Forces War Records

Forces War Records (FWR) is the place to visit for those researching their family’s military history, with over seven million records of individuals who have served. This type of family research is increasingly popular among enthusiasts, but still remains niche to the wider population. Our challenge was to create a reason for the media to write about Forces War Records during the centenary year of the start of the First World War and build awareness of this specialist website in a surprising and compelling way.

Implementation & results

To create a big bang kick-off, our hunch was that, among FWR’s archives, we might find real-life namesakes for the fictitious Blackadder cast with their correct ranks. After exhaustive research we found that the real Capt. Blackadder, Private Baldrick and co were all there – with uncanny similarities and/or striking contrasts to their screen counterparts. Only Stephen Fry’s General Melchett character was missing – he was found in WW2. A massive media sell-in and Twitter campaign (#TheRealBlackadder) resulted in across the board exposure including broadcast interviews with Tim McInnerny (Capt. Darling) and FWR spokespeople – and social engagement with key influencers.

This was a high profile PR and marketing campaign that generated no less than 302,860,695 opportunities to see (readership plus unique user figures), excluding social media. All coverage carried branding and key messages inextricably linked to FWR and its offering.

In six months visits to rose by over 50% versus the same period the year prior. And people stayed longer and dug deeper, with a 76% increase in page views. Forces War Records even had to swell its ranks by a half (an extra 28 staff) to search out and transcribe as much WW1 military data as it could handle, to cope with demand.

And it didn’t stop there! The View won Major PR and was shortlisted for Major Creative in the inaugural Majors awards, in association with The Drum marketing magazine for work including Forces War Records.

Click below to listen to BBC Radio Scotland interview with Tim McInerny

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