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HOW POETRY CAN BE USED IN COMMUNICATIONS

This article first appeared in Creative Moment and was written by Janet Hare.

Poetry has been around for thousands of years and has given the UK alone heaps of famous and infamous poets such as Chaucer, Keats, Wordsworth, Dylan Thomas, Robbie Burns, Sylvia Plath and many, many more.

Typically though it is known as a niche market, with long-form novels selling far more copies than even the most popular poet. Although Nielsen BookScan did report a 12% increase in poetry book sales in its 2018 report.

Most people see poetry as something they had to learn at school and were pleased to leave behind as they reached adulthood.

And it’s definitely not known as the dominant written form in our lives today. That accolade probably belongs to text speak, alas.

So, if that is the case, then why is poetry being used so much these days in marketing and communications?

Many big UK brands and their ad agencies have taken to using poetry in their broadcast advertising over the last 12 months or so. Nationwide and Co-op are two such companies., as well as EE and OVO.

Starting in 2016, Nationwide ran a series of ads along the theme of ‘voices’ which were designed to highlight the life and diversity of British society. The campaign was brought to life by 31 spoken word poets who lived and worked across the UK. They were given broad themes to work from and wrote original poetry under the subjects such as home, family, friendship.

The campaign apparently helped the building society grow its share of switched accounts to 20%.

It was during that year that I first saw and heard Matt Abbott’s ‘This place is ours’, his poem for Nationwide on what home meant to him. It totally held me captive whilst he talked about his Mum’s roast dinner and dressing gowns being worn all day in his Yorkshire tones. This was real life. This spoke to me.

The Voices campaign has been so successful for Nationwide that it’s still running now. In 2020 it even featured poems about the Covid pandemic from the likes of Matt Abbott and his partner Maria Ferguson, titled ‘A message to ourselves/myself in 6 months’ time.’ The Covid-time ads focussed on the theme of how things would be different in the future.

Nationwide The Voices Campaign

Image credit: The Drum

Since then, and particularly in the last 12 months, I have seen numerous other companies take to poems to express themselves in TV ads, such as the Co-op with its ‘Power of hope’ campaign which used a poem based on spoken word artist Sarah Adedeji, ‘All the people giving double’, about people’s struggles and double efforts during Covid. Even Coca-Cola has got in on the act using spoken word artist George the Poet in its TV ad marking the cultural significance of the pandemic.

So why? Why is poetry suddenly being used to communicate messages?

The answer seems simple. Empathy.

Advertisers and communicators recognise that people have turned introspective during the pandemic, spending more time contemplating. Contemplating what is important in life. And spending more time at home has given people more time to be aware of their feelings. They’ve had time to stop and think. Advertisers have recognised this. They have read the room and realised that empathy is where it’s at with good communication right now.

And it’s not only advertisers that have become aware of this. President Biden’s inauguration in the US didn’t just feature pomp and ceremony and politicians giving speeches and elbow bumps. It featured a young, black, female poet, Amanda Gorman delivering ‘The hill we climb’ poem she wrote for the occasion.

In the hours following the ceremony, social media erupted with astonishment at how powerful the poem was and how amazing Amanda, the US youth poet laureate, was in her delivery. The positive media coverage continued the next day and beyond. The impact it made was incredible.

Why did the Biden administration decide to use poetry for this world-stage event? Because they read the room and knew with all the turbulent times the country had seen, what they needed to do now to appeal to the population was show what hadn’t been shown before. Empathy.

I fully expect that Amanda Gorman’s performance will only further propel the use of poetry in communication and as an English Literature grad, that’s something that I look forward to very much.

LIFE AS A STUDENT AND INTERN DURING A PANDEMIC

Written by our PR intern and university student Bridie Buckingham

I think it is safe to say that this past year has not been kind to us. Staying at home, working from home, studying from home: they’re taking their toll. It is not always easy to adjust to a ‘new normal’ but never has it been more necessary.

For someone who has always struggled with time-management, this new normal has really given me the push I needed to stay ahead of the game. Balancing work, student and home life has always been a demanding task, but now that they are all crowded within the same four walls, it can seem a bit overwhelming at times.

It is all too easy to allow yourself to get bogged down with the negativity, but those anxious feelings are never going to dissipate unless you adopt a more positive mindset. I struggled a lot, as I’m sure we all did, during the first lockdown but as time has gone on my outlook has changed. Whether you have used this period for self-improvement, or you’ve simply taken a step back to recharge, both are valid. There is no need to force productivity, it only fuels negativity. A healthy mind is the most important asset to have right now and if that comes from spending time with family and putting work on the backburner then finding a healthy balance is essential.

This is something I wrestled with in the first lockdown, juggling being a university student, work and home life seemed impossible at times yet now I sense big tops in my future. I am lucky that the team at Source PR are so accommodating, allowing me to work around my online classes. Without their help I don’t think I would have been so fortunate. It is strange not being able to see them each week, only communicating via email or WhatsApp, it makes me miss the office, but I know we will be back one day. For now I am enjoying life as an intern, each week is different, allowing me to explore the world of PR whilst also gaining valuable work experience in the field.

When it comes to studying from home, I was sceptical at first, but it has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. All my lectures have been delivered seamlessly and on time, with help available at every turn. Delivered via teams, the seminars are still as interactive as ever, in fact I think the delivery is advantageous as many people who were too shy to give input in face-to-face seminars have gained confidence from the comfort of their own home.

With my family also working from home, bandwidth problems are a reoccurring nightmare in our house, with several of us trying to access classes via teams at the same time, we sometimes struggle to get a clear connection. As a student, the work sometimes piles up but with regular half-terms and reading weeks it is easy to catch up. Overall, I think my second-year experience has been the best it could’ve been considering the circumstances; however I can’t say the same for first years.

To add to the mayhem, I also challenged myself to learn a language this year. In a joint venture with my sister we decided to teach ourselves Korean as we have always wanted to visit South Korea. I have dreamed of living abroad and being able to speak another language fluently since I was little, so I thought if now isn’t a good time to start, when is? With my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) end of year module coming up in just a few short weeks, I hope I will get to put my new skills to good use and take myself across the globe, Covid permitting of course.

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안녕히 계세요 (annyeonghee geseyo)