Easter weekend 2020 is a bit of a blur. A blur of hastily convened video calls, first-time introductions, fast-moving decisions… then revisions, creative concepts, draft copy and coverwraps. And endless cups of tea. I remember the tea.
Just days earlier a united news industry team had pitched to the government. The idea was so ground-shakingly massive that I was a mixed bag of nail-biting anxiety and nervous energy just thinking about bringing the campaign to life.
But what none of us expected was the client’s lightning-fast response. They were onboard (fabulous) and they wanted, no actually needed, to go live the following Friday (gulp).
We were going from pitch to page in just seven days.
In the news industry there is nothing out of the ordinary about a tight deadline. In fact, that’s what we all thrive on. But this campaign would involve colossal scale by bringing together more than 600 local and national news brands to reach more than 40 million readers. Never before had the whole industry come together like this.
It was frantic, it was fast, and yes at times I admit I even had my doubts (probably compounded by several media friends who said we could never do it). But the camaraderie and spirit from all those involved was phenomenal. Old rivalries were put aside – there was no time for them anyway – as we pulled together to make this happen.
In the lead up to launch we cut short all the usual processes. Myself and a small team from Newsworks developed and finalised the creative, sought client sign-off before working with the chief revenue officers of the respective publishers to ensure the right copy was delivered to the right title, and ahead of deadline.
It was a week like no other, but it was worth it because the morning of 17 April was monumental. The newsstands and news sites the length and breadth of the country stood out boldly with the same unified frontpage message:
“Stay at home for the NHS, your family, your neighbours, your nation, the world and life itself.”
In paper, the back pages doubled up as posters featuring the rainbow – which had been adopted as the symbol of support for our key frontline workers – and would go on to be displayed in the front windows of many households across the nation.
The response was incredible. My phone didn’t stopping buzzing all day long. And neither did I. Social media was also abuzz with images of our coverwraps as people shared what the industry had achieved.
In just a week we had achieved the single biggest news brand collaboration the UK had ever seen and in doing so we had launched the most important public information campaign in a generation.
We were breaking new ground proving that we could deliver a campaign of unrivalled scale and agility, and in a tone of voice our readers could relate to. And relate to it they did, as the recall and engagement scores would later reveal.
But there was no time for celebrating. The days that followed seemed to morph into one as we quickly recruited project managers, researchers, creatives, designers, ad ops teams and many more.
From there we formally established Team Nation, a core team of 35 experts from across all publishers and media agency OmniGov, to run the campaign. In quick succession, local case studies celebrated frontline heroes, supported businesses and responded rapidly to government public health advice.
Working with the rigour and speed of a newsroom, the team has gone on to deliver more than 60 briefs so far, across 20 areas of government advice – including mental health, returning to school, vaccines and testing – publishing well over 50,000 pages of support and advice. And what’s even more inspiring is that that the team has never met before – well, not beyond Zoom anyway.
So, as we approach the year anniversary of the “All Together” campaign, and against a backdrop we could never have predicted, I am proud to have been part of an industry that came together to act as one, and under some of the most challenging circumstances.
In the interests of delivering public information at a time when the nation needed it most, we have helped deepen public awareness, build trust and change behaviours.
That’s why 17 April 2020 will always be a significant date for me. But it will also be a significant milestone for the news industry too. Why? Because out of a crisis we have learned just how much more we can achieve together.
Jo Allan is managing director of Newsworks