Moving a silent majority of people (a community or pressure group) to think, believe, and behave in a particular manner is often a task at the corporate level. From employees to customers to media to the community around us, is like making the Elephant to dance! But the task generally becomes easier to achieve when with planned public relations you get the “issue” concerning them closer to their hearts.

This case-study is an example of this, in which a publicity and advertising blitz done by an NGO, in Singapore succeeds in making people come back to attending Church service on Sundays.

Background

In the mid-eighties there were books called “blue laws” based on the Christian ideal that everyone goes to Church on Sunday – or ought to!

Today, however, with greater social freedom, and freedom in choice in all respects, the youth coming to the fore in society, plus on having the options to do so many things to do today, the attitudes and habits of people have changed drastically. Especially on the weekends. Hence the compulsion of going to Church on Sundays has declined – as in this case in Singapore!

The Sunday service at the Church became a low priority in the lives of Singaporeans, and the number of people attending Mass at the Churches had dropped considerably in comparison with that in the past. In the last year it had become alarmingly low, and something was needed to be done about it.

A local NGO, at the behest of the Church and the community leaders, identified the problem as serious and took upon itself to try and help mobilize an effort to change the attitudes of the people and the situation. And make people to go to church regularly on Sundays.

Survey among the people

The NGO decided to get some data on the reasons behind people not attending Church service on Sunday. And how much had the attendance dropped in the last year.

An in depth and qualitative survey was conducted among Christians (the target group) in different localities of Singapore. Around 5000 households were researched with a questionnaire where responses were recorded verbatim and analyzed and studied.

The research was specific enough to determine how each family felt and behaved in the matter. The survey interestingly revealed that:

  1. Basically there was no negative in their mind (attitude) towards attending church on Sundays. In fact there was a guilt feeling among them for not attending regularly.

  2. It was largely lethargy and wanting to stay home after a hectic weeks schedule that was the reason for missing out on Church services. Purely the need for a late and relaxed Sunday morning!

  3. A bit of reminding and goading was required. And they were very willing to go if it was important “as per rules” or norms of the religion or community.

Moving the community to action

Based on the research findings, the NGO recommended a quick, straightforward PR and publicity campaign in the local newspapers and prominent hoarding sites spread over the city.

A series of 8 advertisements were designed and each was released once a week in the largest circulated and read English news paper the Singapore Times. Over ten weeks.

The same ads were also painted on selected hoardings, with good visibility, spread all over the city in prominent residential and commercial places.

The Campaign Launched for the Church

The ad in the newspaper and hoardings were in text form. Large font and very readable by the audience even at a distance. The text was in dark navy blue on stark white background – clean and distinctive.

Here is a view of the eight ads run in a sequence – one ad a week both in the newspaper and hoardings simultaneously:

Ad 1
Please don’t drink and drive, you are not quite ready for me yet.

 --  God

Ad 2

Don’t forget your umbrella                     
I might water the plants today.

 -- God

Ad 3
Could you imagine the price of air
If it were brought to you by another supplier.

 -- God

Ad 4
How can you possibly be a self made man?
I specifically recall creating you.

 -- God

Ad 5
I was thinking of making the world black and white.
Then I thought …. Naaah.

 -- God

Ad 6
If you think Mona Lisa is stunning,
you should look at my masterpiece . In the mirror.

  -- God

Ad 7
What do I have to do to get your attention?
Take out an ad in the paper?

  -- God

Ad 8
Earthlings, don’t treat me as an Alien.

  -- God

Final outcome – Success!

By all accounts the campaign was a roaring success. It got people back to the church in large numbers. The Sunday services were full again to the satisfaction of all.

The hoarding campaign in particular proved to be a hit, and very effective. It created a lot of buzz around the town.

Looking at the impact of the campaign, the NGO will conduct another research to see if the effect is sustained or just temporary. Obviously the objective was to get people to come back to church and continue doing so every Sunday.  The research will check this out, for any further action that may be necessary.

Questions:

  1. Is such a campaign possible for other similar issues to move a mass of public? Which or what are the issues where it is possible?

  2. How can this campaign be extended to other media – such as TV and Internet?

  3. How and why was the hoarding campaign particularly so effective?