14th July 2014 London, UK

A digital campaign like no other: supporting the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative

This is the first in a series of 3 blog posts about the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. See blog 2 and blog 3.


In June the former Foreign Secretary and Angelina Jolie, Special Envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, co-chaired a 4 day Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London’s ExCel.

Our aim was to host a Summit like no other: bringing together over 125 country delegations, NGOs, survivors and activists in London, with our embassies organising 84 hours of events across the world to create a global support for the initiative.

The Summit aimed to agree practical steps to tackle impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war, and the process of changing global attitudes to these devastating crimes.

Digital was at the heart of this, from raising awareness and engagement before the summit, to bringing the global events to the delegates in London, and enabling those outside London to take part.

So how did the FCO’s digital team help support the overall Summit communications effort?

We started by setting out some clear aims for our digital campaign.

  • Engage people with the aims of the Summit and raise awareness of the issue
  • Build a community of supporters and advocates
  • Enable global 24/7 participation in the Summit
  • Drive footfall to the free public events in the Summit Fringe
  • Answer questions and provide information about the Summit

Raising awareness

We set up dedicated social media channels aimed at building a community of supporters. We were particularly keen to reach an audience in conflict affected countries, post conflict countries and influencers in the G8 countries.

In the space of a few months our End Sexual Violence in Conflict facebook page attracted over 10,000 followers worldwide. Over half of the page followers were in the priority countries. We focused on creating visual content including infographics and ‘photo quotes’ featuring prominent personalities associated with the campaign.  Content reached an audience of up to 247,000 people through sharing.  Most impressive was the high level of engagement with the page, which received over 2,000 comments and 6,000 shares, with hugely positive debate on the UK’s lead in tackling this issue.

Our @end_svc twitter channel aimed to provide rolling updates for the NGOs, experts and charities attending the summit as well as explain and discuss the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. With nearly 9,000 followers, engagement was high and @end_svc mentioned 47,000 times between March and June, reaching an audience of millions.

Explaining the initiative

To help explain the importance of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, as well as the Summit aims, the former Foreign Secretary held a Twitter Q&A. The Q&A was the most popular FCO Ministerial Q&A to date with over 2,000 mentions/retweets on the hashtag #AskFS and our hashtag, #timetoact, trending in the UK.

The Q&A was widely promoted by our key Summit partners including the United Nations, Care , International Red Cross and Amnesty. The former Foreign Secretary received over 100 questions from around the world, before and during the Q&A and answered over 30.

The former Foreign Secretary also took part in a 45 minute webchat on Mumsnet, the UK’s most popular and influential parenting forum. There was a hugely positive response from users who were very engaged with the topic and asked detailed and informed questions.

We also commissioned an animation, designed to be shared and reach new audiences. This was viewed over 70,000 times.

#Timetoact – more than just a hashtag

We asked the public to share a photo via social media using #TimeToAct to show their support for the campaign. Our aim was to give the public something they could do to show their support and to show the visiting delegations visual proof that a global public were supporting their efforts to end sexual violence in conflict.

To kick start the campaign we headed out to Parliament Square for a team shot.

This straight forward photo in front of Big Ben promoted the most popular photo campaign the FCO has ever run.

In addition to our embassies, the US State Department’s network of embassies took part along with high profile NGOs including War Child, Amnesty and Care International.

As well as many members of the public influential political figures and organisations took part including: European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes, the President of Kosovo Atifete Jahjaga, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key, and Portuguese MPs Isabel Moreira, Teresa Anjinho and Monica Ferro

Celebrities contributing to the campaign included Luis Figo, Jemima Khan, Jeremy Paxman, UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Catarina Furtado, Kathleen Turner, Thandie Newton, Lolita Chakrabarti, Bonnie Wright, Stella McCartney, Vivienne Westwood, Alexandra Shulman (British Vogue editor), Natalie Massenet (Net-a-Porter founder), Paloma Faith, Alexandra Burke, Mollie King and Eliza Doolittle.

Our hashtag activism achieved its goal of raising awareness – the #TimeToAct hashtag was mentioned over 122,000 times during the Summit, reaching an audience of millions