English Heritage weren’t given an easy brief, yet created and developed a newsworthy and interesting campaign from limited assets. They were innovative and ambitious in their approach whilst retaining the authentic and historical elements of the brand. They were also agile and able to respond to opportunities throughout the campaign, despite the corporate challenges these often presented. Crucially, the team demonstrated the strategic value of PR at a number of different levels across an organisation undergoing change and were able to reach beyond their core demographic and change perceptions of their brand experience. They demonstrated value for money with a clear effect on the bottom line that was additionally an investment in their future, both in terms of income generation and strategic positioning.


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Brief and objectives:

Last year, 2016, was the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the most significant battle on English soil and the most famous date – 1066 – in English history. As guardians of the battlefield, English Heritage had a responsibility to mark the anniversary, but it also presented the organisation (a charity since 2015) with an opportunity to introduce (or reintroduce) the public to our offer and our brand, at the 1066 battlefield and at sites across the country.

We wanted to:

  • Ensure the public associated English Heritage with 1066 and the Battle of Hastings
  • Inspire visits to the 1066 battlefield and other relevant historic sites
  • Introduce people who had not previously visited our sites to our brand
  • Promote our Battle of Hastings re-enactment, exceeding the visitor and income targets.


Rationale behind campaign, including research and planning:

Our brand tracker shows that English Heritage is perceived as authentic and trustworthy, but for those without experience of our sites or events, potentially a bit old fashioned and less family-friendly than our competitors. As part of our overall strategy to change these perceptions, the PR team identified the campaign as an ideal opportunity to inject some fun into the brand while maintaining its historical integrity.


Strategy and tactics, including creativity and innovation:

Within the campaign were two clear publicity moments, both at the battlefield – the opening of a new visitor experience in July 2016 and the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings in October.

However in order to truly “own” this anniversary, we needed to ensure activity was spread nationwide, throughout the year. We needed to appeal to all our audiences, through a range of media and using tactics from heritage news stories to experiential publicity moments.

Our rationale was to use as a framework the historical events of 1066 which extended beyond the day of the battle itself, with four different claimants for one throne and three battles across the country, including the decisive one near Hastings.


Implementation of tactics:

January 2016 – 1066 and a real Game of Thrones:

To ensure English Heritage was associated with the anniversary from the outset, we used the death of Edward the Confessor on 5 January 1066 as a hook for a survey revealing that under-35s know more about the fictional characters from Game of Thrones than the real ones from 1066. Coverage highlight: The Sun – a non-heartland title for English Heritage.

June 2016 – The 1066 Arrow Hunt:

To capture the wide-reaching consequences of the Battle of Hastings and to involve our sites nationwide, we hid 1,066 arrows across all our sites, with prizes for finding them including free admission and life membership. The competition was launched with the installation of a giant arrow on the 1066 battlefield. Coverage highlight: Interview on the Mark Forrest Show across all BBC regional stations.

July 2016 – Launch of the new visitor experience at the 1066 Battlefield:

Three months before the anniversary of the battle, the PR team devised a strong news hook to secure maximum media exposure of our new visitor experience. We knew that for technical reasons, the marker stone at the place where King Harold reportedly fell was in the wrong place. Having persuaded internal stakeholders of the benefits of moving it, the stone was installed in the correct spot. Coverage highlight: the charity’s first live OB from Good Morning Britain.

May-August 2016 – The Kids’ Tapestry:

We instructed PR agency Kaper to deliver a consumer PR campaign targeting one of our core audiences, families. Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry, children’s illustrator Liz Pichon created a modern-day version showing the top nine moments from English history as chosen by kids. The tapestry was unveiled at the 1066 Battlefield before touring sites across the country, where Liz hosted workshops and invited children to illustrate the final history moment. Coverage highlight: Observer news feature.

September–October 2016 – The 1066 March:

To reach audiences beyond our sites, and inspire local communities and school children, we re-created the march of King Harold from York (after the Battle of Stamford Bridge) to 1066 battlefield. Over three weeks six re-enactors travelled 300 miles, undertaking media and public engagement activities including a pop-up living history encampment in Hyde Park, targeting those Londoners who hadn’t previously visited our sites. Coverage highlight: Sunday Times’ James Stewart joined the march, resulting in a double page feature.

14-16 October 2016 – Battle of Hastings Anniversary Weekend:

The re-enactors arrived in Battle on the anniversary, 14 October, the Friday before our re-enactment weekend. This provided a media moment, as did a ceremony attended by the French ambassador and the Home Secretary, acknowledging the gravitas of the event and loss of life involved. These activities ensured that English Heritage received the majority of share of voice and was a hub for media focus among the many other commemoration activities in the area.

BBC Breakfast and Sky News were among those broadcasting live from the site while on the evening of 14th, three consecutive programmes on BBC One came live from the site: News at Six, South East Today, and The One Show.


Measurement and evaluation:

Inspire visits to the 1066 Battlefield and our other sites – 137,771 people visited the 1066 site in 2016, an increase of 29% on the previous year; 1.9m people visited our manned sites in July and August, our busiest summer ever.

Promote our 1066 re-enactment – we surpassed the 10,000 visitor target with 16,000 visitors enjoying a sold-out event.

Ensure the public associated English Heritage with 1066 / introduce them to our brand – seven million people (18% of the days out market) were aware of either our 1066 Arrows or Kids’ Tapestry campaigns.

Over 100 pieces of national media coverage directly referencing English Heritage including 3 separate features on BBC Breakfast.

Our #arrowhunt was seen online 185,000 times.

44,000 visits to The 1066 March webpage.