The Challenge: UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a “Food Systems Summit” to take place in 2021 as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through accelerating the transition to healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems.
Marchmont Communications was tasked as the official retained communications agency of this first-of-its-kind UN Food Systems Summit, providing strategic communications, media and social media outreach support, which included:
Positioning the Summit as an inclusive and engaging year-long consultation process, not just a one-off event;
Promoting food systems transformation as a key route to achieving the SDGs;
Mainstreaming stakeholders’ understanding and use of the term “food systems”, which captures a broad sector including agriculture, food, climate, environment, equity and economic development among others.
Our Approach: To achieve these aims, Marchmont developed an evolving, multi-channel strategy over the course of 18 months, which included:
Creating a drumbeat of engagement and awareness through both regular media outreach and management of the UNFSS social media accounts ;
Developing and launching targeted campaigns around strategic moments in the Summit process as well as in the external UN agenda, such as report launches and international events;
Developing and sharing original digital assets including sophisticated multimedia packages of customised vox pop videos, GIFs and graphics;
Conceptualising and executing digital preview events including a virtual “media world tour”, and a 24-hour global relay conversation;
Providing on-site press office and social reporting support (overseeing a team of 11 people) at the pre-Summit in Rome in July 2021, including managing media registrations;
Providing virtual press office support at the Summit in New York during the UN General Assembly in September 2021; and
Establishing a legacy for the Summit, its achievements, and its contribution to the sustainable development agenda, including through retrospective social media audits and a celebratory #FacesOfFoodSystems campaign.
Outcomes: Marchmont helped to elevate public awareness and dialogue around “food systems” in support of the Summit process.
The media outreach produced more than 8,000 articles and pieces mentioning the Summit, including:
More than a dozen opinion pieces by Dr. Agnes Kalibata, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit, senior officials and key participants in the Summit, such as Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director (2012-2017) of the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), Dr. Kanayo Nwanze, President (2009-2017) of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mayor GiuseppeSala of Milan, UN Food Systems Champion and Chair of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, and Gerda Verburg, Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement and member of the Food Systems Summit Advisory Board (for example, the Independent, Nature Food, Quartz, Daily Telegraph, The Hill, Thomson Reuters).
Overall, average monthly mentions of the term “food systems” nearly tripled when comparing the first and last month tracked.
On a yearly basis, overall mentions of the term “food systems” increased by 50% when comparing 2020 and 2021.
Social media had a potential reach of 2.5 billion people over the period tracked and online media coverage had a potential reach of 202 million people over the same period.
On a yearly basis, total reach increased by 46% when comparing first to second year of data period (broadly 2020 and 2021). The Pre-Summit and Summit both had a potential reach of 230+ million people.
The top phrases used on Twitter include “sustainable”, “people”, “global”, “health”, and “climate”. This fits into key narratives promoted by the UNFSS – including around the idea of a “People’s Summit” and the cross-disciplinary focus of food systems on broader sustainable development.
The Challenge: The United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) was preparing to launch its 2022 Global Assessment Report, the UN’s flagship biennial report on worldwide efforts to reduce disaster risk.
Marchmont Communications was tasked with launching the report’s calls-to-actions and findings both to the media and via an online campaign. The objectives of the outreach were to raise awareness and urgency on how governance systems can evolve to better address systemic risk.
Our Approach: To achieve these aims, Marchmont developed a multi-channel strategy ahead of the report launch, which included:
Planning how best to position the report to secure maximum media interest. Marchmont first drafted a series of quotes for the UN Deputy Secretary General, Amina Mohammed, and other spokespeople, which included references to how “humanity is on a spiral of self-destruction.” Marchmont then pushed for this concept to anchor the outreach as a whole, to both demonstrate humans’ role in increasing disaster risk, as well as leaning on this language to emphasize the scale and urgency of the challenge facing the world.
Targeting high-priority media outlets to conduct interviews with high-level figures from UNDRR under embargo, ensuring coverage would be widely syndicated upon the launch of the report;
Supplementing media outreach with op-eds from high-profile figures within UNDRR, which reinforced the pressing calls-to-action made by the report;
Developing and launching an online campaign using the hashtag #StopTheSpiral, which was hosted on a Trello board with social media toolkits, promotional GIFs, explainer videos, fact cards, an online interactive quiz, interviews with experts, and more. This campaign aimed to complement the media outreach and showcase specific facts, quotes, case studies and recommendations from the report in a compelling, action-oriented way.
Outcomes: Across both media and social media, Marchmont helped to secure widespread visibility of the report as well as UNDRR’s warnings around the state of global disaster preparedness.
Media outreach around the launch of the report secured almost 1,000 pieces of media coverage, including:
Over 7,600 posts about the report on Twitter, referring to the “spiral of self-destruction,” as well as the hashtags #GAR2022 or #StopTheSpiral.
On Reddit, the report announcement received over 44,000 likes, with 90% of people engaging with the post positively through upvoting.
A reporter on Twitter noted, “For the UN, this is very, very blunt language. Their report’s marketing hashtag is literally #StopTheSpiral. What’s left unsaid is much more frightening than what is said.”
The campaign’s visibility was such that the UNDRR Global Platform event taking place after the report was used by a group of prominent scientists as a news hook for releasing an open letter, and well-known climate skeptic Bjorn Lomborg also published a series of response op-eds.
The Challenge: Agricultural biodiversity, or “agrobiodiversity”, will be essential in helping the world achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. CGIAR’s Bioversity International produced a comprehensive review of the existing evidence on agrobiodiversity which they asked Marchmont Communications to help them launch ahead of an important United Nations conference. The goal was to raise awareness of the importance of preserving crop biodiversity and to drive traffic to the report.
Our Approach: As the report was a literature review, it did not have original findings that could act as the hook for the media outreach. Our strategic idea was to position the report instead within a broader public narrative that we saw emerging in the media around the “sixth mass extinction” of animals (that had mostly focus on the risk of large mammals like elephants and tigers going extinct). We wanted to use the report to reframe that narrative and shine a spotlight on the fact that many crop species are also at threat from the same phenomenon – in other words, to dramatize “the sixth mass extinction of our food supply”.
A launch date was set three weeks ahead of an important United Nations conference where the report would be showcased in person, so that the media coverage would build an online groundswell of interest which could be carried into the event itself. A short media summary of the report was drafted to highlight key takeaways and case studies and appeal to different media desks and regions, and a press release and series of op-eds were drafted along the same insight.
Outcomes: The resulting effort produced more than 60 pieces of coverage in nine languages, including a slot on Al Jazeera’s news at ten. Three separate articles appeared in The Guardian: the news piece was shared on Facebook more than 11,000 times and also appeared in the print edition; the op-ed was shared more than 4,000 times and received over 300 comments; and a third article appeared as their “top news story” online on launch day. Additional coverage was secured in National Geographic, BBC Radio 4, Reuters and the Financial Times. Bioversity International’s overall web traffic doubled and the book was downloaded over 1,000 times in the first week.
The Challenge: As the largest and arguably most prominent development bank in the world, the World Bank Group provides financing to developing countries across a wide array of issues. The Group has come to Marchmont for support with various of these initiatives, including branding and launching new programmes, facilitating workshops, conducting stakeholder mappings, and raising the visibility and support for existing activities globally. These include their:
Food Systems, Land Use and Restoration (FOLUR) Impact Programme
Global Food Safety Partnership
Our Approach: Every scope of work is first carefully planned to meet the broader goals of the initiative as creatively and efficiently as possible. Marchmont will typically lead a kick-off call after reviewing the existing background materials, querying objectives, audiences, calls-to-action and channels before refining the approach to deliver results worthy of the World Bank’s global profile. We often coordinate in tight timeframes and with teams working across different time zones.
Marchmont also created several new brand identities, logos and related design collateral for various new initiatives:
Marchmont also oversaw the production of several video assets, including a documentary-style photofilm for the Disruptive Agricultural Technologies (DAT) Challenge in Nairobi (viewable here) and an introductory video for the Global Food Safety Partnership (viewable here).
The Challenge: Danish Red Cross wanted to promote to the media the concept of a blockchain-based currency as a potential alternative to direct cash transfers for humanitarian aid. They were launching a pilot programme in Kenya involving multiple partners, followed by a second phase of scale-up across other Kenyan communities.
Our Approach: During the initial planning process, Marchmont identified the different target audiences and segmented messages for different media outlets accordingly, from the humanitarian and development fields to specialist technology and finance outlets. To achieve cut-through, the messaging prioritised both the potential benefits of the alternative currency for building resilience among vulnerable communities (to resonate with development and humanitarian donors) and also its agility and efficiency during emergencies or shocks like the Covid-19 pandemic (to appeal to the wider news agenda).
The Challenge: The Global Resilience Partnership was seeking to raise understanding and visibility for the role of resilience in tackling global development issues over the long term. More specifically they wanted to leverage the work of their global network of 38 Challenge winners – from a series of competitions hosted by GRP to find innovative, scalable solutions – all working on different aspects of resilience across the Sahel and Horn of Africa and in Southeast Asia.
Our Approach: Marchmont delivered a comprehensive support package designed to make the complex, abstract concept of “resilience” come to life – in other words, to make it personal, tangible and urgent. This included an initial landscape analysis, which informed the communications planning. Marchmont created a detailed editorial calendar to identify opportunities for proactive media outreach on behalf of the Challenge winners. We also organised several media field visits of their work on the ground. Marchmont also ran communications workshops and strategic planning sessions to build capacity amongst Challenge winners so they could amplify their work in-house more effectively.
The Challenge: The We Mean Business Coalition is a global non-profit coalition that works with some of the world’s most influential businesses to accelerate the actions needed to build a climate resilient net-zero economy.
The Coalition wanted to communicate its climate policy asks to governments ahead of the UN COP26 climate talks – one of the biggest climate policy events of the year, and also a highly competitive media environment.
Our Approach: To achieve these aims, Marchmont developed an evolving, multi-phased, flexible media plan. Firstly, to create early momentum ahead of COP26, Marchmont worked with We Mean Business to launch an open letter signed by 600+ companies across the world calling on the G20 to halve emissions by 2030. This initial outreach was then sustained through ongoing reactive pitching in the lead-up to COP26 itself.
Marchmont then capitalised on We Mean Business’ presence at COP26 to reinforce these messages and secure media opportunities for their spokespeople, including from the Coalition as well as CEOs of their partner companies. This outreach included providing reaction to the progress of negotiations, as well as a series of thought leadership pieces before, during, and after COP26.
Finally, we used the announcement of a new Chairman of the Coalition in the New Year as an opportunity to pitch “year ahead”-style briefings designed to consolidate their visibility and profile into the new year.
Around the COP26 climate talks, Marchmont helped secure a range of opportunities in top-tier outlets, including Reuters, CNBC and the Wall Street Journal, as well as specialist titles such as Edie.
Additional media coverage was also secured through the placement of a series of opinion pieces, including in Reuters, Euronews, and Euractiv.
Marchmont also secured top-tier coverage around the announcement of a new chairman of the Coalition in 2022, including write-ups in the Financial Times, and The Times, and broadcast interviews on BBC Radio 4 and Times Radio.
The Challenge: When French-Tunisian start-up nextProtein successfully secured their series A funding, they wanted to use it as an opportunity to highlight the growth potential and sustainability of their insect-based protein to a broader international audience.
Our Approach: Marchmont worked with nextProtein to identify angles that would help elevate the pitch beyond the investment announcement and position the company both around its cutting-edge technology and its corporate ethos. This also included identifying opportunities to frame the announcement in the wider context of the EU’s Farm to Fork policy.
The Challenge: The Inclusive Business Action Network (iBAN) wanted to raise wider visibility for, and drive traffic to, its new online platform and bi-monthly magazine ‘CLUED-iN’. This included targeting entrepreneurs, social enterprise leaders and other key stakeholders engaged in inclusive business development.
Our Approach: Marchmont provides ongoing outreach support via both traditional media and social media. For the former, this includes distributing media alerts and drafting and placing opinion pieces with relevant specialist media outlets. For the latter, it includes creating e-bulletins, social media toolkits and graphics cards for social media dissemination, both via iBAN and the magazine’s contributors as well as iBAN’s wider networks. During the launch period, Marchmont also manages iBAN’s Twitter and LinkedIn accounts.
The Challenge: Maize, beans and bananas are essential components of African diets and livelihoods, and are under extreme threat from climate change. A major study from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), published in Nature Climate Change, provided for the first time a timeline for action to preserve food security, detailing exactly when agricultural regions across Africa will need to transform. CIAT approached Marchmont to deliver a communications campaign to amplify the key messages of the report and offer practical advice to policymakers and donors on how to take action.
Our Approach: Marchmont first distilled the key messages of the study into a two-page media summary and press release. We positioned the story against the backdrop of the El-Niño induced drought that was affecting large areas in Southern and Eastern Africa at the time, asking journalists: Is El Niño the tip of the iceberg for African farmers? In addition, Marchmont created a series of animated GIFs for sharing on social media, which extracted the key takeaways from the study in a visually engaging way.