This week saw Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend Free School Meals. The England striker was the driving force behind a Downing Street U-turn, which means 1.3 million children eligible for free school meals in England will now benefit from a ‘Covid summer food fund’ and will continue to receive Free School Meal vouchers over the summer break.
Obviously the story was eye catching, as it involved a prominent footballer, a Government U-turn and the Health Secretary in a pickle. Looking past the twists and turns of this, there was a slick and well-run campaign that was a masterclass in how to communicate, use social media and engage Government. Here’s why Rashford’s campaign was so successful.
1) Have an ‘ask’
A problem with many celebrity fronted campaigns is they do not have a clear ‘ask’ of Government. Laudable as many of these types of campaigns are, too often they call for ‘action’ or ‘justice’ on something. In short, they identify problems, but don’t offer solutions. Rashford’s campaign was different. It identified a problem (i.e. children on Free School Meals would lose access to them during the summer break), and presented a clear, tangible, and simple to implement solution to Government, and called on Government to act accordingly.
2) Be civil and build broad support
Identifying an issue – and an ask – is one thing, but it’s another to get backing for your cause. It didn’t hurt that Rashford picked an issue that few would oppose, but he built a broad base of support across parliament (and the media) for the cause and won bi-partisan support.
But it was also a campaign of civility. When the Government first said no to the ask, Rashford did not follow up by condemning them or railing against the individual politicians involved with pejoratives, but instead calmly looked to try again, build up further support, and put pressure on the Government. He did this through social media with the hashtag #maketheUturn, an open letter to MPs and coverage in the media. And when the U-turn did come, Rashford was gracious, not gloating.
3) Keep politics out of it
We live in partisan times when it comes to politics. That is the pit fall many campaigns of this type fall into. A celebrity fronted campaign should not end up being a by proxy endorsement for one party or another. Once a campaign picks a side, it risks losing support from the other. Rashford’s campaign was conscious of this. He expressly stated that this campaign was not about politics, calling on MPs to come together for a higher cause, drawing parallels with how Premier League players put rivalry aside when they put on the England shirt.
4) Made good use of his personal story
In campaigns of this nature, a personal story tends to go further than statistics. Rashford was able to speak movingly by outlining his own life experience, and how important Free School Meals where to him, when he was using them ten years prior. By speaking about the importance of the policy to him and his family, he made what he was talking about personal, and therefore real. Campaigns of this nature are always striving to “be authentic”. This one nailed it on the head.
5) Novelty factor
There was undeniably a novelty factor to this campaign. Rashford acknowledged that himself, when he wrote in his Times op-ed on Monday that “ten years ago if someone said I would one day be writing in the Times, I would have laughed”. An England and Manchester United footballer writing an open letter to MPs and calling on the Government to take certain actions is not exactly an everyday occurrence.
But crucially the campaign handled and used the novelty factor well. The campaign knew this would be a ‘front page issue’ and made the best use of this, which enabled the campaign to gain both momentum and support and achieve critical mass quickly. It shouldn’t be underestimated how influential novelty can be in campaigns like these.
So, a big congratulations to Marcus Rashford and his successful campaign, and an outcome we can all get behind. And for any other celebrities looking to front campaigns in the future, you would do well to take a leaf out of Marcus Rashford’s book.
In the UK, wind represents a success story on the path to Net-Zero and one of the greatest opportunities to reach this goal by 2050. Across Europe, wind energy now makes up 15% of the EU’s electricity. Recent months have seen a return for onshore wind being eligible to participate in CfD competitions. The growth of the floating wind market is now central to discussions as a viable alternative to conventional arrays.
However, the reach of COVID-19 will not escape the sector, with supply chains suffering lockdowns and impacts to manufacturing and plunges in forex rates beginning to hamper propositions in the coming months. Organisations will need to communicate their messages clearly, with authenticity and passion to be heard in this post-COVID recovery. Most companies supplying the UK with materials are from outside of the country and are mainly based in Europe and China. In 2019, €19bn was raised for the construction of new wind farms in Europe, 24% less than in 2018. Given the impact of COVID-19, we may have to revise our expectations in the coming years.
I believe though that the wind sector is in good shape despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why.
High public acceptability
There is growing acceptability of offshore wind among key stakeholders. In recent Government polling, 81% of the population supported offshore wind and this sentiment has held steady over recent years. This attitude has largely been down to wind assets’ growing presence off our shores and public awareness growing alongside recognition of the importance of Net-Zero on the Government’s agenda.
Further projects are being approved and three major schemes are awaiting Development Consent Orders with the Planning Inspectorate due to confirm decisions by early June of the Thanet Extension, Hornsea 3 and Norfolk Vanguard sites.
However, some stakeholders retain an entrenched position, including US President Donald Trump who maintains the view of a “monstrous” wind project destroying the view of “perhaps the greatest golf course anywhere in the world” (which happens to be his Trump International Links Course). The ensuing legal challenge has resulted in Mr Trump being ordered to pay £250,000 to the Scottish Government.
With new emerging technologies and licencing rounds, developers will need to continue engaging with communities and stakeholders to inform and educate residents around proposals in order to mobilise support and consent for projects. Developers can’t take stakeholder sentiment at a local and national level for granted – authentic and compelling engagements at key stage gates for projects help to bring stakeholders on the journey.
A golden opportunity for the UK
With the Crown Estate launching the next round of the wind leasing competition, we will likely see around 7GW of capacity awarded in new seabed rights. If fully exploited, this would nearly double offshore power output in the UK. This represents more than twice the amount of energy that will be generated by the upcoming Hinkley Point C nuclear plant – enough to power over 6 million homes. Wind is now starting to play an increasing role in each of our daily lives.
With each new project, developers will need to create a clear narrative and benefit case to justify the disruption to the communities around their proposed sites. One impactful way to do this is through virtual reality and rich media content. These methods can create vibrant learning environments that consultation and stakeholder engagement meetings have struggled to achieve.
European wind capacity rose by a third (15.2GW) in 2019 across Europe with the UK leading the way in the installation of 2.4GW followed by Spain, Sweden and France. Importantly, the increasing pace of UK wind deployment will form part of the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda with potential supply chain benefits greatly boosting underperforming regions. Creating clusters of excellence around ports could result in long term economic benefits through development, operations and maintenance and then into decommissioning, which will enable a wide section of the energy sector to benefit from wind’s growth.
Innovating to further increase wind’s role in our energy system
Floating wind turbines offer a great opportunity for the UK given its leadership in offshore wind. The UK also needs floating wind given its tough Net-Zero climate targets. Floating wind installations offer greater cost competitiveness than conventional offshore wind arrays with less anchoring or pilling required to stabilise the turbines. Floating wind turbines increase the opportunities for onshore development with greater assembly onshore. These assets’ more mobile nature enables them to be moved further out to sea, where winds are steadier and stronger.
A single deep-sea floating turbine can produce up to 25MW of power per year, nearly seven times that of a traditional offshore turbine. Locating these arrays further out to sea also means that delicate ecosystems close to shore and communities concerned with noise can be better protected. However, there are still constraints around wind speed in highly volatile locations.
Roughly half of the world’s population lives within 125 miles of a coastline, placing demand close to offshore wind production locations. In the UK, the furthest we can be is 70 miles from the coast making short length cable runs for electricity transmission very attractive.
However, as Bruno Geschier, Chairman of the WFO Floating Wind Committee said on a recent Floating Wind webinar, work is still to be done to convince key stakeholders that floating wind is viable.
Geschier laid emphasis on Government Relations, policymaking and ensuring that developers set the right conditions to enable offshore wind to succeed. Engaging with government early, building clear areas of common understanding and then bringing stakeholders along on the journey of a project is key. Clear communications are central to enabling floating wind to achieve its goals.
Therefore, while COVID-19 will prove to be an obstacle to smooth sector growth, the overall prospects for wind in the UK remain positive. Week on week we are seeing developers seeking to mobilise supply chains and plough investment into coastal communities to support major arrays. It will be critical to ensure that the engagement, messaging and public face of these projects ensures support rather than creates voids where opposition can delay and disrupt projects.
Madano advises clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors adapting to the impacts of COVID-19 and transitioning to lower carbon operating models – if you’re interested in learning more please drop me or the team a line. You can also follow Madano on Twitter.
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Blog written by Andrew Turner, Senior Account Director, Madano (Energy and Environment).