How To Surf A Tsunami
Welcome to ‘the new normal’, and our first newsletter since the pandemic began. Looking back, as the crisis neared the UK, we almost sensed the shoreline disappear ahead of the tsunami’s arrival, and we recalled the famous Japanese print by Hokusai. Then, as it hit, lines from William Butler Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming, came to mind. "Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."
As a study in Communications and PR, there can be no better example of the myriad ways people process, react to and communicate about a crisis: from blunt denial, to conspiracy theory, and everything in between. And despite the enormous destruction unleashed by microscopic pieces of genetic information that can have devastating effects on our bodies, we predict good things, as well as bad, will come from this crisis. Yet, one thing is for sure: the need for good communications has never been greater.
Securing a 99m Audience - Lest We Forget...
Despite the sadness, VE Day 75 in May provided a chance for the nation to come together - albeit at a safe distance. Three quarters of a century after WW2 ended, we helped to mark the contribution made by Britain’s veterans, securing coverage featuring female veterans in their 90s and early 100s on behalf of charity, the WRAC Association. Many interviews later, including for ITV Good Morning Britain with Lorraine Kelly, our Bletchley Park code-breaker, 97 year old Betty Webb MBE, also graced the cover of National Geographic. BBC Breakfast spoke to 102 year old Molly Francis from her care home about manning anti-aircraft guns as a woman. The reach of our coverage totalled nearly 99 million.
Then, to mark VJ Day 75 (Victory in Japan) in August, we set up media opportunities including the extraordinarily moving interview of 102 year old Joan Rich for BBC Radio 5 Live: DJ Nicky Campbell asked her to describe helping to rehabilitate Japanese POWs. It was almost impossible, she said, as these poor souls had been “tattooed on the inside” by their torturers. Such stories must be aired and remembered for posterity, including those of pioneering women like Betty, who helped to crack enemy codes, as reported in The Times.
Time to INNOVATE and COMMUNICATE!
Our end-of-year newsletter finished by asking, ‘How will YOU roar in the 20s?’ which seems cruelly ironic, given our inevitable move into recession. Yet, a recent article in The Telegraph, by Jeremy Warner, sheds a hopeful light: In the decade after WW1, around 10% of global GDP evaporated, and Spanish Flu killed 0.5% of the British (and US) populations. This compares to just 0.07%: the current approximation for Coronavirus deaths. Warner counters negative predictions for a century later and posits that the 2020's could usher in great innovation and a cultural explosion. Could weakening of the near-monopolies held by the ‘Big Tech 4’ make way for newbies, as hinted at by the grilling of their leaders by US Congress this summer? Certainly we are hearing a loud roar for justice - for people, planet (and profit), not to mention for an end to healthcare inequality around the globe.
Because Viruses don't respect Borders
Speaking of health inequality, we were proud to help announce the United Nations’ Global Callout to Creatives on Covid-19 to the the world's media. The campaign resulted in 17,000 creative works being submitted from 143 countries - designed to help to spread six W.H.O. messages about social distancing, hand-washing and the like to ‘spread the word, not the virus’. Working with the United Nations SDG Hub in New York and Talenthouse in London reminded us of the power of global collaboration, especially when it comes to health messages.
Peter Piot, who discovered the Ebola virus in the 1970s, used to say that it is the communicators who will save more lives than all the doctors in the world. So it was satisfying to secure coverage in The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Grazia Middle East, plus trade publications, Little Black Book, CAMPAIGN Magazine and Music Business Worldwide.
A Shot in the Arm, not in the Dark
For years, public health in the UK was considered to be a ‘Cinderella Service’ until lately: under-valued, under-paid and never ‘in the spotlight’. In fact, it was removed from NHS responsibility in 2013 and given to often-bankrupt Local Authorities to enact. Interestingly, the Salisbury Poisonings in 2018 required complex tracing and prevention, as with Coronavirus. As portrayed in the excellent BBC docudrama, the incident was a wake-up call about public health communications. Fast forward, and how priorities have changed in 2020... Now, public health is ALL of our responsibility, as responsible citizens.
We're curious to witness what will emerge in terms of communications strategies once vaccines against Covid-19 finally emerge. We solved Smallpox and Polio, but current patient attitudes in the West are less ‘I’ll do what the Doctor orders’ and more ‘Consumer rights’. The crux will be which ‘facts’ lay-people are exposed to, and which they trust to be ‘reliable sources’. We predict the Government’s new ‘CONVINCE’ strategy will show that a gargantuan education piece is needed to prevent politically-motivated, rather than science-based, messages and actions prevailing.
What Price Culture in a Crisis?
Legend has it that, when Winston Churchill was asked to cut funding for the arts to favour the WW2 war effort, his repost was, “Then, what would we be fighting for?” Culture is one of our main exports. Indeed, the UK’s live music industry alone relies on over 210,000 people, and contributes over £4.5Bn a year to our economy. So, true to its loyal form, instead of celebrating 30 years in business (with a big, band-fuelled party) our music industry client, Key Production Group, launched KEY PLAYBACK - a series of content celebrating the wide array of music stakeholders involved in bringing music to our ears, as announced in Record of the Day. Key's CEO, Karen Emanuel, continues to offer other business leaders advice on ‘coping with COVID’- as explored by HR Magazine, Be The Business and Business Matters.
Earlier in the year, we secured yet more coverage about why cassettes are back, this time in GQ Magazine and MoneyWise. And Karen was recently interviewed by Edie.net about her company’s moves to make the entire supply chain more environmentally sustainable – a theme Euronews explored in its article, ‘Is our addiction to Spotify ruining the planet?’ which examined the environmental impact of streaming versus owning physical albums or singles.
Likewise, our film industry client, Helicopter Film Services, has been adapting during the Production lockdown, as described in Definition magazine. We announced steps being taken to ensure Covid-safe filming from the air, as covered in British Cinematographer, Televisual and GTC. Assuming Production re-starts this Autumn, we can’t wait to see their stunning aerial filming sequences feature in major Hollywood productions such as - Black Widow and Wonder Woman 1984 - whose enticing trailers boast the work of world renowned aerial Director of Photography, Jeremy Braben and crew.
What Keeps Us Sane Must Be Protected
Movies and other forms of culture continue to get us through this crisis. Yet, there’s nothing more soothing for the soul than nature. With reduced aviation and road traffic noise, you may have noticed the dawn chorus was louder than ever this Spring. Given the fact 4 out of 5 Brits say listening to the sound ofbirds singing makes them happier, and 72% say it makes them less stressed, we issued scientific research news for wildlife charity, SongBird Survival, at Easter time. Just when UK Covid-19 cases were peaking, this gave editors and audiences some good news - albeit with a serious message about the millions of birds that are killed by cats each year, and how to prevent it. (Songbird numbers have fallen a staggering 50% in 50 years for a plethora of reasons, one reason being that cat ownership has soared.) This week, we secured an audience of around 172m via articles in Daily Mail, The Independent, Newsweek and Huffington Post detailing University of Exeter research into the attitudes of cat owners to hunting, which hints at a win-win for both wildlife and cat. Cat owners can take this quiz to identify which of 5 'types' they are.
On The OFFENSIVE To Get Back To Business
Despite the pandemic, which has led to vast changes in the fashion industry, we must dig deep, be brave, and stay creative. Armed with this attitude, in the face of a high street retail crisis we went forth to launch new eco-fashion brand, OFFENSIVE Fashion during lockdown. How? Well, given a collective yearning for being together to celebrate, laugh and be a bit silly, first, we gifted journalists and influencers a ‘moodbox’ of treats to get them in the mood for an action-packed Zoom launch event. Former Army officer and fitness guru, Olivia Cox, led the charge in hosting the event with music producer, Jazz Purple, UK grill master, Daniel Cooper, and catwalk model, Pascal Wilke. Olivia presented its lookbook and ran a card game workout demo. The event culminated with a hilarious ‘stein challenge’ whereby 50 guests competed to see who could hold aloft their heavy beer glass for the longest! The client team almost won. (Well, it would have been OFFENSIVE to take the 1st prize home...) Coverage is appearing in the likes of FRUK, Savant and Boutique Magazine, Men's Health, Marie-Claire and Cosmopolitan. Thanks again to Aduna and K1 Beer for deliciously sponsoring!
A HUGE Thanks to...
I’d like to thank our clients for trusting in our strategies despite turbulent times, and to our illustrious team for stellar work to keep client actions and initiatives reaching new audiences. Special thanks to Jess, who came on board from a physical distance, yet provided her spirit in as ‘present’ a way as is possible! Thanks also to Anoushka for her very topical knowledge, based on studying Global Sustainability. And to Imogen for fast gaining a knowledge of Songbirds. 2020 will be a year none of us will forget, and this year is far from over. Let’s hope there are some positive changes afoot. And let nobody forget that in times of crisis, good communication is ALL!
All the best,
Hannah Kapff & Curious PR team