Flow Communications

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is one of the world’s best-loved and most principled leaders, and helping the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation ensure that the public celebrations of his 90th birthday went off smoothly was a privilege for Flow Communications – a rather intimidating one!

Happily, we succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.

“We were ecstatic to not only reach our goals but exceed them,” says Flow’s Cape Town manager, Sarah-Jane Viljoen.

The public celebrations were multifaceted, culminating in the 11th Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture on the Archbishop’s birthday, 7 October. Flow’s goals for that particular event were to meet or exceed the social media reach for last year’s peace lecture (which we also helped to advertise and run), and to gain 100-million impressions on the hashtags #TutuPL2021 and #TruthToPower.

We reached 22.8-million people, and achieved 110.7-million impressions. We also achieved news media coverage worth R80-million.

Tutu PL2021achievements

“Our communications objectives for the peace lecture were built around spreading awareness of the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, as well as positioning the organisation as a thought leader on issues that it focuses on. We are an extension of the foundation’s team and, together, we’re proud to have these amazing results to show for all the hard work,” Sarah-Jane adds.

This year, the peace lecture was delivered by the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s highest spiritual leader; women’s and children’s rights activist Graça Machel; chair of The Elders and former president of Ireland Mary Robinson; and South Africa’s former public protector, Thuli Madonsela. They explored the topic Speaking Truth to Power: No future without justice from each of their personal vantage points.

The event was the culmination of months of preparation.

Getting the message out

Tutu PL2021madonsela
Flow’s team called on social media influencers, including the speakers and their affiliated organisations, to help us amplify the message.

Working with the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, Flow used its social media platforms – Instagram, Twitter and Facebook – to drive awareness and registrations for the event. As the date for the lecture neared, Flow’s team called on social media influencers, including the speakers and their affiliated organisations, to help us amplify the message.

We also applied for, and received, a Google Ads Grant that gave us an opportunity to advertise on Google. (This grant offers eligible non-profit organisations access to $10 000 a month in advertising spend on Google’s extensive network.)

Two search campaigns were set up, one to encourage registrations for the peace lecture, the other to raise funds for the Tutu Legacy Fund. The funding campaign continues.

Letters in the inbox

The foundation’s social media campaign was accompanied by an emailer campaign and mentions of the lecture in the monthly newsletter.

The four emailers sent out in the run-up to the lecture drew 1 981 registrations for the event, and the emailers had an impressive 41% average open rate (anything above 25% is considered good).

An uplifting event

The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation opted to use Flow’s online event platform as the chief host platform for the lecture. The non-governmental organisation first used it for its peace lecture in 2020, the year it was developed.

Astonishingly, despite an interval of a year between the two events, the platform audience nearly doubled to 4 028 this year, from 2 024 in 2020. The average session duration was nearly two hours, while the event was around three hours long.

Tutu PL2021platform

Alongside the event platform, Flow managed the foundation’s hosting of two Facebook Live events for the lecture, one after the other. This allowed the organisation to host a Facebook audience for the lecture, and one for the one-off showing of the documentary film Mission Joy: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times, celebrating the decades-long friendship between Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama. The film event was removed from Facebook after this one-time-only showing.

Facebook might not have been the primary platform for the peace lecture, but the foundation has a dedicated following on the platform and wanted to offer its audience the option to use it to attend the event. On Facebook, the average session duration was 2 hours and 51 minutes.

Archbishop Tutu’s well-wishers were also able to watch the peace lecture on YouTube, and between 7 October, when the YouTube link was posted, and the end of 13 October, 3 293 people had opted for this platform to enjoy the festivities, which included performances by Grammy Award-winning American cellist Yo-Yo Ma and acclaimed South African cellist Abel Selaocoe, and by the award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir.

Spreading the word

Public relations work for the foundation in the lead-up to the event focused on raising awareness of the Archbishop’s upcoming milestone birthday, and ensuring the peace lecture was well promoted. Here are the highlights:

  • Interviews with two major television stations

  • Partnerships with national and regional commercial radio stations (SABC)

  • An SABC live stream of the lecture

  • Partnerships with independent radio stations

  • An Associated Press live stream of the lecture

  • Opinion pieces published in national and international media

Through this, Flow reached more than 44-million people in South Africa alone.

Tutu PL2021newspaper
One of the opinion pieces published in the run-up to Tutu's 90th birthday.

Success for all

More than 10 Flowstars worked on this pinnacle event, each relishing their involvement in saying a big happy birthday to an international icon.

“We’re honoured and privileged to work with the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation as its communications partner and we’re particularly proud of being part of running the peace lecture. What a fantastic event it was,” says Flow managing director Tiffany Turkington-Palmer.

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