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Five short words and a stroke of genius were what it took to create one of the most successful– and worthwhile — PR campaigns of the year.

With the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee approaching, seasoned journalist and PR consultant, Mike Ridley, decided it would be a great idea to tidy up the country and clear some of the 2.3million items of litter we drop every day.

He knew that given the scale of the task he would need the support of the media , businesses , politicians and celebrities.

But the challenge was how to capture the imagination of millions of ordinary people with what is, basically, a very mundane task.

What his campaign needed was an eye-catching headline. “Volunteers needed to pick up rubbish” did not sound inspiring.

But his brainwave: “Spring Clean for the Queen!” galvanised the nation into action, winning the support of the Prime Minister, The Mayor of London and countless high street stores, and celebrities like Kirsty Allsop.

“I knew that what we needed was a simple, punchy headline that tells the story and stays in the mind,” says Mike.

“Spring Clean for the Queen’ seemed to work because it was simple, memorable and I thought it would appeal to the nation’s sense of pride and duty.

“I took the idea to the Editor of a national newspaper and he liked the headline so much he promised to back the entire campaign with his paper.

“Countless organisations, individuals and charities across the country provided volunteers to pick up rubbish, as did the staff of big stores like Debenhams and coffee chains like Starbucks.

“As well as publicising the campaign in more than a dozen double page features, the newspaper gave a £25,000 prize to the winners of a clean up competition.”

Mike is a former Sun Features Editor, and currently Editorial Director of the media consultancy Medavia.

If you have a story to sell, his tip is simple — get it organised in your head first!

The journalist will not need all the details immediately – most good stories can be summed up in a simple sentence.

“If you can’t tell the key elements of a story in a few words, then it probably isn’t worth telling at all,” says Mike.

Do, by all means, chat it through with a journalist if you’re not sure. And have fun thinking up that all important headline together!

By David Thomas