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Jubilee concert. Our job was to work with him, the Pageant chairman, Lord Salisbury, and Adrian Evans, the man with the enticing job title of Pageant Master.
Februa r y 2 011
A spectacle not seen for 350 years
Kate Levine, partner at Pagefield, reveals the diary she kept managing media relations for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant
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Not long after I walked into Pagefield’s Soho offices for the first time, Mark Gallagher – the company’s inimitable founder – asked me whether I was a republican. I wasn’t sure whether he was testing my suitability to work at Pagefield, dubious about my Australian background, or quizzing me for a more specific reason. It was the latter. A minute later he was briefing me on what has become the most enjoyable project of my career: managing the media relations for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant. In turns out that Mark and Pagefield had been approached by Michael Lockett, who was the event’s chief executive, and whose experience in putting on huge public events ranges from the Hong Kong handover to the Golden
It was Adrian’s idea to put on a modern version of the wonderful 17th and 18th century Water Triumphs, this time with a 1,000 boat flotilla sailing down the Thames. This was utterly without parallel in modern times, since 1662, in fact, but the way it was structured was also without precedent. We were to work in very close collaboration with the Royal Households and with various public sector bodies, like the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Greater London Authority, but we would be a privately funded, independent organisation. This gave us a great deal more freedom to deal with a global event that was also a royal event.
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We developed a straightforward strategy for this once-in-a-lifetime event: over 18 months, to concentrate on three major bursts of global media publicity, interspersed with a regular flow of information and images. We were also determined to keep the media very close, connecting both at senior editorial and correspondent level. The publicity bursts would take the form of three large-scale media and stakeholder briefings, spread out to impart a mass of new information about the Pageant: upfront, pro-active, timely, transparent.
Our first media and stakeholder briefing to 300 people in City Hall gave us a sense of the scale of what we had taken on. We were anxious to get the timing right: too early and people may fail to engage; too late and we would start to be crowded out by the brilliant media relations plan for the Royal Wedding later that month.
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meetings. We ended up with an incredibly useful exchange of ideas, which stood us in great stead for our work together over the next year.
Jun e 2 011
We began a programme of one-to-one briefings with every UK national news editor – print, broadcast and online. At many of the meetings, editors brought in the teams who would be working on the Diamond Jubilee and we were able to have very open, creative discussions about how best to approach the subject for each paper’s particular readership. I can’t say how pleased I am that we did these
We started holding meetings with the senior editorial teams of the BBC, Sky and ITV. It was the BBC who was prepared to invest in its largest outside broadcast operation, which also helped to generate pictures for the commercial and overseas broadcasters.
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By now we were hosting collaborative meetings with all the broadcasters, the photographers’ representative groups and the foreign broadcasting organisations to go through the nitty-gritty details – camera positions, shared footage, how best to
manage media accreditation – all with the help of Pagefield’s advisory director, Dame Sue Tinson, a doyenne of broadcast news, a legend at ITN (and a stickler for detail). By this time, the media’s experience of the Royal Wedding was still fresh and it was very useful to have had a blueprint from which to learn. We will always be indebted to the press offices at both Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, whose knowledge is deep and advice generous.
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details of the Royal Barge, and we wanted to give them something stimulating before Christmas. All our major news stories to date had been released during the week, with the Sunday press clamouring for something new. So we released detailed images and information about the Barge on a Saturday in mid-December. A long weekend of work – but we reaped a lovely spread of generous and positive coverage in return.
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We added to the team again – doubling this time to include a new executive, Stephanie Shepherd, two interns, Noah Devereux and Katie Lockett, and a specialist issues and crisis expert, Stig Abell, fresh from the Press Complaints Commission.
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buildings lining its banks – everything to help the media with engaging background and history.
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We hosted the first of our river trips for the media, making the journey that the Queen would make on the Royal Barge. The producers and their technical teams found it very useful to start working out sight lines, camera angles and crew positioning. The Pageant Master also began making his selection of vessels for the big day. We were keen to be as transparent as possible about the selection process and made sure we kept our new friends, the boating media – online and in print, as up to date as we could.
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We knew the media were desperate for
Our second media and stakeholder briefing, held again at City Hall and even bigger than the first. It was at this event – now in the year of the Diamond Jubilee – that we really set out the full details of the Pageant: what boats were actually going to take part, what music had been selected, more details about the Royal Barge and information about our first corporate partner, Sainsbury’s. As we’d planned, the release of information mushroomed into fairly sustained interest in the Pageant. Our full time team had also swelled. By our second media briefing on January, there were four of us: Sallie Ryle, Michelle Lavipour, Mark and myself.
Having put together the rudiments of a process to deal with issues and crises the previous year, we now dedicated resource specifically to communicating around these issues. While Pagefield took the lead, the involvement of many other agencies was absolutely essential for this piece of work. And as we moved closer to the big day, social and digital media (always an integral part of the communications programme) grew in significance.
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We held our third and final media briefing for 400 at the Guildhall, where we released all the logistical details of the Pageant: safety on the river, security on land, road and bridge closures. We invited new speakers, alongside our leadership team: the chief harbour master of the Port of London Authority, Commander David Phillips and the deputy assistant commissioner Stephen Kavanagh of the Metropolitan Police Stephen Kavanagh. The coverage was widespread and overwhelmingly positive, with many outlets producing detailed maps and guides to Pageant Day.
T he Big Day, 3 Jun e
Our second river trip with the UK media. Cold and windy, but not raining, so we had a lovely clear view. For this outing, we had prepared very thorough information on the boats and music in the pageant, a social history of the Thames, its bridges and the
London & Partners were kind enough to offer us the use of their amazing riverside offices on the day of the Pageant – which we snapped up. As if that weren’t enough, they also allowed us to invite a number of our media contacts to watch the Pageant from their spectacularly-positioned
boardroom. On the morning of the event, the eight-strong Pagefield team met at 7am for a hearty breakfast briefing. It was pouring with rain and less than ten degrees, so we did need the bacon sarnies and coffee. Then it was off to manage the phones, the social media and – happily – watch the wonderful spectacle that was our much-awaited flotilla making its way to Tower Bridge. Quite an emotional day. Followers of our Twitter feed and Facebook page burgeoned on the days leading up to Pageant day. On 3 June, our team worked so hard (doubling our followers to more than 13,000 on each platform and tweeting constantly) that they crashed Twitter momentarily. Our dismay was short-lived: we were up and running again in 30 minutes. Everyone on the Pageant team was bound by a real desire to put on this extraordinary event to the best of our ability. The dedication and energy of the Pagefield team has been outstanding. Mirroring the wider Pageant team’s focus, we’ve all been acutely aware that we’ve had a rare opportunity to publicise one of the most ambitious and breathtaking events the world has ever seen.
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