Following its success on Broadway, the transfer of The Book of Mormon musical to London’s West End posed a significant reputational risk to the Church of Latter-day Saints. The musical contained several misconceptions that they wished to repudiate, but long-standing global counsel APCO Worldwide advised that, instead of being defensive, the Church should seize the opportunity that the opening offered to engage with new audiences and explain its position.
‘This was both an imaginative and courageous approach,’ said the judges. The Church used the launch of a new advertising campaign Ask a Mormon as a hook for the two-pronged strategy. APCO developed messaging that focused on the rising public interest in the Church, as well as targeting key journalists in the national media with embargoed releases and images ahead of the advertising campaign going live.
The personal stories of some of the people who featured in the campaign provided hooks for local news outlets in the areas where they lived. A special radio interview package was recorded featuring the campaign’s figurehead Alex Boye, a British-born Mormon of Nigerian descendant, who is one of only three black members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. This was pitched to local commercial radio stations; more than 20 broadcast the interview.
The Church’s considered response to The Book of Mormon was widely reported, and praised, in the national media. Simon Kelner, former editor of The Independent, said its advisers should ‘take a bow’, adding that the response meant that ‘the Mormons can be seen as modern, open, inclusive and understanding’.
Many media outlets also featured articles about the Ask a Mormon campaign, leading to a 300 per cent increase in visits to the Church’s UK website.
‘This was a creative approach that generated goodwill and challenged expectations,’ said the judges. ‘It created a strong platform to address issues.’