As a regular fixture on the NSW yearly events calendar, Australia Day typically came and went with little consumer engagement or meaning. For many Australians, the day was “just another day off”, or “barbie with mates”. The day had also been suffering from a lack of anything new or exciting to offer media and the media coverage achieved included mostly event listings, editorial mentions and on-the-day event coverage. Features and rich editorial pieces were virtually non-existent.
It was time to make a change. Tasked with a new three-year theme entitled Australian Identity & Culture, the Australia Day Council of NSW’s new PR agency Hill & Knowlton (H&K) developed a multi-faceted campaign that would change the Australia Day footprint in this State.
Our strategy was to grow the Australia Day brand from awareness – to understanding, engagement and participation – through editorial opportunities using a new online campaign – Advance Australia Dare, Australia Day Ambassadors and research.
The Results: 821 pieces of editorial coverage were achieved, the Australia Day website KPI was almost tripled, website page views and Facebook fans increased dramatically, and the Advance Australia Dare campaign results exceeded client expectations.
The Australia Day Council of NSW (part of the Office of Protocol & Special Events OPSE) is tasked with promoting, organising and delivering Australia Day activities and celebrations across the State. With a stable of events taking place every January 26th, the Australia Day brand was facing a number of challenges including no new events or initiatives to drive participation with the Australia Day, limited PR budget, low consumer engagement, no in-depth coverage and a number of other competitor events appearing on the calendar around that time – such as the Sydney Festival.
The Australia Day Council of NSW realised now was the perfect time to make a change and create a campaign that offered Australians something new and exciting and a reason to engage with the brand. The opportunity was now to change the way Australians think about the Australia day brand and break the mould of past PR programs.
H&K leveraged both primary and secondary research to effectively guide the creation of the overall communications strategy and program for Australia Day.
- Pure Profile research – H&K commissioned a survey of 1000 people to gauge Australians’ attitudes on our identity and culture, which ended up being a useful research tool in informing our approach to the Australia Day umbrella program, called Identity & Culture.
- Market research – Conducted by ADCNSW, this primary research looked at Australia Day attendance and attitudes towards Australia Day and what it means to be Australian. A key finding was that 59% of respondents said they were planning to attend Australia Day events in 2009, which was lower than the attendance expectations. Therefore, this informed the strategy to promote the events program and deliver on the objective to increase attendance.
- Online research conducted via www.australiaday.com.au – A “Have Your Say” section asking visitors to provide their thoughts on the meaning behind Australia Day enabled ADCNSW to gather target audience insights.
- Media Audit – H&K reached out to top tier media to establish their opinions on Australia Day related editorial opportunities, especially what they needed to write longer, feature rich stories and move beyond just the calendar pages. The media audit covered TV, metropolitan newspapers, magazines and online.
The Australia Day campaign targeted all Australians living in NSW throughout the campaign, given the objective to gain opinions on our identity from Australians of all ages, cultures and gender and encourage discussion.
However certain campaign elements had a target audience skew – Advance Australia Dare for example, aimed to engage young Aussies particularly and make them think about what it means to be Australian, given past research which showed many think of Australia Day as just a day off or a day for Big Day Out.
And PR for the events program focused on NSW alone, in line with the objective to drive attendance on the day in Sydney City, Greater Sydney and regional areas.
Hill & Knowlton developed a communications strategy to support the theme Australian Identity & Culture. Our overarching strategy was to grow the brand from awareness – to understanding, engagement and participation.
The aim of the strategy was to build momentum and buzz about Australia Day earlier in the year – so that it became an anticipated event and provide opportunities to create a deeper understanding of the meaning of Australia Day and the cultural significance.
The creative used to achieve this strategy included:
- Engage consumers early in the Australia Day brand through the launch of a new online campaign called Advance Australia Dare www.advanceaustraliadare.com.au
- Engagement of high-profile Australians to write opinion pieces to drive people to the Australia Day website www.australiaday.com.au
- Engagement of Australia Day Ambassadors to tell the story on our identity and culture
- Commission Pure Profile research to drive the news agenda about Australian thoughts and opinions on our identity and culture
- Develop a proactive & reactive press office to support the Australia Day lead-up events and all facets of media management
The strategy was achieved through a four-phased approach:
Phase 1: Building the Buzz – September– December
- Start the conversation about identity & culture
- Advance Australia Dare
- Ambassador engagement
- Press Office
Phase 2: Countdown Begins – December/January
- Launch Roll-Out – Launch, Lunch & Address
- Countdown is On
- Social Networking
- Press Office
Phase 3: Drive Participation – January
- Australia Day
- Ambassador PR
- Media Centre
Phase 4: Maintain Momentum
- Showcase success – crowd numbers and event organiser success
H&K implemented the following campaign elements to maximise buzz for Australia Day:
Advance Australia Dare (AAD)
In December, H&K launched AAD, the first activity under the banner Australian Identity & Culture campaign. This encouraged Australians to send in a video rendition of our national anthem to a creative microsite – www.advanceaustraliadare.com.au – and engage them with the Australia Day brand. H&K issued a media release and utilised the ‘face’ of the campaign, Katie Noonan, a respected Australian musician for media interviews. Given the nature of the campaign, H&K focused on broadcast media, such as radio talkback and TV. H&K also worked with ADCNSW to identify and invite high profile Australian personalities, particularly media outlets to participate – including Channel 10’s Tim Bailey, SKY News’s David Lipson and Mike Dalton from the Channel 9 Today Show. H&K continued AAD media sell-in right up to Australia Day to sustain interest.
Australian Identity & Culture (AI&C)
The focus of the AI&C program for 2009, its first year, was on the collection of opinion pieces, sourced from a diverse range of leading Australians reflecting on our country's identity and culture Gabi Hollows, Catriona Rowntree, Margaret Fulton, Russell Crowe and Hugh Evans were just some of the high profile Australians who submitted content. For each opinion piece collected, H&K identified media targets as appropriate and pitched in as exclusives.
H&K implemented a proactive and reactive hub for media. Proactively, H&K developed and issued five media alerts to communicate the Australia Day program, spanning long & short lead media; Sydney Harbour & CBD events; Greater Sydney events and one just prior to Australia Day itself. H&K developed all supporting campaign materials – backgrounders, factsheets, Q&As (for AAD, AI&C) and spokespeople briefs – and updated the comprehensive 2009 media manual, providing media with essential logistical information on the day.
Ambassadors were a crucial part of the media relations program – H&K developed an announcement release and tailored local versions, and liaised with the Community team on an ongoing basis to fulfil local media requests.
H&K also worked alongside ADCNSW to provide exclusive and/or local content for media partners, being Cumberland Newspapers and the Daily Telegraph. H&K commissioned a Pure Profile survey of over 100 Australians, investigating their perceptions of Aussie culture and stereotypes, which was provided to the Daily Telegraph in addition to opinion pieces, for big editorial features leading up to Australia Day.
Australia Day Events
H&K became an extension of the ADCNSW team when it came to implementing on the ground support for the launch week events, providing management of media and event logistics, including:
- Australia Day Launch, 18th Jan – facilitated media interviews with ambassadors and Katie Noonan; coordinated VNRs and media kits for media and TV news on day and provided initial theming/event recommendations.
- Australia Day Lunch, 23rd Jan – An Australia Post sponsored lunch, H&K’s primary role was to assist with media management of the Legends opportunity – with Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush – and TV crew management.
- Australia Day, 26th Jan – On the day, H&K fielded media calls / requests, set up interviews with spokespeople, prepared materials including a wrap up release, hosted a media call at the Citizenship ceremony and also one at 3pm regarding crowd figures and day success.
Following is a breakdown of the results of the Australia Day 2009 communications campaign and the Advance Australia Dare campaign / competition.
Objective 1: Drive traffic to the Australia Day website and increase by 10%
The campaign successfully generated 192,421 unique visits to the Australia Day website during the month of January; this was an increase of 28% from the previous year.
Objective 2: Increase page views of the Australia Day website by 5%
A total of 1,095,872 website page views were reported during the month of January; this was an increase of 6.5%.
Objective 3: Increase Australia Day Facebook users – to position Australia Day in the social networking arena – by 50%
The campaign overwhelming resulted in a total of 65,396 new Facebook fans – an increase from 1,013 in 2008 to 66,409 to 2009; this translates to a total increase of 6555%
Objective 4: Generate 600 pieces of editorial coverage including – local, metro & regional
The campaign generated a total of 821 pieces of editorial coverage, including:
- 45 minutes of news coverage – dominated by Advance Australia Dare
- National and metropolitan coverage highest volumes
- Today Show ran three stories on the Advance Australia Dare campaign
- Feature story in Woman’s Day and Daily Telegraph
Objective 5: Generate PR around the new online campaign Advance Australia Dare and gain 20 video entries
The Advance Australia Dare campaign proved successful in its first year and exceeded expectations. A total of 50 videos were uploaded to the website with the competition generating 20,492 website votes.