It’s not every day that you open your inbox to find a letter from a government ambassador’s PA. It’s even more unusual for that letter to be an invitation to submit a proposal to assist with media relations for the state visit of their Majesties the King and the Queen of the Belgians. But that’s what happened.
Their Majesties the King and the Queen of the Belgians visited South Africa from 22 to 27 March 2023 and the Embassy of Belgium in Pretoria appointed Flow Communications to assist with media relations around the visit, with a specific focus on the following:
The selection, accreditation and management of appropriate South African media
Writing media releases
Organising a media briefing before the visit
An overview of local (South African) social media use
A review of all media coverage received
The dry, business-like description of the scope of work above does nothing to convey our excitement at being asked to assist actual royalty (obviously all our clients are royalty to us, but most of them don’t live in actual palaces).
We were appointed a week before the visit was due to kick off and immediately scrambled into high gear, researching appropriate media and gathering background information … and contemplating the all-important question: what the hell to wear?
Knowing that good planning is the foundation of success, we developed a detailed plan indicating which team member was responsible for which thing at which time – a fluid document that served as our foundation but that also changed as plans changed, informing the team, wherever they were in the country, in real time about exactly what they needed to do.
We wrote invitations and lobbied for a planned media conference, and then, when at the last minute it got the axe, we pivoted, wrote a media release and lobbied for coverage using that.
We went every step of the way with the (extremely) hard-working royals, from their first engagement at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to their last engagement at the Belgian residence in Newlands, Cape Town – even getting to fly on the special Air Belgium jet that served as transport for their majesties and their entourage.
We met many lovely people, did much good work, spent a lot of time following in the wake of the royal delegation, and learned that South Africa has (extremely diverse) ceremonial soldiers who dress in green and march in time – and we had a blast doing it. And in spite of the initial wardrobe worries (what does one wear to meet a king and queen?), we looked good too :-)
And the coverage was very pleasing indeed! Here are the vital statistics, compiled by Flow account director Allison MacDonald:
18-hour days for five days in a row
At least 50 telephone calls
203 team WhatsApps
Many scheduled team meetings and many, many more unscheduled ones
Media accreditation done, dusted
28 places visited: from the Union Buildings to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and (almost) everywhere in between
52 (and increasing) pieces of media coverage in South Africa alone
South African reach: 16.6-million people
Coverage value: R2 633 888