Organising an awareness month is a great way to give important issues the exposure they deserve. Worthy causes are everywhere – from the environment to health, refugee crises to natural disasters, and there are just as many ways of drawing attention, especially with the growth of the social media as a tool to share information and resources.
Key benefits to be gained from a successful awareness month might commonly include:
Influencing policy-makers – Firstly by drawing their attention to problems that may have hitherto escaped their notice or have been ignored, and secondly by applying pressure from those whose opinion matters to them. An obvious example would be voters holding local politicians to account on a wide range of issues, through campaigning organisations such as 38 Degrees.
Getting the message heard – By the widest, most relevant audience possible, in a way that smaller, more tailored campaigns might not be able to achieve. One of the aims of Hearing Awareness Month, for example, is to encourage more people to deal with auditory problems that may affect their health for years before they see a specialist.
Steering a conversation – The important message behind some causes, a prominent example being climate change, can be clouded by emotion, faulty science or personal interest. By holding an awareness month, organisations can help to remove any false facts and opinions from the debate, accentuate the reality, as well as highlighting any goals and how they can be achieved.
Boost Support – This could be in influence, donations, or getting people to volunteer their time and skills. Awareness months help to reach existing allies, but they can also often find new support from other quarters.
How to run an effective awareness month
Experts in PR and communications believe that the success or failure of an awareness campaign lies in four key areas:
Good planning – A substantial amount of the work involved in any awareness month is done before anyone outside the organisers even hears a peep about it. Careful planning is vital – knowing who you want to reach, and what techniques and forms of media you are going to use to reach them. Support materials are also integral in drumming the message home.
A clear message – Focus on values, to tap into peoples’ emotions; simplify the more complex parts of your message to make it as palatable as possible, and provide a wider context so listeners get a deeper understanding of why this issue is so important. And because factual evidence is so useful, but can be quite dry: never forget the value of images and infographics.
Choose your media well – If your audience is teenagers for example, your awareness month should focus on social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Some awareness campaigns look to grab attention through controversy or tugging at heartstrings, but the best will always get people talking about them for a long while after the awareness month has passed. Going viral is a good target to aim for.
Network, network, network! – Everyone is a potential activist for your cause, so the importance of building relationships with people at every opportunity cannot be overstated.