In my experience Public Relations is all about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you and the prime minister recently found this out when he battled with Marcus Rashford over child poverty in the UK.
Rashford’s campaign was extremely successful and can be called one of the best advertising campaigns of the year as even though it was not marketed as such, it still has all the key aspects of one. This campaign was extremely successful through their ability to persuade the public to take more interest in child poverty in the UK and their public shaming off the government’s inaction on this issue. The campaign was able to change public expectations on what the government should be doing to help and created enough public pressure on the government that they gave into the campaign’s objectives – which was not a cheap ask.
After the government stated they would not be carrying on the free food voucher program over the summer Holidays, Rashford crafted an open letter and sent it to all 650 MP’s, posted it on his social medias and sent it to News outlets, and through this he forced the government to make a quick U – Turn within 36 hours and keep the scheme open for the 6 weeks of Summer holidays. One of the reasons I believe he was able to create such a quick change in government policy was by posting the letter for his 2.7 million followers to see, Rashford forced a public response from the government, and drove up public interest in it.
Rashford continued the momentum of the campaign and began to push for free school meals up until Easter 2021 over the holiday period. The Prime Minister rejected this and insisted that there would not a repeat of the U-Turn as they were now in a different position – however he did not expect he would be shown wrong just a month later. The campaign grew and became a wide-reaching movement which mobilized the Public, the media, businesses and opposition politicians to pressure the government. Rashford’s twitter followers went up from 2.7 million to 3.9 million over the course of this campaign and he gained an MBE for his previous work in reducing child hunger which further increased his status and effectiveness as an ambassador. Marcus Rashford was essential for the campaigns success as he was a credible persuader as an extremely popular footballer who grew up on free school meals and who understands the necessity of them for some families allowing him to become a relatable spokesperson for these children. He was also the first one to put a massive ‘game – changing donation’ into the campaign. These factors show us that the campaign was effective in fulfilling the ethos mode of persuasion as Rashford shows himself as trustworthy and honourable, and that he knows what he is talking about.
Following Rashford’s example, Massive brands such as Asda, Tesco, Sainsburys, the Co-opt and McDonalds began to fund millions into the campaign with their original donations goal of another £100,000 towards it being completely blown away with over £20 million raised through financial and food donations. The Campaign was so effective as it has aspects of logos and pathos methods of persuasion also involved throughout, with a clear and rational message ‘no child should have to go hungry’ which it is difficult to disagree with no matter the circumstances of their parents. The campaign use of pathos was especially effective as they showed videos of some of the children affected by poverty and these examples were so strong that they immediately caused anger and pulled on the heartstring of the public as they were disgusted that children in their own country lived like that.
As well as the significant social presence of the campaign, and the donations of big corporations and the public, 100s of small businesses all over the country also offered free meals to children over the Halloween break after MPs voted to not provide them, and this caused significant anger and support within the public also as businesses who were struggling due to the Pandemic were having to step up in the place of the government. Rashford also used his twitter account to post everywhere that was providing these meals and media outlets also provided lists and locations where people could go to make use of this, which was essential in getting the word out to those who were eligible and also to persuade other businesses to join in with the campaign.
These tactics along with a petition demanding extra funding which gained 1 million signatures and even backlash from his own party MP’s and councillors placed an overwhelming amount of pressure on the Prime Minister and so he announced a new package in early November which provides nearly £400 million into different areas such as free school meals over the holidays until Easter 2021, more money pumped into food banks and funding to lessen the burden for disadvantaged families over the coming winter.
Headlines such as Boris Johnson Gets a Kicking From Rashford’s Meals Campaign, UK Pulls A U-turn, Backs Soccer Star Marcus Rashford’s Child Hunger Campaign, Marcus Rashford forces Boris Johnson into second U-turn on child food poverty, Marcus Rashford: PM climbdown over free meals in school holidays, Johnson’s handling of Rashford free school meals campaign ‘a disaster’ also show the effectiveness of Rashford’s persuasive campaign and the damage it has done to the Prime Minister over his presumed weakness and ‘flip-flopping’.
However, even if the U-Turns give the impression of a weak Prime Minister, the potential impact of the extensive and Country wide campaign would have been disastrous and it is it my opinion that the Prime Minister had no choice but to give into anger generated by the persuasive campaign or face the consequences of his inaction in the next election.