CAMPAIGN: Legion gives poppies a fresh appeal

CIPR EXCELLENCE AWARDS - WINNER (NOT-FOR-PROFIT): The Royal British Legion organises the Poppy Appeal in the run-up to Remembrance Day on 11 November. This year they wanted to do something different...

Katherine Jenkins: in a red dress made from 2,500 poppies for Poppy Appeal 2006
Katherine Jenkins: in a red dress made from 2,500 poppies for Poppy Appeal 2006

Campaign name: Poppy Appeal 2006
Client: Royal British Legion
PR team
: Amazon PR, The SPAway, Zebra Sponsorship, in-house
Timescale: October to November 2006
Budget: £90,000

After a relaunch of its welfare services as Poppy Support last summer, the Legion wanted to refresh the 85-year-old annual fundraising event. It brought three PR agencies on board, with its in-house team managing the project.

To create a link between fundraising and spending. To highlight modern-day conflicts. To take advantage of ­Armistice Day falling on a Saturday. To generate £26m.

The campaign needed to appeal to both young audiences and traditional supporters, so the teams arranged a photo opportunity in Covent Garden involving veterans from recent conflicts and opera singer Katherine Jenkins. The photogenic Jenkins wore a dress made from 2,500 poppies.

Alongside traditional commemorations at the Cenotaph, a more modern event, Silence in the Square, featuring poetry reading, choirs and bands was organised in Trafalgar Square on Saturday, 11 November. Leaflets were handed out around London beforehand, children from local schools were asked along and national print, broadcast and online media were invited. Press packs were made for the Legion’s regional offices, including studies of those affected by recent conflicts.

Three animated text downloads were created to raise funds, while follow-up texts were sent out to remind donors to observe the two-minute ­silence. A Legion blog was set up, while the teams also created a podcast of the event around the two-minute silence on iTunes so people could join in with the remembrance. Technology journalists were sent a press release about these new media initiatives.

Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow refused to wear a poppy on TV, but the Legion did not want to become involved in the dispute. The teams had expected such a story and used a pre-prepared Q&A to respond to queries.

The campaign achieved 233 pieces of national media coverage, all of which were neutral or positive. This included Hello!, the Daily Express, Daily Mirror, The Sun, Daily Tele­graph, BBC Radio 5 Live Morning Report, GMTV, Sky News, BFBS TV, BBC Online, Guardian Unlimited and PA News. Another 1,947 pieces covered regional activities including thelondonpaper, Metro London, Yorkshire Post, ITV London, ITV Wales Tonight and BBC Radio Devon. There were ­also 84 pieces on the Jon Snow story.

More than 8,000 people attended ­Silence in the Square and £24m has been raised so far (£1m up on this time last year). At least 11,000 text downloads raised £10,000, while 1,500 people downloaded the podcast. The blog was referenced in 13 other blogs and the Legion website, which usually gets 40,000 visitors a week, received 108,291 in the week of 5 November.

PA reporter Chris Greenwood says: ‘The event has lots of history behind it and organisers seem to be able to find a modern photo opportunity each year that makes it more interesting and refreshes it. We’ve covered Katherine Jenkins’ visits to Afghanistan in the past, so we were interested in her, but we would always cover the story, so they are in a win-win situation.’


Niall Cowley (l) is director of communications at Beatbullying: Buying a poppy in November is such an ubiquitous thing, but I for one never knew exactly where the money went. This campaign certainly set that straight. The clever use of research statistics drove it home loud and clear.

I thought using text downloads was a brave move. There was a chance that those who actually know how to download content to a mobile phone were too busy downloading Rihanna, and an equal chance that those who tried to do it for the first time might accidentally download porn. But it worked, and raising £10,000 from this activity alone has pricked my ears up to this possibility.

The events were immaculately presented and the resulting cove­rage was enviable. The return on invest­ment was 2,400 per cent. However, I thought the piece of YouGov research about the ‘rele­vance’ of a two-minute silence was wasteful. It belied the slickness of the rest of the media relations and served only to promote YouGov.

But I would love to have been at the meeting when some bright young thing suggested a podcast of the two-minute silence. I’m sure the room was divided in three: those who thought a podcast was something do to with vege­table patches, those who baulked at the wasteful idea of recording two minutes of silence, and those (who I want to come and work for me) who thought this was a positively genius idea. The Legion does not deal with humorous issues, but that really was quite funny.

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