When the Elephant Parade came to town, social media and online PR lagged behind

ELEPHANT AUCTIONThe Elephant Parade currently in London is a really great public relations initiative.  The idea isn’t new – you may recall the Cow Parade and there has been a similar Lion Parade campaign with both raising funds for various charities. 

But what sets the Elephant Parade apart is the strategic linkage between the subject and mission:

Elephant Parade is a ‘parade’ of copyrighted, life-size model baby elephants which are being displayed in major cities around the world. Painted by local and international artists, each elephant is a unique piece of art.


It is Elephant Parade’s mission to become world’s largest financial support organization for elephants. At the same time Elephant Parade events attract worldwide attention as well as much needed public awareness.

The execution of the PR campaign appears to be professional with high profile partners and traditional media interest (managed by Ogilvy PR – or Cohn & Wolfe – although Lewis PR and White Oaks claim to be involved via sponsorship also). 

However, I am surprised to see that although a Facebook group has been set up, Twitter isn’t really being maximised by the campaign organisers.

Neither @elephantparade nor @elephant_parade are official Twitter accounts – and there isn’t a reTweet link on the main site. 

The London 2010 Elephant Parade site does show a Twitter account of @elephantfamily – which isn’t an obvious one (although that is the charity’s actual name) and is entirely fed from Facebook.  It doesn’t really have a great look either given the strong visual appeal of the model elephants.

Both the Twitter and Facebook profiles raise a branding issue which is common when engaging with social media.  Here, we have two brands and the most obvious has already been used.  But the charity name perhaps has little recognition when the initiative has a different name and so the branding strategy doesn’t leverage the online collateral.

It’s noticeable also that those talking about the parade via Twitter aren’t using a hashtag and the official social media sites don’t seem to be using language that will make updates readily searchable.

If you want to use Twitter as a publicity tool, surely using hashtags and looking to be a trend topic should be part of the programme?

I also feel that user-generated multi-media content hasn’t been maximised as despite lots of photographs of the elephants for example at Flickr, there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to cultivate or centralise these.

Similarly, YouTube coverage of the elephants has not been co-ordinated although some designers have uploaded videos which have had limited interest.  A YouTube channel is an easy thing to set up and there should be plenty of opportunity to stimulate lots of video around the elephant statues in London and elsewhere.

I appreciate this is largely a charity campaign – but the websites’ professional appearances are not being echoed in social media.  Mind you, they don’t seem engage traditional media either as there are no press releases, video or images for easy download.

The London 2010 website could perhaps have included a blog to add interest and stimulate input and discussion.  If social media had been integrated more into the communications strategy, then feeds from Twitter, Facebook and links to a branded Flickr and YouTube site could have been included.

It seems such a pity that the public interest in seeing brightly painted elephants all around London has not been built into valuable social media buzz to increase awareness and fund-raising.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

4 thoughts on “When the Elephant Parade came to town, social media and online PR lagged behind”

  1. Heather

    Excellent post, and I am in agreement. I love the project, but do think it is under-resourced. From the first week I attempted to gain a little clarity on things and report on elephants that had been vandalized or had errors in the way they were marked up; subsequent emails have been sent to gain information on other key parts of the campaign such as the auction. Unfortunately I’ve never had a response to my emails.

    Though social media is now an essential part of PR it does take time and cost to co-ordinate and I think this could be where they are lacking. So much resource is going into getting the elephants out there, repairing them and such which means the other things that you point out as being obvious items on any to do list are just being neglected.

    Though I must confess to not using tags in my posts about the parade – mostly due to the fact I use too many characters. I shall attempt to rectify that from hereon.


  2. Heather –

    That’s an interesting observation, you have made on the Elephant Parade. To yield the benfits of social media channels, it has to be used in synch and optimally which helps achieve the objective of setting up such social media channels.

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