CAMPAIGNS: JUDGE AND JURY; British Legion’s campaign for silence really was golden

The Royal British Legion captured the nation’s imagination on Armistice Day, helped enormously by the expertise of director of public affairs Charles Lewis, says Phillip Dewhurst, corporate affairs director of Railtrack

The Royal British Legion captured the nation’s imagination on Armistice

Day, helped enormously by the expertise of director of public affairs

Charles Lewis, says Phillip Dewhurst, corporate affairs director of

Railtrack



Speaking at the IPR editor’s lunch on 12 November, Charles Moore

admitted that, in hindsight, he would probably not, as he had that

morning, run a five column page one photograph of elderly customers at a

supermarket checkout doing nothing.



But, along with an estimated two thirds of Britain’s population, he had

been swept along by the collective mood of remembrance that marked the

reinstatement of the two minutes silence on Armistice Day, 11 November.

Like Michael Heseltine, who shut up in mid-flow at the CBI conference;

like business leaders, local authorities, school children and the

Premiership footballers who stopped training for two minutes - Moore was

seduced by what the Today programme described as a ‘gentle campaign’ of

persuasion.



In today’s competitive climate, charities need a professional edge to

survive. The Royal British Legion found theirs in a veteran of many a

corporate PR battle, Charles Lewis, who joined as public affairs

director earlier this year. Putting his years of PR experience at ICI,

Tesco, RTZ and British Steel into practice, Lewis trawled his contacts

book to build support for the campaign. Railtrack had supported the

pilot 1995 campaign, and I was one of the first to receive a call from

Lewis.



Having won the early support of other key blue chip companies, the

Legion’s in-house team built a ground swell of support armed with

research showing that 93 per cent of adults and 96 per cent of 15 to 24

year olds backed a return to the Armistice Day silence.



The campaign visibly stepped up a gear in June. The launch of ‘Pause to

Remember’, the British Legion’s racing yacht and BA’s decision to

emblazon the campaign theme and poppy motif on one of its aircraft

attracted coverage on the Today programme. John Major, Tony Blair and

Paddy Ashdown pledged support and a schools helpline received 400 calls

following a mailing to head teachers.



The results of October’s intensive media relations campaign, carried out

with support from Biss Lancaster, were there for all to see in the

blanket coverage of the event. For a relatively modest pounds 40,000,

the British Legion succeeded in catapulting itself to the forefront of

public awareness.



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