Flow Communications

Malala Yousafzai delivers the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai delivered the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 5 December 2023.

When Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai delivered the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 5 December 2023, Flow Communications was there to help the Nelson Mandela Foundation make the event a success.

Marking yet another positive collaboration between Flow and the foundation, the event overshot all its goals: it went ahead without a glitch; reached 260.5-million people through traditional media (goal: more than 20-million) and 16-million via social media (goal: more than 10-million); and generated 335-million social media impressions (goal: more than 50-million). The advertising value equivalency of the traditional media coverage secured was R12.6-million ($662 596).

“The Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture is a highlight for Flow every year. We are always humbled by the enormous privilege we enjoy working alongside the foundation to present the lecture,” says Flow MD Tiffany Turkington-Palmer.

Flow has worked with the foundation since 2007 and has helped deliver 16 of the 21 annual lectures it has presented to date.

This year Flow provided social media, public relations and other support, including running the event on a web application first developed for the foundation’s 2020 annual lecture, when the Covid-19 pandemic led to worldwide lockdowns and the event was presented online only.

Experience counts

Malala Yousafzai and the Flow Communications team at the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture 2023
The Flow Communications team and Malala Yousafzai at the annual lecture.

Flow used insights from previous years to draw up a plan for the event.

Research shows that social media is shortening attention spans. Traditionally, the lecture has been a 45- to 60-minute speech, but this year the keynote speech was reduced to 15 minutes, followed by a panel discussion between Yousafzai and several gender rights activists. This added variety to hold people’s attention.

We used the insight about shorter attention spans a few years ago when the Covid-19 pandemic sent everyone into lockdown, and designed and developed a bespoke events platform to present the lecture online. The platform allows for active “real-time” commentary alongside livestreaming and was deployed again this year.

Another insight we used in helping present this year’s annual lecture is that poignance adds drama to an event and helps capture and hold public attention. The lecture was held on 5 December 2023, the 10th anniversary of Mandela’s death, adding poignance to the event along with the fact that one of the panellists who spoke with Yousafzai after the speech was Graça Machel, an internationally renowned advocate for women’s and children’s rights and also Mandela’s widow.

A further insight that we used in our planning was intensely practical: we brought our own cameras to take and quickly download quality images at the event, expressly for social media. In a previous year, an official photographer had technical challenges, but because we had brought our camera that year, we could continue to post images “live” across the foundation’s social media platforms. It was a lesson well learnt.

Putting together a large team, as we did, was another practical consideration. This was so that if trouble reared its head, we could easily deal with it without the public noticing. Further, Flow’s experience is that the combined forces of social and traditional media are needed to reach as many people as possible. This also broadens reach across generations.

As in previous years, Flow and the foundation planned a SMART campaign – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. Using this popular matrix helps us remain focused and ensure that we track our success.

A call to the heart

A panel discussion between Yousafzai and several gender rights activists
This year's lecture was followed by a panel discussion.

Nelson Mandela showed the world that a firm focus on principle garners support over time.

The annual lectures are the foundation’s key vehicle for reminding the global community of people who remember Mandela of the importance of this message and its effectiveness in the long run, and introducing it to younger generations.

In 2023, as in previous years, Flow and the foundation aimed to reach a wide audience with the lecture’s central message – that Mandela’s focus on dialogue as a means for finding solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges remains valid. To this end, we contracted several influencers to help us spread the word on social media.

At the event, Yousafzai made an impassioned plea for the rights of Afghan girls and women to education and to be able to work outside the home. She urged the world to support Afghan women and girls in their fight for human rights in the same way that the world stood with Mandela in his fight against apartheid in South Africa.

It was a privilege for Flow to work alongside the foundation when this call from the heart was made.

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