Thursday, 3 January 2013

Campaigns aren't dead; bad campaigns are

I came across this post of Jim Garrow's on Death to the Campaign via Dan Slee who has shared his favourite 16 links of the year.
Jim asserts that campaigns - by their start/stop nature - insult their audience in assuming they are passively awaiting our carefully crafted messages. He also takes a swipe at days/weeks/months that aim to raise awareness of something and then frankly bugger off for the remaining 364 days. (Something I have also criticised here.)
I take Jim's point but I have to disagree. I think campaigns - basically a period of intensified effort on a key topic - have value and can make a difference.
At Wolverhampton Homes, we ran a campaign for 2012 which aimed to increase reporting of hate crime. We knew from speaking to our customers that people who suffered hate crime typically felt reluctant to report it for fear of recriminations. We wanted to convince them that it was safe to report hate crimes and to have confidence that we would tackle it. As well as achieving dozens of pieces of media coverage and more than 1000 pledges to stop hate (outputs), over the life of the campaign the reporting of hate crime increased by 68% (a big, fat outcome).
For those people who had suffered hate crime, and perhaps were previously reluctant to report it, I feel pleased that we made some headway in convincing them that we were an organisation that they could trust. I don't for one minute think we're done or that everyone who suffered hate crime reported it, but we've made progress.
Now the campaign has come to an end, we are shifting our emphasis for 2013. After a piece of research for Wolverhampton's strategic partnership, we've recognised that we need to do more to focus on tackling disability hate crime. This year we'll be channelling our energy in that direction.
Great campaigns can give an extra burst of energy, bring attention to a topic and make the difference that our organisations need. By being clear on our purpose and focussing on the outcomes, we can ensure our communications have strategic value.
Bad campaigns that judge success by square footage of media coverage or other red herring measures are, and have always been, dead.


  1. Wow, what a great campaign, Kate! Congratulations on what's obviously been a huge success.

    I certainly don't disagree that a well-run, well-crafted, timely campaign cannot have positive effects. Indeed, the very reason we do them so much is because they have been shown to precipitate change and raise awareness.

    My only worry is that, given the change in focus, someone who recognized the great work Wolverhampton Homes did last year but didn't particularly need it at the time, may feel that you've moved on and no longer consider them to be a priority. I have no proof that this will happen, and you've already demonstrated that you plan to tackle another very serious issue.

    Maybe that way is better: taking time to tackle several individual problems to ensure that you address the needs of many different populations. What you lose in depth you gain in breadth. Maybe the way I've espoused is better: focusing on one or two core issues, again making up in depth and ubiquity our lack of breadth.

    The nice thing is that frankly, neither one is wrong. My purpose in posting that was to highlight the temporally limited focus that SO MANY communicators have. Like, we've got to deal with folks with heart disease, so here's an event, let's check that off the list and move onto the next thing. Or, like you said, bad campaigns.

    Thanks so much for raising this very critical other side of the discussion!

  2. Hi Jim

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think you're right - there are definite benefits to both approaches. I absolutely agree that the tick box style you describe so well above is the fast way to disengage (or completely miss) the people you're trying to reach. Thinking about what's next; four, five or six moves down the track makes our communications practice more mindful and meaningful.

    I look forward to reading your future blog posts!


  3. Great work on the campaign Kate. I think the advantage that you had over lots of other organisations is that you had a clear outcome. So many orgs I meet (charities on the whole) don't think about (a) having a clear thing they want to change or action they want people to take and (b) a way of measuring it. So simple but what really makes a great campaign is knowing what difference you want to make and knowing when you've done it. None of this 'awareness raising' nonsense *shudder*.


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