Case study: the power of third party endorsement

Department for Transport (DfT)

In October 2020, the DfT launched the new Veterans’ Railcard, providing more than 800,000 former military personnel and their families access to discounted train travel.

With a packed news agenda and train travel discouraged due to the pandemic, the communications team needed to be innovative to secure coverage and reach our target audience.

That call for creativity led us to contact lockdown hero and fundraiser Captain Sir Tom Moore – perhaps the highest profile veteran in the country at the time – to ask if he would like to receive the first railcard.

We arranged a socially distanced event, and images and footage of the Transport Secretary providing Captain Tom with his railcard ran across broadcast media and on the front of several national newspapers. Further veterans were made available for interview, including Olympian Dame Kelly Holmes and Bake-Off winner Sophie Faldo.  We also secured support from the Help for Heroes charity.  

The launch of the railcard trended on Twitter and our Instagram post remains the department’s most successful to date. Retweets came from:

  • the Prime Minister
  • the British Army
  • Network Rail
  • Money Saving Expert
  • the Royal Navy

Despite a smaller target market, we sold almost double the number of railcards within the first 48 hours compared to the 16 to 17 year old railcard launch.  

While we were careful to ensure our ministers played a big role of the day, this example shows that the best creative thinking and securing the right third-party endorsement can put rocket boosters underneath almost any announcement.

Sheena Craig, Geraint Ellis, DfT.