Case study: Planning media coverage around unveiling of the Iraq and Afghanistan memorial

Effective planning was vital in the launch of the Iraq and Afghanistan memorial in London earlier this year, not least managing the intense media interest that accompanies the royal family, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The Queen  and Prince Philip attend the unveiling of the new memorial on 9 March 2017 (Pic credit: TOBY MELVILLE/WPA Rota/Press Association Images)
The Queen and Prince Philip attend the unveiling of the new memorial on 9 March 2017 (Pic credit: TOBY MELVILLE/WPA Rota/Press Association Images)

The new memorial in central London commemorates both civilians and service personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 1990 and 2015.

It was unveiled in March by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Harry and a number of other senior members of the royal family.

Jennifer Maxfield, senior campaigns officer, MoD, said: "Due to the high-profile nature of the conflicts and significant VVIP attendance, there was always going to be a great deal of media interest in the event."

In a blog recently posted on the Government Communication Service website, she added: "An important task for the MOD PR team was to work with the site contractor to establish the right locations and structures for media positions for both Horse Guards and Victoria Embankment Gardens."

This involved a series of meetings and, in the run-up to the event, the MoD held a briefing for broadcasters and photographers to get their views on the draft site plans.

This was followed up by taking media contacts to visit the site and see the media positions in advance.

Maxfield commented: "Engaging with the media in this way ensured they were fully aware and content with the access and shots they would get, which helped them plan their content, and ensured there were no issues raised on the day."

The MoD's PR team liaised with other government departments to have a mix of civilian and military case studies available for interview, as well as using their comms teams to help staff the event.

Social media was a particular focus, with the MoD sharing footage of the event on Facebook Live and YouTube, as well as posting 18 tweets and 24 Facebook posts and content on Instagram and Snapchat.

This resulted in hundreds of thousands of engagements, with people choosing to do things like sharing posts on social media. An animation created to promote the memorial resulted in 528,600 combined views and 97,300 engagements on Facebook.

The launch received broadcast news coverage on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky and Forces TV throughout the day.

In addition, more than 60 stories ran on international, national and regional online titles, while 12 stories ran in national and regional print titles after the event.

Although some articles had a negative slant – focussing on criticism of former prime minister Tony Blair attending the event and the MoD not directly inviting all bereaved families – most accurately referred to the memorial as recognising both military and civilians.

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