Case Study: RAF centenary celebrations trend on Twitter

While it does not ordinarily dominate the world of social media, the Royal Air Force succeeded in trending on Twitter last Tuesday.

Tens of thousands attended the RAF centenary celebrations at The Mall (Pic credit: Crown copyright)
Tens of thousands attended the RAF centenary celebrations at The Mall (Pic credit: Crown copyright)

It was the culmination of months of PR activity since the start of 2018 to celebrate the RAF’s centenary, under the RAF100 banner.

The key messages included commemorating the history of the RAF, celebrating its work today and inspiring people to support the RAF and/or consider it as a career choice.

The RAF100 comms team, headed by Group Captain Nick Bayley, RAF director of media and comms, brought in Engine Group, with MHP the lead PR agency, to help promote the centenary.

MHP concentrated on inspiring hard-to-reach audiences with limited connections to and understanding of the RAF. These were 16- to 24-year-old women, BAME communities, and young people with an interest in STEM subjects.

Public engagement work was focused on the 100 days starting from 1 April – the date of the RAF’s foundation.

Event-led PR was used to bring the campaign to the attention of the target groups. Examples ranged from getting a group of gamers within the RAF to participate in the Insomnia62 gaming festival at the NEC, Birmingham, to changing the route of an RAF baton relay to ensure it went through places with large BAME communities.

In addition, a social-media campaign was run across the period, celebrating the diversity of people within the RAF with a picture-led approach.

The RAF100 campaign culminated in the celebrations on 10 July, when a parade down The Mall was accompanied by a flypast of more than 100 aircraft, culminating with the Red Arrows, over Buckingham Palace.

Although the figures are still being collated, RAF100 trended nationally on Twitter all day, and at its peak, there was a social mention every eight seconds, according to MHP.

Last Tuesday's centenary celebrations also achieved blanket mainstream media coverage, with every national newspaper running the story and images on its front page the next day.

One way in which the impact will be judged is by looking at brand-tracking research carried out at the start and end of the campaign.

Other measures include looking at rates of engagement with campaign materials.

Films made for the campaign had been viewed 2.3 million times by the end of last month, with an engagement rate of 18 per cent – nine times higher than the two per cent benchmark.


By the end of last month there had been more than 150,000 separate online mentions of RAF100.

Lee Findell, senior director, MHP, commented: "In nearly 18 years of working in PR, this has been among the best and most inspiring campaigns I have worked on. I am immensely proud of the whole MHP team, who have delivered outstanding results for [clients] who deserve all the accolades they have been receiving for their dedication and service to Britain."


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