When the Duke of Edinburgh died aged 99 it triggered a series of plans to communicate the news and to mark a remarkable life. British Army Chief Communications Officer Gemma Regniez looks back at an eventful few days where a team worked to communicate effectively when the eyes of the world were on them.
At lunchtime on the 9th April, something we had been bracing ourselves for came to pass. Forth Bridge came down.
Forth Bridge is the name of the Operation assigned to the death of HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and the basis for the plan for the nation to be able to pay their respects to the Queen’s husband of over seven decades.
As luck would have it, the Army are known for their ability to plan. In fact plans have been in place for years and have evolved over time based on various different scenarios, most recently COVID. Our element of this plan covered communications based on several elements depending on where the death occurred. We had plans for Scotland, London, Windsor. You name it, a plan had been developed for it and drilled on regular occasions.
So when the news came in that the Duke of Edinburgh had passed, my team knew what needed to happen.
Our web pages and social media channels were updated within 30 minutes of the announcement, with pre-agreed content (signed off in advance by Whitehall and The Palace) and we had our first core team meeting to agree staffing for the weekend and for the days leading up to the funeral.
Direction was sent out internally to the whole organisation, putting a hold on any over-excited Military personnel wanting to do their own thing on social media and we released a tribute message from the boss, Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith onto all of our channels.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, but all in all it felt like that planning had paid off.
Explaining the gun salute
Our next challenge was managing comms for the gun salutes at midday on the 10th April and making them accessible and interesting to a public who were all still stuck at home. The team developed content explaining some of the background to the gun salutes and got pre-interviews with some of the staff taking part so we could provide a build-up to midday.
The salutes were supported by our news team facilitating media access in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and London. Woolwich was touch and go as an issue with one of the gun carriages saw them arriving with only 60 seconds to go.
Communicating the gun salute
Since Saturday we’ve had a chance to regroup and review the plan for the rest of the week. With The Palace’s decision to hold the funeral at Windsor, much of the grand communications plans have had to be revised. The team, made up of a perfect combination of military personnel and specialist communications managers, are now cracking on with the best ways in which to get the most interesting elements out there, so the public can share as much of the moment as possible.
Initial results show that our tribute video has achieved the most impressions (thanks to a retweet from Piers Morgan) at 1,720,140 on the last count. Our Gun Salute video has also gone down well, with more to come as the week wears on. Stay tuned on @BritishArmy and keep everything crossed we continue to do justice to a man that dedicated 70 years of his life to serving our country.
Kudos to the Army communications team: news, media ops, digital and content creation and the Army CCT and Phots.
Gemma Regniez is Chief Communications Officer with the British Army.