What Have Seafarers Ever Done For Us?

A play on Monty Python’s iconic quarrel over ‘what have the Romans ever done for us?’, our campaign for maritime trade union client, Nautilus International, posed the same question, but this time for seafarers. And just like the Romans, we will carpe diem (seize the day) in celebration as our campaign scooped gold at the PRCA Dare awards last night in the Charity / Not for Profit Category!


We were tasked with raising awareness of the role of seafarers and the importance of the maritime industry by Nautilus International, the trade union representing 22,000 maritime professionals in the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland. Despite the UK relying on the maritime industry for 95% of everything we import, there was little consumer appreciation of the industry and the seafarers we rely so heavily upon.


Our campaign aimed to:

  • Protect members’ jobs in the maritime and shipping industries
  • Protect and enhance skills and training provision
  • Promote the fundamental importance of the maritime industry
  • Affect real legislative change to benefit members
  • Promote and encourage support for the Union ‘Charter for Jobs, Skills and the Future’


Despite being an island nation, our media rarely gives much air time to the maritime industry and those working within it, which results in limited public knowledge of the sector. We made sure that we closely aligned our Nautilus work with the wider political agenda to create appetite and relevance to on-going issues in Westminster, affirming the sector’s importance at such a vital time for the country.


This didn’t just put the issue on the news agenda, but it also had a resulting impact on the public, making us think again about who brings the nation our critical imports and exports.


We identified Nautilus members (seafarers) as the key audience to showcase what their Union is doing for them, to demonstrate membership fee value across all the Union’s locations (UK, Switzerland and the Netherlands). We gave a stark warning of the impact a failure to protect the industry could have on the nation’s economic security (especially in the run up to Brexit), which unless addressed, would leave the nation at risk and ‘dangerously dependent’ on other countries for essential goods.


A concerted effort on media relations, engaging: trade, regional, national and international press, all helped to further affirm the Union as a leader in the industry, making sure its voice and that of its members was heard. But it’s not all about media relations in the world of PR! We also created a series of animations, communicating the issues in an easily digestible and accessible format to consumer audiences across The Netherlands and UK. Nautilus was the first maritime Union to use animations to convey complex messaging in an accessible format to stakeholders and the wider public.



With all the political furore over the past couple of years, another big focus for us was lobbying MPs to listen to our demands and hopefully enact change. We lobbied nearly 500 MPs on social media, sending them a unique, attention-grabbing GIF on Twitter. To support the social lobbying, we also sent out 15,000 postcards through the Nautilus Telegraph for members to send on to their local MPs. The outcome of which had responses and questions raised in Parliament from the likes of Alex Salmond, Luke Pollard, Chuka Umunna, Bill Esterson and shipping minister at the time, John Hayes.


A real win for the Union saw us engage with the Scottish Transport Minister Humza Yousaf to agree with a lifeline ferry company to increase pay from £3.22 an hour to the minimum wage of £7.50. A first charter win for the Union and an excellent result for those seafarers!


Debbie Cavaldoro, head of strategy at Nautilus, said: “Together, we achieved more than I could have possibly imagined. I was able to watch from the side lines as ‘my’ work happened. I know exactly what goes on, which proves the validity of my job, my team, and my brilliant, wonderful agency.”


The PRCA Dare awards in Manchester on the 13th July recognised the campaign as the winner in its Charity / Not For Profit award, beating campaigns from the likes of TransPennine Express, No Brainer, Big Brand Ideas, Tunk, Rule5 and Wonderful.


With trade union membership across the UK plunging to an all-time low since 1995 (according to the DBEIS) and with ongoing political uncertainty, the campaign affirmed just how important the relevancy of campaigns and communications is. Now more than ever, trade bodies and unions will need to really resonate with their core membership base and the wider public to ensure the country keeps a strong, powerful workforce.


This is compounded with the announcement from the TUC that membership levels amongst the under 30’s has also fallen sharply. The TUC cited the disjointed nature of the gig economy and the reduction of “good quality jobs” on the reduction.


We believe that the key to increasing membership base lies with relevancy – whether that’s on social, on your website or offline. Organisations, unions and trade bodies need to make sure that they’re communicating complex and often confusing industry messages simply and efficiently with the correct audiences on the right channels, regardless of whether that’s online or offline.



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