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Are Awareness Days and Weeks still useful for Charity Comms Teams?

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Every year, the calendar is saturated with a colossal number of national awareness days, weeks and months. In fact, any one day can contain up to ten different things to discuss or celebrate. Take today, for instance, not only is it Pancake Day, but it is also National Kindness Week, Almond Day and – would you believe – National Do a Grouch a Favour Day.

With this many things to ‘be aware of’, should charity comms teams align a PR campaign with a national day, or would it be better to give it a miss?

 Our Founder and Managing Director, Helen, offers her two pennies’ worth:

“There are many different arguments both for, and against, tying your PR campaign in with a certain national day, week or month.

“On one hand, looping in with an awareness day can be a risk. Comms teams can take it as a route of guaranteed success which, in fact, couldn’t be further from the truth. Dedicated planning and preparation are needed for your news to be in with a chance of making a ripple in the wider agenda, let alone prompting the desired response. Simply because a journalist is talking about a subject, does not mean your message will be included.

“It’s also important to consider your campaign from a journalist’s perspective. Is your story adding anything new to the conversation? And if it is really interesting, wouldn’t it be better suited to shine alone at another time? Don’t forget that national days and weeks are in every other charity’s calendar too so, when a journalist’s inbox is flooded, how will your campaign stand out?

“On the other hand, tying in with a national day, week or month can be a great way of feeding your story into the overarching narrative and creating a level playing field for all involved. High-Rise Communications achieved this when we worked with Leeds GATE – a charity that aims to improve the quality of life for Gypsy and Traveller people across West Yorkshire – towards the end of last year.

“We were enlisted to help the charity promote the release of its new report, which revealed the staggeringly high numbers of mental health issues and cases of suicide within this often-overlooked community. For example, it detailed how Leeds GATE learns of a new case of completed suicide every two months within its community of 7,000 people alone – that’s six a year.

“We chose to connect this with World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th. Ellie Rogers – Deputy CEO at Leeds GATE – remarked on how this was a successful approach for the charity, allowing it to position the issues that the community is facing within the wider conversation and have them recognised as just as important as any other. Ellie also said that, by speaking on a BBC Radio Leeds’ programme dedicated to the day and its meaning, the issues were made far more relatable to listeners.”

To help you in the process of weighing up whether you should, or shouldn’t, align your work with that national day coming up, here is our list of things to consider that might help in the decision-making process:

  1. Is my story new / insightful / attention-grabbing enough to avoid getting drowned out in the noise of the day? If not, it might be a good idea to commission some research that provides journalists with a news piece of genuine value – much like the work of Leeds GATE.
  1. Is it so attention-grabbing and valuable that it could stand alone instead of needing to be looped in with a national day? If so, it might not be worth sharing the limelight.
  1. Have you thought about partnering up with other charities to combine your lived experiences and credibility? This could add a lot more weight to your campaign.
  1. Could you get creative to do something different to anyone else? For example, the British Red Cross worked with street artist Marcus Crocker back in 2013 to place figurines of famous refugees outside the buildings that they are associated with, as part of Refugee Week.
  1. Could you set up your own awareness day? This could be a great way of galvanising your supporters behind your organisation. Macmillan Coffee Morning is a good example of this.
  1. Is it worth the time that your team will need to set aside for it to work? If the only results you can realistically envision is a few mentions and one or two pieces in the third sector press, is it worth the number of meetings that are being scheduled? It’s important to weigh up this time and effort with the potential rewards.
  1. Finally, if you’ve decided to go ahead with connecting up with an awareness day, ensure you provide journalists with a heads-up in advance. When media does have the opportunity to plan, it will, so don’t miss the boat!

Ultimately, awareness days can be a useful tool and – if it just so happens to be going ahead at the same time of your campaign – why not connect the dots? However, PR should always be strategic and contribute towards furthering a particular goal or outcome.

After all, yesterday’s news won’t be tomorrow’s, so don’t jump on the bandwagon and create something just for the sake of it.


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