What Ukraine is fighting for

A few weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Brand Ukraine was created to spearhead the nation’s global communications in the face of an unimaginable threat to their country. For two years, the team at Brand Ukraine have been amplifying real stories from the ground in Ukraine and showcasing the values, spirit, and courage of Ukrainian citizens to the international community. One year after the invasion began, Brand Ukraine launched a new campaign - #WhatWeAreFightingFor – which gave Ukrainian citizens the opportunity to share the reasons they kept fighting for their homeland. We reached out to Maria Lypiatska, Head of Brand Ukraine, to discover how the team are leveraging strong, authentic communication in the face of adversity, and how they’re giving a voice to more than 40 million Ukrainians.


#WhatWeAreFightingFor is a hugely powerful campaign, and a well-deserved winner of Best Communication Strategy for Place Brands. Can you briefly summarise what the purpose of the campaign was for those who might not have seen it before?

The goal of our project was to draw attention of international audiences to Ukraine’s fight for its freedom and independence against Russian aggression and explain why Ukraine’s territorial integrity cannot be negotiated under any circumstances and what every Ukrainian is fighting for — which, in fact, are very simple and relatable things to all the people, like freedom, possibility to live in one's homeland, raise children under the peaceful sky and build plans for the future.

The project presents 603,628 reasons why Ukrainians continue to fight, which matches the size of the territory of sovereign Ukraine. Each square kilometre represents a thousand-year history of the country, its traditions and heritage, language, contributions to global welfare, and, of course, the people who bravely defend their land.

As well as driving awareness, this campaign was aimed to gather feedback from Ukrainians. How did you develop this feedback loop, and in what way did this shape the implementation of your campaign?

As part of the #WhatWeAreFightingFor campaign, initiated on February 24, 2023, precisely one year after the beginning of the Russia’s full-scale invasion, we reached out to our Ukrainian audience and asked them what they are fighting for. It was crucial for us to amplify Ukrainian voices and integrate their answers into the campaign. Which we ultimately did.

In terms of mechanisms, we integrated interactive features on the website, such as comment sections and surveys, encouraging Ukrainians to share their perspectives and insights. Additionally, we used social media platforms to receive direct feedback and engage in conversations with our audience. This feedback loop played a crucial role in shaping the ongoing implementation of our campaign, allowing us to adapt our content to address specific concerns, emphasise certain narratives, and further connect with our Ukrainian audience.

How does this campaign fit within the broader communication strategy for Ukraine as you continue to rally international support in response to the war with Russia?

Our campaign fully aligns with the broader Ukrainian communication strategy, as it highlights its most crucial message: Ukraine fights for its freedom and freedom of the whole world, and freedom is the key value for all Ukrainians. Every region of Ukraine is unique and has tremendous sentimental value to all people who call it home. This alone is a reason enough to protect them and fight for as long as possible. Our struggle is not just about physical borders, but, first and foremost, about the moral right of the people who reside within those borders to live freely, without the fear of being deported or persecuted because of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs. What Ukrainians fight for resonates universally, underscoring the right of individuals worldwide to embrace their true selves without encroaching upon the rights of others.

Another aspect of our campaign that reinforces Ukraine’s broader strategy is the strong emphasis on authenticity. All our communication materials undergo thorough verification and fact-checking processes. For example, in the #WhatWeAreFightingFor campaign, we sought input and feedback from numerous local historians and experts to ensure that each of the 26 articles portrayed the history and present of the regions justly and accurately. We firmly believe that honest and fact-based communication delivers the best results and contributes to the development of long-term loyalty in our audiences.

Russian propaganda targets and consistently distorts Ukrainian history and identity to justify its full-scale invasion, trying to conceal its imperialist ambitions. We are diligently exposing these falsehoods and debunking them with facts because we believe that facts speak for themselves.

Throughout the war, you’ve demonstrated the power of agile communications that are rooted in authenticity. What do you think has been the key to this success?

The key to our success lies in our strong commitment to authenticity, truthfulness, and showing the world the human face of the war. We always say that the war is not faceless. Therefore, the heart of our work are real people and their unique stories. In contrast to Russia, we do not use disinformation or fake news to evoke emotions ranging from fear and anger to admiration and love in our audience. We depict the war as it is, based on our personal experience of living and working in Ukraine amidst the full-scale invasion. Because we respect our audience and believe that the truth speaks for itself.

Another reason why we have been successful is our exceptional team. We created our organisation from scratch in the first days of a full-scale invasion. Despite constant Russian attacks, everybody committed to work almost non-stop to support Ukraine. Although it was immensely hard and stressful, we are now happy to see that our work and dedication have finally paid off and gained recognition both nationally and internationally. Life in Ukraine is still full of challenges and never-ending threats from Russia, but we have learned to adapt to the circumstances we find ourselves in and make the most of them. It is our responsibility and mission to maintain Ukraine's visibility and voice on the international stage for as long as possible, securing the world’s attention and support as we enter the third year of the full-scale war.

How are you collaborating with external partners in order to make sure you maximise the reach of your message?

In our approach to partnerships, we prioritise creating a mutually beneficial relationship. Rather than merely seeking to disseminate our information, we actively engage with our partners to understand their needs. Our goal is to establish conditions that make our collaboration both pleasant and organic. This ensures that the partnership is not only fruitful, but also aligns with the interests of both parties.

Furthermore, we highly value the unique experiences and expertise that our partners bring to the table. While we excel in developing the brand of Ukraine, we recognize that our foreign partners possess valuable insights into brand development in their countries. We actively seek and listen to their experiences, fostering a collaborative environment where knowledge is shared for the benefit of both parties.

Is there any way in which international place brand organisations can support Ukraine in your fight against Russia?

There are various ways in which international place brand organisations can support Ukraine.

Firstly, they can use their communication platforms to encourage their audiences to learn more about Ukraine and contribute to its victory through simple actions, such as making donations to reliable charity organisations or sharing fact-based and verified information about Ukraine’s ongoing fight for its freedom. From our experience, it is important to emphasise the commonalities and cultural connections between Ukraine and other countries because people are always looking for something they recognize and can relate to on a deeper level.

Secondly, they can facilitate networking opportunities for Ukrainian organisations by sharing useful contacts with government and civil society representatives in their countries. Meaningful partnerships are at the core of Brand Ukraine’s work. Therefore, by creating new connections, we hope not only to improve the quality of our products but also to considerably expand their impact abroad, ensuring that the most crucial messages reach their target audiences. At Brand Ukraine, we strongly believe that when it comes to knowledge and growth, the sky’s the limit, which is why we are always excited to share our work insights and learn from others.

Thirdly, we are always looking for partnerships with international creative, digital and communication agencies to bring their views and creativity and enrich them with our campaigns, message testing, and outreach to international audiences.

If you have creative project ideas, want to partner with us or use our content in your communication, feel free to connect with Taras Volkov, our Head of Communications (taras.volkov@brandukraine.org.ua). We value new ideas and are open to meaningful cooperation aimed at bringing Ukraine closer to victory.

Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us, Maria.


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