Campaigns that shook the world: The evolution of public relations – Danny Rogers

What it was:

I read the book ‘Campaigns that shook the world: The evolution of public relations’ by Danny Rogers as part of my Continuous Professional Development during February 2016.

What I learned:

Key points of learning for me from the campaigns covered in this book:

Thatcher election campaign

  • First modern political campaign in UK; visual, impactful
  • identifed potential swing groups of voters e.g. women labour voters
  • Event advertising – creating news spike from small number of ad sites
  • close alignment with newspaper editors
  • avoided battles they can’t win

New Labour, New Britain

  • Rolling news; rebuttal; The Grid
  • Blair and his advisers were a client/agency relationship, much like Thatcher
  • Aspiration was key to campaign

Royal renaissance

  • long term campaign
  • use of exclusive photographs
  • relationship with media changed; robust and uneven campaign

Rolling stones

  • wide and comprehensive campaign, lots of tie-ups, sponsorship
  • top team were engaged and flexible, did media that was tailored and adapted
  • pioneering of big stadium gigs

David Beckham

  • managing the narrative
  • lots of tie-ins and comms
  • spanning into new sectors; novelty

London 2012

  • clarity and consistency of the vision; did not deviate
  • team discovered that there is a growing chasm between media coverage and actual perception
  • used consistent opinion tracking throughout


  • use of co-branding and partnering
  • some valid criticism of campaign which is a middle-man for fundraising, lack of transparency?

Obama for America

  • Clear phases to the campaign
  • aspirational
  • ground campaign: use of data to maximise and maintain subscriber lists etc.


  • Authenticity of message carried through the campaign
  • Issue marketing and thought-provoking content

Summary – some common attributes of successful campaigns:

  • Integrated campaigns
  • Clear vision, unified team, authenticity
  • PR-led strategy, consistent narrative
  • Collaborative approach to media
  • Forging partnerships
  • Embracing evolving concept of celebrity
  • Integrity, purpose
  • Optimising digital tools
  • Building genuine movements

It’s worth being aware that this book necessarily looks retrospectively at successful campaigns and is therefore potentially post-hoc rationalisation of why they were successful – potentially, many unsuccessful campaigns would exhibit the same attributes.

What I will aim to do differently as a result:

  • Have a clear vision and position, don’t deviate from it, keep all activity consistent and within that framework
  • Movements can be created and harnessed but think about authenticity
  • Think about celebrity, what this could mean in my work context, and how to embrace it
  • Think big, wide and long term when it comes to major campaigns
  • Don’t be afraid to think about affecting or re-baselining the fundamental relationships between players (e.g. between your organisation and the media, or by partnering) – truly successful campaigns are sometimes those that completely re-engineer the comms landscape. Don’t accept that landscape ‘as is’.


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