Behind the scenes at Armed Forces Day

Blog post by Ross Palmer

Monday 17 July 2017

Since 2009, Armed Forces Day has taken place on the last Saturday of June each year and is a chance for the public to show their support for of all those who serve or have served in the Armed Forces.

Each year there is a national event, hosted and delivered by a selected local authority. The national event provides the focal point for events taking place around the country, this year the main event took place on Liverpool’s iconic waterfront where in excess of 200,000 people witnessed flypasts, parades, military bands and even a Navy frigate docked alongside the event.

The communications team at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) begin work on the campaign in the autumn with initial meetings with Liverpool Council happening as early as August. Plans are finalised in January. The campaign plan follows the government communications OASIS model, which is a series of steps that can help bring order and clarity to planning campaigns. The team at MoD then split responsibility for the campaign into those looking after the national event and those who will drive forward the wider campaign which grows year on year, with 377 local events taking place compared to 312 in 2016.

This means the competing priorities such as VIP movements for the national event and the push for regional coverage across the UK are both given equal attention. This year the team had to renew their radio and video promos and benefitted from a voiceover from Ray Winstone who kindly gave up his time for free. Snapchat geo-filters were also used for the first time at Armed Forces Day targeting a key audience for the campaign, 18-24 year olds. The geo-filters, featuring Armed Forces Day branding and military kit, were available to Snapchat users in Liverpool on the day of the event.

The team also produced a high-quality promo video which was shown on big screens in Network Rail stations across the UK, on televisions on National Express coaches as well as in various lobbies of corporate partners such as Aviva. The video was also viewed on social media over 700,000 times.

As well as Snapchat, content was also prepared for the Armed Forces Day social media channels which have a combined total of 1.4 million followers. The UK Armed Forces are currently involved in 20 operations in 25 countries and the team are not short of good photo opportunities. Every year beautiful images of the Armed Forces Day flag in the Arctic or under the Pacific Ocean are sent to the imagery team in Whitehall.

A campaign like Armed Forces Day has a strong digital focus and a digital stakeholder group featuring everyone from military charities to the cadet organisations is created. Often the highest engagement will come from high profile endorsement from figures such as Prince Harry. This year sports stars were contacted and support was given from the Football Association and the Welsh, Scottish and English Rugby Unions.

For both the national event the team at MoD benefit heavily from the regional military press officers from the Navy, Army and Royal Air Force who will produce numerous case studies for regional media and ensure the events in their area are well publicised. Each year there are hundreds of regional articles, both in print and online highlighting events as diverse as village fetes to football matches.

As the day itself draws near, media interest and social media activity intensifies. The engagement rates are always high and this year saw over 560,000 engagements on fewer than 40 Facebook posts which reached a total of 2.6 million people, strong numbers were also seen across Twitter and Instagram.

This year was a record-breaker with more events and media coverage than in previous years. Website traffic rose during the campaign to half a million visits, a five-fold increase from the previous weeks. Next year the tenth Armed Forces Day, with the main event taking place in North Wales, will once again provide an opportunity for the general public to #SaluteOurForces.

Image credit: © Crown copyright 2013