CAMPAIGNS: BOOK LAUNCH; Making modern biblical sense

Client: Bible Society PR Team: In-house and Diamond Communications Campaign: Launch of Contemporary English Version Bible Timing: January - March 1996 Budget: pounds 15,000

Client: Bible Society

PR Team: In-house and Diamond Communications

Campaign: Launch of Contemporary English Version Bible

Timing: January - March 1996

Budget: pounds 15,000



Dubbed the ‘soap opera bible’ by the Press Association, the Bible

Society’s Contemporary English Version (CEV) went back to original

sources to bring ancient storylines bang up to date. American Baptist

translator Barclay Newman and his 100-strong team pored over texts for

ten years to create an accurate interpretation of the Bible with a

contemporary feel.



‘In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of

Judea’ from the Authorised Version, Matt 3i, is replaced by ‘John the

Baptist showed up in the desert’.



Dawn Prosser media relations officer at the Swindon-based Bible Society,

says that the CEV is as much in tune with end of 20th century feelings,

as AV was in tune with the times at the beginning of the 17th.



CEV is entering a crowded market, with over 1,000 different versions of

the Bible currently available according to figures from the Baptist

Times.



Objective



To distinguish CEV in the bible book market and sell, or give away at

evangelical rallies, 10 million copies over the next ten years.



Tactics



The Bible Society hired one woman Christian PR outfit Gilly Swan of

Diamond Communications to handle an integrated campaign, including

events management, direct mailing and marketing assistance. Swan sent

copies of CEV to 150 key players in the evangelical movement inviting

their commentaries.



Prosser worked alongside the marketing campaign, using endorsements as

they came in to prompt media coverage. A media pack and a copy of the

Bible was sent to national secular and religious press and broadcast

media, inviting them to ‘Sharing the Vision’ presentations by Barclay

Newman from January to March throughout the UK.



As media interest grew, Newman was also available to conduct radio

interviews using the Bible Society’s own studio and ISDN link.



On the back of demand created by religious media coverage, Swan extended

her direct mailing operation to cover 350 booksellers and churches.



Results



‘There’s a lot of interest in the word of God,’ says Prosser modestly.

Sales of CEV in Britain are 100 per cent ahead of targets, and media

coverage has been immense on a regional and national level. Broadsheets

and local radio stations in particular picked up on the scriptures in a

big way.



That said, the broadsheets had a lot of fun comparing 20th and 16th

century biblical phrases. All were condescending about replacing

‘crucified’ with ‘nailed to a cross’ and reported piously that ‘manger’

had become ‘bed of hay’ and only narrowly missed being ‘feedbox’.



George Austin, the Archdeacon of York branded the CEV as the ‘soppy’

language of Enid Blyton.



Verdict



The UK launch achieved far more coverage than the bible’s launch in the

US, with a fraction of the publicity budget. There is no doubt that the

Press Association’s commentary on ‘the soap opera Bible’ did wonders for

levels of awareness.



But any new translation is open to critics sneeering at the choice of

modern words and the Contemporary English Version was no exception



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