extra excitement to any record attempt.
"That moment before they announce whether the attempt has been successful or not creates that piece of drama and tension that adds to the occasion for everyone," says Forde.
Turning failure into success
As Hussain’s first record attempt shows, there is always the chance that any Guinness World Records title attempt will be unsuccessful. However, even if this happens Forde argues it can still be a positive story.
She cited an instance of Panasonic spinning such a story out of a failure to break the record for the greatest distance travelled by a fixed-wing aircraft powered by primary dry cell batteries after it was scuppered by inclement weather.
The project was done in collaboration with a group of students, and its failure was seen as helping the formation of their careers as scientists and engineers.
Forde explains: "Panasonic did a brilliant job of conveying the emotion that came across from the participants. You could really see how much it meant to them. The disappointment, the excitement, all that range of emotion, to me that is the essence of what storytelling is about.
"A great record breaking campaign does not have to hinge on the success or failure of the record attempt itself. Even an unsuccessful attempt is a rich source of content for talented storytellers to draw from."
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