An effective awareness campaign brings necessary information to those who need it, raising the public profile of a cause, and getting people talking. In the age of social media, however, it can seem like everyone is trying to spread their particular message and this can make it difficult to set your campaign above the rest.
For that reason, we have gathered the top ten tips to establish an effective awareness campaign for your cause.
1. Know Your Cause
It may seem obvious but one of the most important elements of a effective awareness campaign is the strength of the cause. This is built by having a robust set of statistics and case studies that people can connect to.
Running a campaign to raise awareness about anatidaephobia is all well and good but eventually someone is going to ask you what it means (note: anatidaephobia is the fear that a duck somehow is watching you). If you can't make them understand what your cause is about and why they should care then there isn't much hope for your campaign.
The purpose of an awareness campaign is to bring more knowledge about your cause to the public, so the more you know, the better. It puts you in an authoritative position, increasing the likelihood that you will get further opportunities to talk about the subject beyond the life of this particular initial campaign.
Do your research to ensure that you know what your cause is all about. Talk to experts, read up on it, make sure you've got someone you can defer to if questions come up that you can't answer – whatever you need to do to make sure that you are able to access the necessary information to make your message come through successfully.
2. Set Goals
As you research your cause, ideas for your awareness campaign will probably begin to bubble, making it easy to get carried away. After all, you could be planning what the stickers look like and you should really be calling the local council to see if you can hold an event in the first place.
Unfortunately, as the ideas escalate so does the cost, and it can be hard to reign yourself in when you haven't set yourself any clear boundaries. The best way to ensure that your ideas stay focused on creating the most effective awareness campaign possible is to set yourself specific goals and objectives.
Is your aim to bring greater understanding of a lesser known illness to as many people as possible? Or is the priority to attract the attention of specific media platforms? Answering these questions can help you work out what techniques will be most effective at raising awareness among your audience and will therefore inform your plans further down the road. Most importantly, creating clear and realistic goals for your awareness campaign will help you determine what success means to you.
3. Determine your Target Audience
While it would be great for every campaign to appeal to everyone, that's unlikely to happen. Even the most successful awareness campaigns will have some people who just aren't interested because that's the way people are. What appeals to a 50+ inner city business woman is likely to be quite different from a stay-at-home dad living in the country, or a teenage girl working towards her A-Levels. Trying to create a campaign that is universally appealing will not only be a massive rod for your own back but it's also likely to be less effective.
Narrowing your focus will give you a clearer idea of who you are speaking to and therefore will most likely influence how you choose to speak to them, linking back to your established goals. If you aim to motivate young women between 15 and 25 to go running, social media might be a great tool for spreading your message. Targeting men after retirement age, meanwhile, will probably require something quite different. An understanding of your audience will increase the effectiveness of your awareness campaign by talking directly to their needs whilst still leaving room for others to enter the conversation if they so wish.
4. Take Inspiration from Previous Awareness Campaigns
You may have lots of vague ideas about how you want to execute your campaign but sometimes, when it gets down to the actual planning stage, you can find yourself stuck. The aim is to have an effective awareness campaign that distributes the appropriate information to your target audience and maybe call them to complete a specific action (eg. give blood). But how do you get that message out there? If in doubt, check out awareness campaigns you've admired to see what they did right and what you feel you could learn from their example.
Do you still catch yourself singing the tune from an anti-smoking advert years ago or do you have fond memories of a Race for Life? Work out what it is you liked about those particular awareness campaigns – whether it was the camaraderie you felt with others engaged in the activity or simply the clever hashtag that stayed with you – and consider how you can capture those responses from your target audience.
5. Get Recognisable People Involved
While an awareness campaign can work well with only a good message and the right technique to share it, many campaigns can attribute a good portion of their success to the face attached to it.
Would the healthiness of school lunches have garnered quite as much media attention without Jaime Oliver? A well-known name - particularly one with a good reason for their involvement in the cause - can bring some familiarity to a lesser known subject and therefore increase the effectiveness of your awareness campaign.
As mentioned above, contacting experts in the area of your cause can ensure that you are well-informed and bring some much needed authority to your campaign, but it can also give you the opportunity to draw in some media attention and widen your audience.
6. Expand your Network
An effective awareness campaign needs people to get involved. An individual shouting alone in a crowd can achieve very little. A large group all shouting together, meanwhile, can really attract attention. For this reason, the success of any campaign hinges on its ability to bring people together and get them involved. Attaching well-known names to garner media interest is great at the beginning but one of the most effective methods of passing along any message is definitely word of mouth.
Social media can be a successful and cost effective way to raise awareness about your cause. A simple tweet or Instagram post, with links to a website with further details, can be effortlessly shared across great distances and will therefore be able to reach more people than you could hope to in any purely paper-based campaign. The easy connectability of social media also allows your audience to feel like an active part of your chosen cause, increasing the likelihood that they will engage with your message and create a more effective awareness campaign.
7. Get Creative
With so many awareness campaigns out there, all searching for the perfect way to share their message, there are a lot of examples out there to follow as you aim for success. Unfortunately this can also make it difficult to make your campaign stand out; a necessary component if engaging a large audience is a key objective. This means you need to get creative and get people excited to be part of your cause.
In an ideal world, you'll come up with something that has a burst of creativity to draw people in and set your campaign apart from the all others. This needs to be something that ties in with your message well, keeps everyone who is involved passionately engaged with the campaign, and draws people in to learn about your cause. Think of the ice bucket challenge: it garnered great viral and media attention because it felt fresh. You may, however, choose to follow one of the familiar patterns of other awareness campaigns – a catchy hashtag, a fun run, a dress-up day, ect – but the important thing is to come up with a new spin on it to draw that much needed attention.
The Wear It, Beat It campaign for the British Heart Foundation is the perfect example of this because it follows the typical dress-up day outline but sets itself apart in a way that ties in well with its core message by asking people to wear all red. Create something that makes people feel excited to be a part of it and you will have an effective awareness campaign.
8. Timing is Everything
The timing of your awareness campaign can make or break it, particularly if you're running an event on a specific day or are hoping for some big media attention. As anyone who has tried to have a barbecue in the delightfully changeable British summer, everything from weather to traffic conditions can impact your otherwise perfect plans.
It is impossible to plan for all these eventualities – especially the occurrence of unexpected big news stories – but careful timing can make it more likely that your awareness campaign will effectively achieve your established goals. There are numerous online calendars that outline events and campaigns that are happening throughout the year, allowing to schedule yours appropriately, and some consideration of the season should make it possible for you to organise any weather-impacted aspects you wish to do.
9. Keep it Catchy
The most effective awareness campaigns are those that stick with the public long after they're finished. You might hold a great event, with all the media attention you could ask for, and a well-known guest that loves it, but if the public doesn't leave with an understanding of your cause that will stick with them then it can't truly be called a successful awareness campaign. What you need is something memorable and meaningful.
Television advertising has some great examples of messages that have stayed with their audience long after they were aired. An effective awareness campaign needs to have that same memorability. Whether it's a great campaign name, witty tagline, or a catchy Twitter hashtag, giving your audience an easy way to remember your cause and engage with your campaign is a key part of its success.
10. Keep it Going
Between running your campaign, answering questions, and reacting to those unforeseen obstacles, it can be easy to get lost in it all and this becomes all the more difficult as you approach the finish line. You can't let the passion you have built for your cause go, however, as information about it still needs to be available for the public.
Whether this is adapting your website or social media pages to point users in the direction of further information, encouraging social media users to adopt your hashtag to keep the message going, or handing over to a new team to create an annual event, put plans in place that will keep the level of awareness you have achieved through your campaign. After all, an effective awareness campaign is one where the message stays with the public.