No make-up selfies and the science behind getting your charity’s voice heard.

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Bra Colour campaign - Breast Cancer

Last year Facebook fans were subjected to a strange bra colour status update craze that took the social networking world by storm. The campaign saw Facebook users inundated by intimate details of their friends’ bra colour, which, it transpired, was all about raising awareness for breast cancer.

No makeup selfies campain - Irish Cancer SocietyThen there was the hugely popular #nomakeup selfie in aid of the Irish Cancer Society, which saw thousands of women, including a number of well-known Irish celebrities, posting bare faced pictures of themselves on social networking sites, although often masked by very flattering filters! The clever campaign, which piggybacked on the burgeoning obsession among young women with the self-portrait, raised a staggering €500,000 for the charity.

It didn’t take long before these trends went viral, particularly when it was taken up by our small pool of Irish celebrities, and the stories started to appear in the media.

That’s one way to hit the headlines when you are looking to fund raise and raise awareness of your existence, but what can you do when you want the Government to sit up and listen to your charity’s most hard hitting issues?

Recently, here at Fuzion, we took on a very worthwhile campaign on behalf of a charity client whereby we facilitated a mass media and lobbying campaign for the return of Discretionary Medical Cards to children with Down syndrome.

The outcome of this was in the region of 15,300 people with an acute or life-long medical condition-among them hundreds of children with Down syndrome- who lost their Discretionary Medical Card, or GP visit card, after an eligibility review between 1 July 2011 and 31 May 2014, had them returned.

Communications Planning and Execution

Employing the services of a skilled Communications Expert is essential for any such lobbying campaign to prove a success. A communications expert is the manager, the gatekeeper between you and the media, the person who adeptly deals with the manifold complexities of any charity, such as members’ individual needs, stakeholders, ethics and rivalry for resources among branches.

Any skilled communications person knows, particularly since the advent of social media, that it is the court of public opinion which wins out on the day, so if you have a communications expert who can get the media on board with your cause and can consistently provide case studies, interviews, sound bites and hard hitting statements while running a concurrent digital and social media campaign you increase your chances of success exponentially.

Medical Cards returnedParents whose children were affected by such a cruel and senseless measure as having this vital lifeline snatched away from them, with allegedly little attempt at sensitivity from officials, were justifiably insensate with rage. In these crisis scenarios it can be difficult for parents to remain focussed on the global issue and to shout from the same script as they desperately fight for their individual child’s needs.

A communications expert is the cool head in the eye of the storm facilitating media coverage, updating social media sites, lobbying government officials and often most importantly regularly updating members and stakeholders on exactly how hard the charity is working to effect change to avoid dissension within the campaign ranks.

Another critical element that a communications expert can provide is solid media training for nominated spokespersons. If you have been granted a five minute slot on a prime time radio or television show to communicate the key messages of your lobbying campaign then you need to be more than prepared for any kind of curve-ball the presenter might throw your way, and they do so regularly.

A charity’s hard fought campaign against a piece of government legislation can be crushed by one sloppy and incoherent interview.

A typical response from well-intentioned Charity CEOs provides succinctly the reason why your spokespersons should receive professional training in how to speak to the media: “I talked to that reporter for over an hour and he didn’t mention anything about what the campaign is all about!

A knowledge and communications expert can bring awareness, greater understanding, cohesion and focus to charities which are member focussed and disparate in nature. A knowledge and communications expert can also help such an organisation to win the trust of stakeholders.

Organisations who win are those who communicate openly and often both internally and externally, have a clear and committed communications policy and regularly assess their own performance.

Following a series of recent high-profile scandals in the charity sector now, more than ever, it is essential that each and every charity has their communications strategy in order and that is overseen by a skilled professional.

Edel O’Connell is a Senior Account Manager with Fuzion PR working from the Dublin office.

Fuzion are a PR firm in Ireland with offices in Dublin and Cork

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