Our ShelterBox winter campaign films are a staple of our comms, as are the influential people utilising their talent to help spread the messages of our winter appeals.
The aim of the campaign film is always reach. We want to tell as many people as possible about our work. The ask is to share our campaigns widely so that viewers know and reflect deeply on the experiences of people who have lost their homes to conflict and disaster.
The kick-off meeting to conceptualise our winter campaigns usually takes place in May, with a gathering of a few creative minds across our departments.
Being based in Cornwall, thoughts are more geared towards getting in the sea at this time of year than mince pies, Christmas and our winter campaign film. But we meet early to ensure we have the time and space to deliver something that really connects to our audience. After a few ideas have been expanded, pulled to pieces, loved then hated, hated then loved again, we find the idea that resonates.
To catch people’s attention against tearjerking John Lewis ads or mouthwatering Marks and Spencer’s commercials, we know our campaigns need two things:
- A standout idea
- An influential person who sits well with our values and who appeals to our target audience
ShelterBox is very lucky to have the long-term support of legends. Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Chris Packham, Gillian Burke, Gary Lineker and Steve Backshall are just a few of the names ShelterBox regularly has the privilege of working with, and the winter film provides the opportunity to reach out to other incredible artists like Serhiy Zhadan, Karen George or Yinka Bokini to join them and help spotlight the cause.
The generosity of these influential people still astonishes me: they’ve given up whole mornings for filming, invited us into their own homes to shoot, and even allowed us to move furniture to make space for wide camera angles.
The campaign idea usually dictates the artist or celebrity we want to approach. Each contributor to the campaign must make sense, not only to those you’re asking to participate but to your audience as well.
Show influential people that you’ve done your research – that you’ve not just casted your net wide and anyone will do. You’re specifically reaching out because of their skills, experience and values – and their contribution to the campaign is invaluable.
For example, in 2022, we focused on a winter appeal to support people in Ukraine, so I contacted Serhiy Zhadan – a hugely respected Ukrainian poet. It was difficult to track Serhiy down at first – he was supporting troops on the frontline. In the end, I reached out through social media, translating messages using Google Translate. We were all over the moon when he said he would like to help.
If it’s a cold approach, keep your ask brief because everyone is busy. Show examples of comms work you have carried out with others (ideally respected celebrities, artists or people if you have this content) to help build trust in both you, as an organisation, and your campaigns.
Serhiy composed an incredibly moving poem specifically for ShelterBox, so we wanted someone associated with literature to introduce and sign off the film to extend its reach. And Stephen Fry was the obvious choice.
Stephen has been a kind supporter of ShelterBox for many years now. Initially, I reached out to him via his then Twitter account to share an emergency appeal tweet following a disaster. We built a relationship through his excellent and incredibly patient right-hand woman from there, who supported us with his involvement in this campaign.
The result? A powerful film that gives voice to people’s experiences, the homes they have left and the memories they carry.
The golden rule is to be as polite to the talent’s support team as you are to the talent, nurturing all the relationships keenly. Make respectful requests, but don’t ask too often. Remember to thank them for their support with a short email that highlights the impact of their input. We all like to know if we are making a difference.
We decided to make this year’s campaign film in the style of a CBeebies Storytime to appeal to grandparents and parents who would be fondly familiar with this concept.
Our team on the ground told us heartbreaking stories of people affected by the devastating earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. I work for ShelterBox part-time, and the rest of the week I write children’s books, so I volunteered (or was I volunteered?!) to write a story that reflected the experiences of so many individuals we were hearing about.
Once we finished the story, we needed a much-loved voice to narrate it. Of course, Imelda Staunton was our first choice. BUT Imelda was playing the Queen in Netflix’s The Crown; would she have time to help?
I sent a tentative email. Not only did Imelda agree to take part, but she invited us to film in her lounge, saving ShelterBox a huge amount of budget on studio and travel. As always, Imelda was kind and funny, and her delivery of the story was exceptional.
Next, I scoured Instagram for an illustrator. Karen George is a warm and prolific children’s artist, often paired with greats like Julia Donaldson. Her illustrative style, captured in a book called ‘What Happened To You’ by James Catchpole, perfectly matched our story.
I reached out to Karen’s agent, who passed on our request. For transparency, I should probably mention Karen’s agent is also my agent, but I work with lots of literary agents through the ShelterBox Book Club and in my experience, they are always a kind bunch.
We then pulled all of these elements together, and I hope you will agree that we created a hugely emotive film.
We shared the film across social and email channels. We even used the illustrations in our recent fundraising materials. We reached out to our author and celebrity supporters to help disseminate the campaign, helping our reach since launch achieve nearly 500k views (and counting). Our affiliates in Germany, France, The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are also using the film to raise awareness.
Please help us share the stories of those facing cold nights without shelter:
- How small charities can think ambitiously about film
- How to make an effective fundraising film on a budget
- How working with celebrities can help amplify your message
Banner Image: Pixabay on Pexels