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Weber Shandwick - Global Issues Campaign

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2016, Click to Enter The 2017 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer service

Company: Weber Shandwick, London, United Kingdom
Company Description: Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations firm with offices in more than 80 countries. The firm’s diverse team of thinkers, strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications or PR Campaign of the Year - Global Issues

Nomination Title: Project Literacy, The Alphabet of Illiteracy

Tell the story about this nominated campaign since 1 January 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.


Around the world, there are now 758million illiterate people over the age of 15. And this is not a “developing world” problem: one in four American, and one in five British, children leave primary school unable to read or write properly. Illiteracy fuels issues including poverty, radicalisation, FGM, infant mortality and gender inequality. It costs the world $1.19trillion a year.

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, convened the Project Literacy campaigning group with partners including UNESCO, Action on Addiction, the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation and Microsoft, to change this.

Our task was to tell the story of illiteracy’s contribution to the world’s biggest problems, building political and public awareness and support that would compel governments to take action.Project Literacy also planned to petition the UN to put literacy at the heart of the Global Goals, since it impacts all of them.


The creative idea was to take something synonymous with reading and writing, something that embodies the basic building blocks of learning, something childlike and innocent – the alphabet – and give it a provocative, emotional twist.

In The Alphabet of Illiteracy, each letter highlights an issue that could be tackled if literacy was improved. In our alphabet, A is for AIDs. B is for bloodshed. C is for child brides. And so on. FCB Inferno developed a 90-second video of an animated A-Z, featuring designs by sculptor Wilfrid Wood, sung to the tune of "A You’re Adorable".

The powerful creative could not be launched in a vacuum. Our strategy was to create two media launch moments, tailored to key markets (UK and U.S.), securing the backing of relevant influencers in each.

A huge research project ensured every letter and cause in the Alphabet of Illiteracy could be substantiated, turning decades of disparate third-party reports, stats and data into politician- and media-friendly assets.


For the UK launch, our ambassador was actress, model, activist and entrepreneur Lily Cole. As the Alphabet of Illiteracy went live online and on social media, she delivered an impassioned speech to politicians, U.S. ambassadorial staff, influencers and the media at the Houses of Parliament with the message: illiteracy is the root cause of the world’s greatest challenges. If we teach everyone to read and write, we can rewrite lives.

Lily also launched a petition urging the UN to put literacy at the heart of every action to advance the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

We then took the story to the U.S. with a social-first idea to leverage powerful voices: 26 celebrities volunteered to champion the campaign in a mass social media activation. Each “adopted” a letter, based on the cause they are most passionate about. The names– including Elton John, Emma Watson, Julianne Moore, David Walliams, Sting, Idris Elba, Usain Bolt and Gillian Anderson – all tweeted a powerful stat from the Alphabet on International Literacy Day, 8 September 2016.


The campaign catapulted Project Literacy onto the policy agenda, with support from across the political spectrum on both sides of the Atlantic. There is a long journey ahead but our two launch moments gave Project Literacy a fantastic start to achieving its mission: that by 2030, no child should be born at risk of illiteracy.

-12.8million video views
-UK launch:188 pieces of coverage; reach: over 462million
-U.S. launch: 225 pieces of media coverage with a reach of over one billion and a potential social media reach of 57.5million.
-29,431 petition signatures
-11,898 newsletter subscribers
-273,596 sessions on

Then-chair of the UK government’s International Development Committee Stephen Twigg MP pledged to hold an enquiry into the role education plays in international development, with evidence from Project Literacy.

Since the launch, UNESCO has taken steps to put literacy at the heart of the sustainable development agenda, inviting Pearson to be part of its Global Alliance for Literacy.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief features and results of this nominated PR program since the beginning of 2016 (up to 150 words).

-The Alphabet of Illiteracy, a purpose-driven platform to launch Project Literacy, a social impact campaign convened by Pearson, gave a voice to 758million people around the world who cannot read or write.
-In the UK, an event at the Houses of Parliament launched powerful creative backed by compelling evidence, influencer and media relations, social media and public affairs.
-For the U.S. launch, 26 celebrities volunteered to champion the Alphabet of Illiteracy in a mass social activation.
-Media reach: 1.5billion.
-The UN has taken steps to put literacy at the heart of the sustainable development agenda, inviting Pearson, on behalf of 90+ Project Literacy partners, to join its Global Alliance for Literacy.
-Borhene Chakroun, Chief of UNESCO Youth, Literacy and Skills Development, said: “This is how to capture the public’s imagination and create a call to action
”.-Together, we have kick-started a movement. Global illiteracy is not invisible anymore