Creating a grassroots movement to lobby the UN on climate change lay at the core of an ambitious global public affairs campaign which smashed all targets - reaching more than a billion people and capturing the attention of the world’s top media, senior politicians and key social influencers to successfully put the issue at the top of the political agenda.
Climate change is arguably the biggest international social and political cause of our lifetime. United Nations research has shown that without immediate action by the world’s population, the results will be catastrophic and irreversible. Yet despite the severity of the issue, our insights revealed people still feel powerless to act and are unaware of their collective power in lobbying for change. Key to this is traditional perceptions of the United Nations – often seen as an elite group of decision makers far removed from ordinary people.
Ahead of the UN’s climate change conference, COP 24, we set out on an ambitious international mission: to advocate for people everywhere by giving them a ‘seat’ to lobby global leaders on one of the world’s most important platforms. Partnering closely with the UN and WPP partners, we helped create a simple but powerful global campaign - The People’s Seat - with a call-to-arms to people everywhere to take their ‘seat’ and make their voices heard.
The People’s Seat is based on one compelling idea – a new physical seat at the UN, positioned alongside world leaders, reminding them that any decision on climate change would affect lives everywhere. Using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat, we invited people to share their own experiences of climate change. These testimonials were turned into a powerful and authentic video message delivered by a global ‘People’s Champion’ – Sir David Attenborough, who would advocate on their behalf to world leaders at the COP24 opening address.
Cutting across language, cultural and national boundaries, The People’s Seat campaign successfully mobilised millions of people worldwide to put climate change at the top of the world’s socio-political agenda and establish the UN as an advocate for people everywhere.
Our goal was to establish the UN as the world’s most influential platform for climate change and an advocate for global citizens. From this we identified four PR objectives:
o To position the UN as a voice for the people by recruiting a new generation of advocates
o To make COP24 a global cause and priority media focus at a time when different political and economic agendas - including the threat of the US pulling out of the Paris Agreement, was putting COP24 negotiations in jeopardy.
o To deliver widespread awareness of The People’s Seat and its core objective to mobilise people to act.
o To demonstrate the power of a collective voice by encouraging individuals to act and lobby global leaders via the UN in support of its Sustainable Development Goals
Research showed people want to take action on climate change but don’t know how. This insight gave rise to our campaign idea: ‘The People’s Seat’ which would give ordinary people a voice via virtual seat at the world’s most powerful conference on climate change. Working with our technology partner Facebook, we also launched the ‘Act Now’ bot, offering up simple actions people can take to fight climate change. The message to world leaders was simple: People are prepared to take action; they demand that you do too.
A successful grassroots campaign needed a global high-profile figure and catalyst, so we successfully secured Sir David Attenborough – a global icon with unparalleled credibility on the issue to lobby on their behalf. Sir David invited people to have their voice heard by using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat. Supported by a global network of influencers, we shared Sir David’s invitation and encouraged people to share testimonials and take part in social polls.
BCW UK led the way in formulating an international media strategy around a key piece of content: The People’s Address – a video message shaped by citizens around the world, to be presented by Sir David Attenborough at COP24. We needed to give ordinary people a voice while also creating maximum impact for journalists. As part of our strategy, we constructed a specific set of messages that simultaneously positioned the UN as a platform for change, raised awareness for The People’s Seat, and encouraged people to live more sustainable lifestyles.
Recognising that many people lacked knowledge about the UN’s efforts to combat climate change, we had to explain not only The People’s Seat, but the Paris Agreement and COP24 to provide audiences with the necessary context. We ensured our messaging was implemented in all our outputs.
Phase 1 - Invitation stage
• We connected with key media contacts to secure an exclusive interview with the BBC, reaching almost all their broadcast, radio and online channels.
• In the BBC interview, Sir David invited the world to share their views using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat with the knowledge that their contribution would help shape The People’s Address as a powerful lobbying tool.
• The interview was a success, spurring over 50,000 submissions to date.
Phase 2 - The People’s Seat and Act Now
• Now with a prime seat on the world stage, we pre-secured interviews with the BBC, Sky News, Reuters, CNN (US) and CCTV (China) with Sir David at COP24.
• After Sir David’s speech, a carefully timed press release around his address and ActNow.bot was distributed over newswires, as well as to key media contacts, securing further live interviews on the day.
• The campaign garnered support from key cultural icons/politicians including Jeremy Corbyn, Sir Richard Branson, Leonardo DiCaprio and many more.
• We secured front page coverage in key UK national newspapers and further interviews with Sir David in broadcast/radio and online channels. Social media also embraced the campaign – trending on Twitter and watched live by 6.5 million Facebook users with a global reach in excess of a billion people.