The First Step to Change, is Awareness.

The First Step to Change, is Awareness.
October 23, 2015 Zoe O'Sullivan

After working on the first launch campaign of my career, I’ve quickly realised that PR can be an invaluable tool for social change.

Westfield‘s Spring / Summer 15 Fashion campaign “Today, I Am”, champions individuality and the breakdown of stereotypes, using fashion and beauty as forms of self-expression and empowerment. This has resonated with all those who see their size, age and gender as a restriction of their fashion choices. It has also made me see there is a strong synergy between the process of PR and behavioural change.

Too often, people think PR is simply pressing ‘send’ on a media release and keeping your fingers crossed for coverage. It is so much more than that. The ultimate aim is to witness the organisation or campaign’s messaging resonating with the target audience, turning into support for the organisation/brand and its values; this is where a connection can be made between PR and inspiring others to take action for a worthy cause, driving advocacy.

Non-governmental organisations are currently challenged by a communications barrier – ‘care fatigue‘ has unfortunately plagued society, where some people have become desensitised to sad and bad news stories. This communications challenge presents PR practitioners with the opportunity to use their craft to not only generate publicity on important causes, but also share the solutions, progress and outcomes that these amazing organisations are achieving.

What influences you to donate to charity or support a cause? For some, support comes with personal experience, or through friends and family. For those who don’t have any personal connection, the  deciding factor may be the organisation’s public image – this is how we can help.

A key objective of humanitarian organisations is to cultivate public awareness, support and involvement in their activities. Support for any brand doesn’t come easily. You need to prove your cause is important and why the audience’s support is invaluable to overcoming an issue. That requires you to understand your target public’s awareness and perceptions of the cause. Gaining insight to this will inspire key messages that create a reason for them to care and overcome any misconceptions they hold.

PR can play a huge role in engaging the audience through relationship-building activities and campaigns that shed a positive light on the organisation’s public image, therefore enhancing their social capital. Once the support is built, the organisation has a stronger platform to inspire the audience to take action and disseminate these key messages to a wider audience.

A great way to facilitate change is teaming people’s interests with social initiatives. Whether it be through fashion, technology, sport or food, there are ways to join in. For example, last year Karen Walker teamed up with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative for the ‘Visible’ campaign. The campaign aimed to create jobs in community groups of micro-artisans in Kenya, and celebrate their talent. Through a beautiful film and imagery of showcasing the artisans behind the designer products, the campaign highlighted the barriers that artisans from developing countries need to overcome to be part of fashion’s international value chain. PR is a powerful tool, all we need to do is use it in the right places.

Never think your role is insignificant in the process of change. PR has the ability to spread awareness; and the first step to change, is awareness.

Written by Zoe O’Sullivan. Account Coordinator, Sibling Agency