CAMPAIGN: Churchill's grandson helps defence fund

The United Kingdom National Defence Association (UKNDA) was formed to campaign for increased funding for national defence. It is calling on Government to allocate at least three per cent of GDP to the armed forces and believes that current levels of spending are seriously undermining the UK's ability to defend itself.

Patrons: Lord Owen, Winston Churchill, Lord Guthrie and Lord Graig
Patrons: Lord Owen, Winston Churchill, Lord Guthrie and Lord Graig

Campaign: Launch of the UK National Defence Association (UKNDA)
Client: UKNDA
PR team: Edelman's Strategic Media Unit and Edelman Public Affairs
Timescale: September - November 2007
Budget: Under £25,000

The organisation had no public visibility but decided to begin promoting itself once Winston Churchill - grandson of the war-time leader - agreed to be its president. Edelman's Strategic Media Unit was called in to help.

To deliver a successful launch event and raise awareness of the UKNDA. To drive public interest and donations to the website. To create a lobbying programme for UKNDA.

From the start, it was clear that the UKNDA had support from a wide variety of stakeholders, so Edelman advised the organisation which spokespeople would draw most media and political attention.

In addition to president Winston Churchill, four patrons were chosen - three former chiefs of defence staff (Lord Guthrie, Lord Boyce and Lord Craig) and former foreign secretary Lord David Owen.

Edelman chose a launch day close to Remembrance Sunday that would provide good weekday coverage as well as the opportunity for incremental coverage into the weekend. Not all spokespeople were available on launch day, so a photo call and filmed interviews were done beforehand.

The BBC was then given an exclusive launch day interview with Lord Guthrie for the Today programme. Edelman realised the story would have a strong appeal so it included two ex-broadcast journalists to help drive the coverage in its media team.

All the national defence correspondents, military trades, wires and key regional media were invited and broadcasters included ITN, Sky and British Forces Broadcasting Service.

On launch day itself, broadcast coverage started with the BBC Today programme, GMTV, BBC Breakfast and BBC Breakfast Scotland. This was followed by live coverage and pre-records with BBC News 24, Sky News, BBC One O'Clock and Six O'Clock News and ITV News. The story also ran on the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

UKNDA was extensively covered by the Press Association and ran in the online versions of the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, The Independent, The Guardian and The Sun.

As well as BBC online,,, and the Islamic Republic News Agency, it appeared in the Evening Standard, Bradford Telegraph and Argus and The Birmingham Post.

The following day it appeared in the Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, The Mirror, The Sun, The London Metro, Daily Express, The Guardian, The Scotsman, The Herald, The Journal Newcastle, Western Morning News and Yorkshire Post.

On Remembrance Sunday, the Independent on Sunday ran a long interview with Lord Guthrie and UKNDA, a news item and a comment piece.

Website traffic was up 400 per cent on launch day and membership of the UKNDA has more than doubled with an 18-month target now set at 100,000 members. UKNDA has also now developed a supporters' database that is growing daily and has a Facebook entry with more than 1,000 supporters.


Graham McMillan, chief executive pf Open Road

I distinctly remember hearing on the Today programme that three former chiefs of the defence staff had clubbed together to state that government funding of the armed forces was insufficient.

I remember thinking: 'My God the Government's really in trouble now.'

So I did not need media analysis to know that this was a campaign that got its message across to opinion formers effectively. Senior ministers always have to sit up and take notice when the top brass are so angry that they feel forced to go to the media.

UKNDA and Edelman had a very strong story. They could also use a range of other powerful stories around the same time concerning the armed forces' lack of equipment and being overstretched fighting wars on two fronts. The media were sensitised to the story and the Government was already on the defensive.

But UKNDA and Edelman did a good job, even considering the favourable backdrop. Choosing a date close to, but not on, Remembrance Sunday was sensible. They also got round the non-availability of some of their key supporters by using footage of them filmed in advance.

The Ministry of Defence can take against campaigns that are purely public and adversarial. The trick can often be to engage ministers, officials and special advisers first, tip them off that you will have to go public and stress that you are doing so in sorrow rather than anger.

That way you can retain some goodwill in Government even when you are publicly pouring ordure all over them in the media. Now it has launched, the next big question is this: is the UKNDA getting the result that matters most - more resources?

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in