Long Live Southbank. Great comms campaigns I wish I'd done seminar, 18 June 2014.


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Adeela Warley, head of communications, Friends of the Earth

Visit the CharityComms website to view slides from our past events, see what events we have coming up and to check out what else we do.

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  • Campaign in nutshell

    In early March 2013 the South Bank Centre unveiled designs for a £120 million redevelopment of its “Festival Wing” to revitalise the building and develop move inclusive arts facilities for millions of Londoners.

    They also unveiled plans to transform the iconic SB undercroft skate area into retail units to help fund the project- this involved moving it to a purpose built skate park facility at Hungerford Bridge.
  • My reason for picking this campaign is that it should give us good heart – you don’t have to have lots of money to win hearts and minds BUT you do need to know how to:

    Tell stories
    Cause disruption
    Create experiences.

    3 big ideas build my case.
  • Stories need protagonists (heroes and villains) and they need conflict and this campaign had both – a band of young skateboarders pitched against the might of the South Bank Centre.

    The next couple of slides show the heat in this “story war”…
  •  First a young spokesman for the campaign sums up what’s at stake
  • Here the SB hits back
  • This last one shows just how important it is to plan, shape and spread stories in a simple and compelling way across all channels.
  • What the LLB campaign did was to create multiple ways for people to share their own stories - so their story became our story.

     It created an empowered community - of the skaters, Lambeth locals, Londoners, a global skating community, architects, social historians, politicians and the media.

    They shared a sense of purpose and a vision of a better alternative.
  • This is about the ability to be constantly interesting, to generate fresh ideas and tactics, to confound stereotypes and challenge conventional thinking.
  • So they confounded the idea that young people don’t care, are apathetic and disorganised.

    In January 2014 - 30,000 individual objections were handed in the Lambeth Council - making it the most unpopular planning application in UK history.

    It was a campaign run by young people with and for everyone
  • The idea that skating is a minority concern - they demonstrated the experience went far beyond the ones on boards

    And debunked the idea that some forms of culture are more valuable than others
  • They painted the picture of “a vibrant space now against a more abstract/intangible promise of future facilities

  • They recruited a host of unlikely allies: National Theatre, the law, media, architects, social historians, politicians including the London Mayor.

    And used unconventional tactics: getting the site listed as “an asset of Community Value by Lambeth Council, recognising the importance of the space to the local community, and also applying for “village” green” status.
  • This is about creating emotional connections and sensory experiences.
  • Why? Because humans are social animals and emotions matter more than our rational thought – feelings are what drive our actions.

  • They made taking action feel desirable and exciting – whether it was being there in person or engaging and sharing content via the website, YouTube, Face book, twitter, blogs.
  • At the start of this year - Boris Johnson threw his weight behind the campaign
  • And in February 2014 the SB withdrew its application in order to seek alternative funding for the redevelopment which would allow the undercroft to remain.
  • Here’s what I think we can take from this campaign and apply to our own work
  • Long Live Southbank. Great comms campaigns I wish I'd done seminar, 18 June 2014.

    1. 1. 3 lessons • Story telling • Disruption • Experience
    2. 2. Story telling
    3. 3. David and Goliath
    4. 4. “The Southbank Centre doesn’t understand the artistic value of our culture ... as soon as you put skateboarding into a pre-designed space, no matter how well-designed, it takes away from the ethos of skateboarding of interpreting our environment.” 25-year-old Henry Edwards-Wood, who has skated at the Undercroft since he was 12 — and is spokesperson for the campaign group to save it, Long Live Southbank.
    5. 5. “ …it's deeply worrying and hurtful for the Southbank to find itself on the end of a pathological campaign of dislocated accusations. The Undercroft is not Tahrir Square nor is the Southbank an impenetrable dictator. But it would be easy to believe it so if you were only half listening or signing a petition… Lemn Sissay, associate artist, Southbank Centre
    6. 6. “The skateboard community managed to galvanise the PR campaign incredibly well - and I understand that because it’s a much easier sell. Our story is more complicated.” South Bank Board member
    7. 7. Disruption
    8. 8. Experience
    9. 9. "The skatepark is the epicentre of UK skateboarding and is part of the cultural fabric of London.” "It attracts tourists from across the world and undoubtedly adds to the vibrancy of the area - it helps to make London the great city it is.“ Boris Johnson, London Mayor, January 2014
    10. 10. What can we learn and apply? 1. Always ask ourselves “what do we want people to FEEL” 2. Use stories to connect emotionally and trigger action 3. Make every single contact the best experience possible 4. Keep finding new ways to excite, surprise and inspire