National Marriage Week was dreamed up by Richard Kane, director of
support group Marriage Resource. With the UK having the highest divorce
rate in Europe, and family values high on the political agenda, Kane
felt the time was right for his initiative.
To portray marriage as a worthwhile institution. To encourage couples to
work harder at marriage. To assist married couples by suggesting
measures such as tax breaks.
In November 1996 a video and workbook were launched with the aim of
motivating church leaders to organise events during National Marriage
Later 1,000 dummy press releases were sent out to local coordinators
giving instructions on how to deal with local media.
Meanwhile a series of high-profile events were centrally organised: Lord
Mackay gave a speech in London, couples renewed their vows in churches
nationwide, the Bishop of Hull called for tax breaks for married couples
and, to round the week off, John and Norma Major were presented with a
Valentine’s day bouquet at Downing Street.
The renewal of vows was ideal for television. Keith Ewing, co-organiser
and communications officer for Evangelical Alliance, appeared with his
wife on Newsnight. A renewal service for 200 couples in Hampshire
trailed Lord Mackay’s speech on Tuesday and a pancake race organised at
Malmesbury Abbey in Wiltshire was covered by GMTV.
Meanwhile independent think-tank Demos launched a report to coincide
with NMW that proposed new ideas including time-limited marriages. This
boosted coverage, but meant that all those being interviewed, including
MP Gary Streeter and the Bishop of Hull, had to be prepared to field new
The Bishop and Richard Kane made themselves available to local radio
through Regional Broadcasting at Broadcasting House. The religion
correspondent for the BBC sent a recorded piece on the week to all
weekday morning shows.
Lord Mackay’s office invited the media to his speech.
Delegation was the key as it was just Kane and Ewing co-ordinating the
campaign. Church groups around the country gave the campaign impetus
while the media were centrally orchestrated. Events were designed to
appeal to different media, and its synergy with the Conservative Party’s
family values campaign allowed Marriage Resource to win the support of
high profile figures.
Interviews with Richard Kane, the Bishop of Hull and Gary Streeter MP
were broadcast on over 30 local radio stations. Radio 4’s Today
programme and Radio 2’s Sunday morning show featured NMW.
BBC TV News slotted coverage on NMW into a look at the state of the
family in Britain. Newsnight debated the marriage issue and Sky News and
GMTV both covered the renewal events.
The Daily Mail, Guardian, Telegraph, Times and Independent carried
features on the state of marriage and covered the renewal
For a small church-based group to gain so much coverage was remarkable
but all the ingredients fell into place at the right time. The Demos
report was timely and when John Major was quoted in Cosmopolitan saying
his marriage was his greatest achievement, it was manna from heaven.
The organisers now plan to make the week a permanent fixture. Press
coverage may have encouraged many to re-think the concept of marriage,
but long-term success can only be gauged by marriage/divorce
Client: Marriage Resource
PR Team: In-house
Campaign: National Marriage Week
Timescale: November 1996-February 1997
Cost: pounds 1,000