Flow Communications

Flow has supported the Nelson Mandela Foundation in a wide variety of ways over the years, including website design and content, social media, graphic design and printing.

Flow has worked with the foundation to build up its social media presence, including setting up a Facebook page that now has a following of more than eight million people, and assisting to grow its Twitter following to around 1.6-million people.

Case study: PR for the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture 2018

One of the most important events on the foundation’s calendar is the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, a high-profile event that features prominent world leaders as keynote speakers. Among the speakers are former presidents Bill Clinton (US), Mary Robinson (Ireland) and Michelle Bachelet (Chile), Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, economist Thomas Piketty, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and others.

The 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture – the 16th such event, held at Johannesburg’s Wanderers Stadium on 17 July – promised to be the biggest ever, for two reasons:

  • 2018 year marked 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela (and the event took place the day before the centenary of his birth)
  • The keynote speaker was former US President Barack Obama, like Mandela an iconic global figure

At the outset, it was clear that the event had the potential for massive reach. That is why the Flow team worked on a well-planned and -executed digital campaign, incorporating website content, social media content and posting, and digital PR, in order to ensure the widest possible reach.

This included ensuring that the lecture itself could be watched and enjoyed by millions around the world – not just the 15 000 people present – and that the atmosphere at the stadium on the day was captured for those who could not be at the event.

The strategy worked handsomely: to use just one indicator, social media content relating to the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture reached well over a billion people – an astonishing achievement under any circumstances, leave alone one for a single event.


Our strategy included a mix of leveraging media interest, producing and sharing excellent content, and engaging effectively on social media.

This effort involved months of planning, as well as efficient delivery on the day of the event.

  • Social media strategy and management

    Achieving global traction meant ensuring big media houses with major followings on social media were at the event, developing the hashtags, and using the hashtags and increasing the reach of the event. It also meant ensuring the lecture was accessible on a range of channels online. We worked with the SABC to set up a live stream on YouTube, which was watched by more than 13-million people, and we carried it live on the Nelson Mandela Foundation Facebook page, where it received more than 800 000 views.

    It also meant our social media approach needed to be agile. For example, many different hashtags were used in discussions about the event, and it was only on the morning of the event that #MandelaLecture emerged as the most likely hashtag to challenge other worldwide trends for the top spot on Twitter

  • Event coverage

    Flow had a team of eight content people at the event, assisting in the creation and amplification of live event coverage via Nelson Mandela Foundation social media channels. Our coverage included video interviews with event attendees, posting comments and reactions during speeches, as well as retweeting comments and observations made by social media users throughout the three-hour event

  • Leveraging media relations

    Flow was responsible for managing media coverage of the event, and this included inviting the right mix of media personalities. We ensured that top media organisations had social media specialists at the event, and encouraged the use of #MandelaLecture in content created, when this emerged as the most promising hashtag

Coverage/reach and results

In order to measure results we used the Nuvi social media tracking tool (http://www.nuvi.com). The tool was set up to measure the hashtags #MandelaLecture, #NMAL2018 and #MandelaObama, on major platforms.

Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture 2018: accounts with the most social media reach.


  • Twitter: 96 888 mentions
  • Instagram: 638 mentions
  • Automattic: 41 mentions
  • Tumblr: 16 mentions
  • Google+: 6 mentions

The lecture was carried live on YouTube and Facebook streams

  • 13-million views on the SABC live stream
  • 816 000 views on the Facebook Live stream


Having key members of the media in the same room during the event allowed us to ensure that they had all the requirements needed to help the event trend worldwide, including:

  • A good Wi-Fi connection
  • Visuals
  • The correct hashtag to use in content

Official photographers, who had “red zone” access to the VIPs, sent photos to the Flow team on a shared Google Drive and WhatsApp group, which enabled the social media team to swiftly and easily attach high-quality images to social posts.

Example of Twitter coverage.


Content has always been at the heart of our approach when trying to achieve maximum reach from events.

Throughout the day of the event, we conducted interviews with audience members – this included a mix of short videos, as well as images with quoted comments as captions. This content was created on the ground at the Wanderers Stadium using mobile phones, and relayed to other team members at the media centre, who published immediately to the relevant social media platform.

The 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture consisted of speeches made by high-profile people such as Graça Machel (Mandela’s widow), South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Patrice Motsepe (billionaire businessman) and Obama.

The speeches took place between 2pm and 5pm. During this time, our writers used Twitter to publish extracts from the speeches, as well as audience reaction to the speeches.

We ensured that good content created by audience members (particularly photos and videos) was retweeted by accounts such as @nelsonmandela, to extend the reach of their content as far as possible.

Producing quality content ensured that followers of accounts such as @nelsonmandela retweeted and shared, creating a viral effect.


Special artwork was created for the event, and social media pages were appropriately customised.


Quite apart from publicising the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, the foundation and Flow also used social media to communicate with each other and share content for dissemination to the public.

A dedicated social media WhatsApp group for the event was created, through which Flow and Nelson Mandela Foundation staff could communicate in real time, to ensure that opportunities were taken advantage of as soon as they presented themselves.

WhatsApp was also used to transfer photos and videos created by content creators on the move, so that they could quickly be posted by team members at the media station, allowing the content creators to keep moving.

Results achieved

Between 9am on 16 July and 9am on 18 July, there were 98 139 mentions, 21 890 of which were original, reaching a potential audience of 105 863 150. In addition, 45 876 unique profiles made a total of 76 249 reshares, spreading the mentions to an additional 1 007 170 510 people.

At one stage during the event, the campaign trended at #2 in the world on Twitter.

At one stage during the event, all top 10 Twitter trends in South Africa related to the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, as well as two of the top 10 worldwide trends.

98 139
45 876
Unique Authors
1 007 170 510
Account Reach
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