Pure Anguilla Foundation
Client: The Pure Anguilla Foundation (Pro Bono)
To raise awareness of the impact of Irma on Anguilla, and to demand additional funds for assistance from the UK government in response to the crisis.
Aequitas devised and implemented a high-impact media strategy, using senior contacts and in-depth understanding of public affairs, to leverage the plight of Anguillans left desolate in the wake of Hurricane Irma, and to force the UK Government to live up to its responsibilities to protects its citizens on this Overseas British Territory. Aequitas devised the strategy, drafted messaging, press materials and calls to action, and turned this into a global story.
Due to the incredibly short timeframe and the lack of power on the island, Aequitas knew that to make this work, we had to turn the PR rulebook on its head. Aequitas MD Dorothea Hodge acted as spokesperson, undertaking hard-hitting media interviews, extending the news cycle and ultimately securing live-saving support and assistance for the island from the UK Government.
What we did
As Anguilla was in the path of Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded, Aequitas rapidly devised a media campaign to guarantee that the British Government would commit adequate assistance to the island in the instance of mass devastation.
On 7th September, Irma hit Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory, decimating the island nation. The British government, having failed to undertake adequate preparations to support the islanders, released a statement announcing its pitiful pledge to Anguilla: in response to the crisis, the UK government would be committing just one emergency ship that was already based in the region.
Working rapidly to secure hard-hitting images to demonstrate the level of destruction, as well as outlining the British Government’s legal obligations to Anguilla and the extent to which these obligations had not been met, Aequitas developed robust messages and an ambitious call to action. Overnight, Aequitas developed a strategy to use senior and influential media contacts to lobby the UK Government to fulfil its obligations.
The strategy publically drew comparisons between the responses of different governments – highlighting the immediate and targeted response of the Dutch government to its citizens in Saint Martin and French Government to its territories – in stark contrast to the weak and delayed response of the British in Anguilla. Within one week of the hurricane, both the Dutch King and President Macron of France had personally visited their territories in the Caribbean. Yet no such support was seen in Anguilla from the British government.
We knew the success of this campaign depended on our ability to demonstrate the impact of the Hurricane on real lives in a very short time period. Using local knowledge and contacts on the island, we secured interviews for Josephine Gumbs-Conner, an Anguillan barrister, providing her with key messaging. Josephine was cited in over 50 global news stories, from CNN to Sky News, becoming the face and voice of the campaign on the island, alongside Aequitas Founder Dorothea Hodge in London to secure blanket coverage over a 72-hour period and leave the UK Government scrambling to demonstrate it was on top of the situation.
This highly targeted strategy turned the impact of Hurricane Irma on Anguilla, and the UK Government’s inadequate response, into a global media story. The campaign generated 60 pieces of coverage in 3 days, and Channel 4 subsequently sent a team to the island to deliver a special 3 day report on relief efforts in Anguilla.
Funds committed to Anguilla by the British government rose from zero to £52 million in just 4 days. The net commitment to Anguilla by 29th November stood at £70 million.
Finally after several days, and in light of heavy criticism, the Prime Minister was forced to give directly address the government’s response and provide a video statement on the issue. In addition, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited Anguilla in an effort to repair the UK Government’s reputation, while Navy seals were deployed to manage the crisis, delivering more than 60 tonnes of aid.