Rear Admirals and a reach of 100 million was the staggering reach of a UK government department's Twitter campaign that called on popular support.
By Ewan Bennie
Working at the Department from Energy and Climate Change - or DECC - has offered up some unusual experiences, but teaching two former Rear Admirals how to tweet – after a ten hour stint on Twitter with four colleagues in a windowless cell-like room – was perhaps the most surreal.
Despite appearances, this wasn’t an elaborate punishment for previous social media misdemeanours. Instead it was the final session of a climate change tweetathon that encouraged people to engage in the issue and #BackClimateAction.
It was a day that far exceeded our expectations, with 100 million impressions. And over 13 000 tweets used the event hashtag, which trended nationally in 5th place for much of the afternoon – a couple of places above ‘Christmas’!
It was also encouraging that an initial analysis suggests the sentiment of those getting involved was overwhelmingly positive. To get a taste for what happened please take a look at our Storify article (https://storify.com/deccgovuk/backclimateaction-tweetathon).
And the Rear Admiral connection? Well, they embodied everything the day was about – using different voices to bring climate change issues to life.
In summary, the aim of the event was to start a new conversation about climate change. Rather than simply telling people about the facts, we wanted to move away from the science and show that climate change is an issue that is relevant to the day-to-day interests of our audience.
We used the tweetathon format to do this by linking climate change to the issues we care about most, such as sport, food, homes and health (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/backclimateaction-tweetathon). It also enabled us to engage credible and influential voices. For example, working with Rear Admirals Dr David Titley and Neil Morisetti, formerly of the USA and UK navy, was a great way to showcase the connection between climate change and security.
Extending this approach across each of our key themes, we worked with Microsoft, Twitter, M&S, Unilever, BT, Tesco, WWF, Christian Aid, rugby world cup winner, Will Greenwood, racing driver Bruno Senna, Natural History Museum, The UN and Indian cricket team Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Another ambition was to show that climate change isn’t just the concern of one government department. The Prime Minister, DCMS, Health, MoD and DCLG were just some of those who got involved and tweeted on the day. Internationally, embassies from Venezuela to Korea took part, with the US holding a lunchtime event in their offices to promote the event. And a special thank you goes to BIS who supported our evaluation by arranging for Ipsos Mori to provide detailed analysis of the tweetathon’s impact.
Other reasons for the day's success included commissioning a bespoke public attitudes survey, which achieved high media interest at the start of the day, and the production of engaging and easily shareable content, with Twitter UK getting involved directly and promoting one of our vines.
So, what’s next? Well, we want the tweetathon to be the launch pad for a new wave of communication activity, rather than an end itself. The headline figures look good, but it will be the full evaluation report that helps us to better understand the themes and voices that engage our audience most effectively. And this insight, together with our new partner relationships, will be used to shape our future climate change communication plans.
By Ewan Bennie is head of partnerships and campaigns at the UK Government Department for Energy and Climate Change.