Army recruitment campaign faces battle from within its own ranks

By 18th January 2019Public Relations

Sadly, the Army’s latest recruitment campaign has gone down like a lead balloon. Not only have large numbers of soldiers been sharing their shame of the campaign, one of its poster boys has threatened to quit. So, what’s got them all hot and bothered?

The campaign has been branded ‘patronising’ and ‘desperate’ as the Army makes a play to lift its flagging recruiting numbers since Capita was given the contract.

Creatively the new campaign harks back to the iconic Lord Kitchener’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ recruitment campaign from WWI but with a call for snowflakes, selfie addicts, phone zombies and binge gamers to join up.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson described the campaign as ‘a powerful call to action’.

But many serving soldiers shared a very different view on social media – embarrassment and disbelief.

In fact, it has been so controversial that one of the soldiers who gave permission for his image to be used for the campaign, but says he didn’t know it would be next to the title Snowflake, is threatening to leave.

As someone who used to work with Army recruitment my best guess is the rationale behind the campaign was probably right – the Army does need to attract new recruits with a wide skills base and from different generations – but the execution sniffs a bit of being out of touch and desperate to appear cool to generation z and millennials.

Former SAS soldier Phil Campion agrees with some of the views expressed by serving personnel. He told Scottish Sun: “The Army almost got this right but the posters were just wide of the mark.

“They realise people have labels nowadays but they are saying to young folk ‘Look, we can get the best out of you. No matter what kind of person you think you are, we can do something with you’.

“They recognise that a guy might be on his PlayStation 24/7 but that guy’s got 24/7 concentration and can stay awake all that time. So there are qualities in everyone that they recognise and other people don’t and that’s what they are trying to say with this campaign.”

Former D squadron fighter Phil Campion took part in the SAS raid in Sierra Leone in 2000 to liberate Brit soldiers. Last year he was invited to Whitehall for a briefing on how the Army could improve attracting new generations.

“The very fact they invited someone like me into Whitehall, rather than a media professional, shows that they are taking what people think seriously.

“But I wish they had reached out to people like me before they went public with the posters because I think we could have persuaded them to have a rethink.”

In comparison to this campaign, last week ITV aired The Paras: Men of War, a series which follows the grueling basic training required of the Army’s elite Parachute Regiment and for me this programme was the stronger recruitment tool.

It was also, again in my view, a more honest account of what it takes to be a soldier and a hint at what you’ll gain, but also what you stand to lose.

I live with a soldier and he loves being in the Army, but it’s tough for him and for me. His dedication is unwavering, he spends weeks living out in the field in freezing conditions, going days without sleep, trains his body to the extreme and he misses out on time with friends and family.

But he’s also found himself a second family, he gets to travel the world with his pals and the investment in his personal development training could not be matched by any business out here in normal life.

Although I’m sure the new marketing campaign will drive recruitment footfall among a more diverse audience of ‘snowflakes’ and ‘gaming zombies’, I worry that in a desperate bid by Capita to meet targets they are failing potential recruits and serving soldiers.

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