Campaign: Apostrophe Catastrophe
Client: Kelly Services UK
PR team: Quay West Communications
Timescale: October-December 2006
In light of government research showing that the UK workforce is not only 25 per cent less productive than the French, but also has a poor record of literacy, the Colchester-based agency recommended focusing on standards in grammar and punctuation.
To position Kelly Services as an ethical recruitment company that seeks to help both employers and candidates. To highlight the prevalence of grammatical mistakes and punctuation errors that riddle many CVs and job application forms and provide practical help to address the problem. To drive traffic to the Kelly Services website.
Strategy and plan
To get some hard data on people’s troubles with grammar, Quay West commissioned online research among a sample of 2,000 UK adults on use of the apostrophe, which was married with analysis of 200 CVs submitted to Kelly Services. The findings showed 95 per cent of CVs had errors. The worst problems were over-capitalisation, using the present tense to refer to past employment and misspellings. Crucially, incorrect use of the apostrophe was widespread.
Results were broken down by level of education, geographical region and job sector to form an ‘Apostrophe Catastrophe’ report that was sent to the national and regional newspapers, with particular emphasis on consumer, engineering, science and education correspondents. Other media targets included specialist recruitment and business titles.
To prolong the campaign and demonstrate that Kelly Services was offering practical help, Quay West devised the Kelly Benchmark, which contains a series of simple guidelines and tips to using grammar correctly.
Measurement and evaluation
The media was particularly taken with the finding that teachers only came joint second in the online grammar test, with the profession’s shortcomings being flagged up on the front page on The Sunday Telegraph. Other media outlets to cover the story included The Financial Times, The Times, The Times Educational Supplement, the Daily Mail and BBC Three Counties Radio.
Visitor numbers to kellyservices.co.uk spiked dramatically following articles in the Daily Mail and The Sunday Telegraph, rising by up to 220 per cent and 215 per cent respectively. In addition, almost 1,000 copies of the Kelly Benchmark have been downloaded since the beginning of November.
FT.com senior companies reporter Maggie Urry said: ‘it was relevant to the current news agenda.’