Win the bronze award for “Best response to COVID-19” at INTERACTIVE-MARKETING‘s PR Awards 2021 is the National Youth Council (NYC). The winning campaign, “Dear COVID-19,” stems from the organization’s goal of documenting personal stories during the breaker set in the midst of the pandemic.
Drawing on the expertise of its agency DSTNCT, NYC created a platform that speaks to the collective experience of young people in Singapore as they went through uncertain times. Read on to find out how NYC managed to bring the nation together and contribute to a national narrative.
When the circuit breaker was put in place in April 2020, the generation of young people in Singapore was in disarray. As they sought to face and adjust to the overwhelming reality, young people began to take to social media to share what they had to go through. Due to the suddenness of the breaker announcement, people from different backgrounds and situations had to face their own challenges. And all these different stories have remained behind closed household doors.
As people share their individual experiences on social media, NYC saw the need for a central repository to bring together all experiences as a nation. It came as NYC identified that personal stories, experiences, thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, and aspirations are crucial to preserving this historic moment. They should be documented for future generations, who will return to that tipping point and better understand what it was like to get through the pandemic.
The stories could also take their fellow Singaporeans through difficult times together, as well as forming invaluable information to inform and shape policy making and the government’s next steps in tackling the pandemic as a nation.
However, although it is common for Singaporeans to share their experiences online, they are reluctant to contribute to a national narrative, especially when it is an initiative led by a government agency. With the crux of the need for the project being documenting this historic period, the added challenge was collecting authentic, raw and honest experiences of everyday Singaporeans, who are selfless in contributing to a national narrative, as well as those who do not want to engage in in-depth reflection on their experiences on a public platform.
This was the problem NYC wanted to solve with its âDear COVID-19â campaign. He wanted to design an initiative capable of transforming into a movement where young people would be open and willing to tell their stories honestly, forming a collective narrative that would be as inspiring to the nation as it is important to history. From a practical point of view, the challenge was also to launch an initiative at a time when emotions were the most intense, as during the very first circuit breaker in Singapore.
In order for young people in Singapore to start wanting to share their stories, NYC wanted to create a platform where Singaporeans would want to participate and contribute. To do this, he needed to use an innovative format in the midst of the crowded online space and give young people something to talk about, so word-of-mouth would catch fire.
In collaboration with its agency DSTNCT, NYC sought to create a platform of reference for the expression of collective experience through this pandemic. Besides collecting stories, he also wanted to provide a platform for encouragement.
As an entirely new brand attempting to establish itself as the national remembrance project, awareness raising was a crucial first step for the project. The campaign had to be executed quickly to capture the relevance and the nub of the current situation as well as to cover large segments of young people from different backgrounds to tell a compelling Singaporean story of resilience and unity.
Enter “Dear Covid-19”: a virtual gallery of life during the breaker. Installed on a microsite as a central repository, the gallery aims to tell the stories of everyday Singaporeans, building on the trend of virtual photography at the time. Each series captures the essence and mood of each household, accompanied by a letter written to Dear Covid-19. The name of the campaign was intentional in order to subtly encourage Singaporeans’ long writing.
NYC’s strategy had two parts: creating an organized virtual photo gallery and a user-generated social gallery. The curated photo gallery was the initial content foundation to kickstart the movement. With the initial content pedestal consisting of virtual photography, NYC would be able to effectively dictate the appearance of the microsite, ensuring compelling visual storytelling through the aesthetic hook.
Meanwhile, there is a user-generated social gallery that encourages the public to participate in sharing their Dear Covid-19 stories. In addition, incentives such as SG $ 50 GrabFood vouchers were used to encourage more young people to share their stories.
With the appeal of aesthetics and well-taken photographs being the microsite’s primary appeal, website visitors would then be captivated by the meaningful stories shared, creating a ripple effect across the nation about Dear Covid-19.
The campaign had three goals: to raise awareness of Dear COVID-19 as Singapore’s national memory project, to encourage Singaporeans to share in-depth reflections on this pandemic, and to create buzz and inspire hope among Singaporeans in these uncertain times. .
To reach them, NYC and DSTNCT have used content on social media platforms and online. The microsite (dearcovid19sg.com) has been created. The opening of the microsite was presented in a âtypewriterâ format that set the context for the entire initiative before users entered the site.
Users are then taken to the home page, where there are two phases: life in stills and life in motion. In âlife in stillsâ there is a main banner featuring several portraits shot during the breaker using virtual photography. In ‘life in motion’, the main banner featured a GIF (reflecting the phase of movement or safe reopening that Singapore had entered) of various shared experiences. Scrolling down, users are then taken through a virtual time capsule of Singapore on breaker and Singapore on safe reopening.
The final stage of the homepage scrolling journey takes users to a âparallel universeâ which is a satirical commentary on the times users live in, which features comics drawn by local cartoonists Highnunchicken.
Other pages on the site encourage direct entry submission (âTell Us Your Storiesâ), as well as a page fully dedicated to user-generated content from the public sharing their Dear Covid-19 stories on media platforms. social (“Your # DearCovid19SG stories”). The entire website, curatorial of content, visuals and design, is intended to engage users in the experiences of their fellow Singaporeans and their give the feeling of wanting to contribute and be part of this initiative.
To document the end of the breaker and Singapore’s transition to a safe reopening period, NYC wanted to produce a series of short videos to capture the spirit of the times and the nation’s experiences. This series began with a short video that was taken from the perspective of a letter written to Dear Covid-19, in the context of common but very new experiences typical of the Safe Reopening period (such as the safe entry, masks and family reunions).
The short film series continued the targeted documentation of scenes unique to the times Singapore’s youth were experiencing. For example, there were scenes from the very first âCOVID-19 elections,â the virtual National Day parade, safe entry and temperature control, gatherings of up to five people. This served to document these moments in an engaging way, with these experiences being so common and therefore shareable on social media.
To kickstart the gossip in the online sphere, NYC launched a campaign involving 20 young influencers with a unique story to tell about their COVID-19 time. These influencers used photos taken during their virtual photo shoots and shared a summary of their full letters they wrote to Dear COVID-19, in an effort to encourage their followers to view their full letter on the he website. -same.
NYC also collaborated with local cartoonists Highnunchicken, who created a 15-part comic book series that served as a satirical commentary on shared experiences as a nation. It also provided an additional, consistent flow of further amplification for the initiative.
NYC’s strategy was designed to facilitate the seeding of public relations. Dear Covid-19’s strategic and timely approach garnered media attention, even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shouted to call on Singaporeans to contribute more stories to Dear COVID-19. In addition to coverage in mainstream media, Dear Covid-19 also collected radio interview segments on Channel NewsAsia and 987FM radio station.
Through this campaign, NYC was able to convince Singaporeans to contribute a collective narrative in the literature of that time. The genuine and heartfelt stories also served as a source of inspiration for fellow Singaporeans, due to the high relativity of the shared experiences, which had a snowball effect in encouraging even more Singaporeans to share their Dear Covid stories- 19.
The widespread media coverage and mention by PM Lee also served to generate strong brand awareness and positioning of Dear Covid-19 as a national remembrance project, despite many similar projects completed during the same period.
Dear Covid-19 has earned a public relations value of over SG $ 533,000. The campaign also saw sustained media wins, with the first media mention of Dear Covid-19 being on May 27, 2020 and the last being on November 14, 2020. Over 1,000 user-generated # DearCOVID19SG entries were also recorded.
NYC garnered a total reach of 2,343,038, a total of 2,760,392 impressions and a total of 108,436 social media engagements. In just 11 days, he recorded nearly 55,000 pageviews, peaking at 3,513 users on May 31, 2020 after Premier Lee was mentioned on his Instagram, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
After the launch of Dear Covid-19, NYC has also seen many similar projects that have contributed in their own way to the collective narrative as a nation. Additionally, BBDO and OMD launched a campaign called #BeyondTheCase which used out-of-home tactics to spotlight COVID-19 survivors by writing their letters of gratitude on the front lines.