Campaign: National Archives wins visitors with 'Cold War' - Exhibition PR

Campaign: National Archives Secret State exhibition launch

Client: The National Archives

PR Team: Mission 21/in-house team

Timescale: November 2003-May 2004

Budget: Undisclosed

The National Archives worked with retained agency Mission 21 to publicise the launch of its Secret State exhibition, which looked at government activity during the Cold War. Objectives

To raise awareness of The National Archives. To increase visitors to the museum. To explain that the exhibition was of interest to everyone.

Strategy and Plan

A major challenge was to ensure that journalists would be able to identify key issues from the overwhelming number of documents on display.

Focus was also placed on attempting to broaden the appeal of the museum and to encourage visitors to travel to an exhibition outside central London.

National and local media were targeted, with The Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror specifically identified as representing a wide range of demographics. Three weeks prior to launch, interviews were arranged with curators.

A media preview was arranged two days before the 2 April launch, where an additional story was released based on a newly declassified document that outlined how military scientists had proposed using live chickens to detonate nuclear land mines.

Measurement and Evaluation

The preview was attended by Sky, ITN and BBC camera crews, the Daily Mail, The Times, The Independent, Reuters and The Press Association.

In the week before launch, coverage appeared in The Times Magazine, The Observer, The Sunday Telegraph and the Daily Express.

The chicken story, timed for 1 April, generated a huge amount of media interest. Once the BBC was convinced, running the story on its news website, coverage followed in most national newspapers. Radio coverage included the Today programme and the XFM Breakfast show. It was also covered by ITN, Five News and London Tonight, as well as American and Canadian radio stations and websites.

According to Durrants, all coverage referred to The National Archives, and in-house evaluation revealed that the exhibition itself was mentioned in 80 per cent of articles.


Visitor numbers to the museum were up 46 per cent on the previous year and have continued to increase steadily. The exhibition has been extended to run until the end of October.

PA reporter John Paul Ford Rojas says that he thought the campaign worked well. 'While I did have some concerns about the chicken story, I was assured that "civil servants don't make jokes".'

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