Using promotion to campaign for public services
A UNISON case study

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Page 5: Below-the-line promotion

img_2749Below-the-line promotion involves promotional techniques which aim to reach consumers more directly and which are more within the organisation’s control.  Below-the-line promotions include different and interesting ways of connecting with targeted groups. UNISON used a variety of different below-the-line promotions to develop its Million Voices campaign.

Public relations

 PR helps to create a positive environment through various publicity activities. To get the attention of political parties, the union also created melting ice-sculptures of a school crossing patrol and a hospital porter which were unveiled at Labour and Conservative party conferences. Press releases and news slots help UNISON to show that cuts in public services affect people in all walks of life. They enable people to identify with the issues in discussion. These media are often expensive.

With these broad and often mass media it is sometimes difficult to target specific audiences. It is sometimes harder to get immediate feedback from these forms of media to evaluate the effectiveness of a campaign. They may be lost amongst other advertising.

Direct marketing

This reaches individuals directly through, for example, direct mail or flyers. UNISON prepared a range of different leaflets and factsheets for different targeted audiences. For example, some of these were targeted at Members of Parliament, while others were directed towards union members working in specific sectors such as the NHS. The campaign also used ‘speech bubble’ cards. These were used at events to allow people to fill in their comment in support of public services and sign up as supporters.


emma-rollandThis has become an increasingly important and measurable way of reaching different target groups of people. It also allows for elements of interactivity by providing an opportunity for users to express their views and provide support. For example, UNISON placed videos on YouTube and set up pages on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. Advertising was also placed on Facebook targeted at local users and people who had already shown an interest in public services.

The website featured an interactive map which allowed users to click onto their postcode to see how cuts could affect them, and add their voice to a map of local voices which helped to demonstrate the level of support for their campaign. This has attracted the support of many well known celebrities. This level of endorsement helps to increase the public’s awareness.


In the business world, promotional events might include exhibitions and trade fairs. UNISON has undertaken a number of events in support of the Million Voices campaign. These include a march in London to protest against cuts. In the West Midlands a week of intensive campaigning took place across the region which visited every hospital in the area. At the end of the week a rally was held and this received a lot of publicity in the media.

Local activity by UNISON branches included the Barnsley local government branch setting up a stall and gazebo in the town centre while it was busy with Christmas shoppers. Members were overwhelmed by the support as hundreds of people joined the campaign.

Promotional campaigns

UNISON promotional campaigns also benefit from the fact that it is a membership organisation. Within the organisation there is a strong base of people who are active in promoting the union and its campaigns. Much of the below-the-line activity involves members of the union communicating face-to-face or in one-to-one situations with union members or the general public.

Nearly 35,000 people across the UK have chosen to take on an official role within their local UNISON branch and others are elected to take on roles at regional and national level. These may be at branch, regional and national level. UNISON provides the promotional tools and materials such as leaflets to help branches to run effective campaigns.

UNISON | Using promotion to campaign for public services