What charities can learn from Women’s Aid
Last week, reality TV show Love Island made the headlines when one of the show’s participants, Adam Collard, displayed warning signs of gaslighting towards his partner Rosie Williams (according to domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid). If you haven’t heard the full story, Google it – there’s tonnes of coverage.
I’m not here to discuss the actual scenario; what I want to comment on is the way Women’s Aid got their important message across in a clear, sympathetic and effective manner. They showed they understood their audience, they picked their moment to speak out, and they championed – rather than victimised – Rosie.
Here’s what the charity did well, and what you can learn from their approach:
1. Understand your audience
Love Island is supremely popular, with 3.4 million viewers tuning into this season’s first episode. There is a lot of elitist commentary on the programme, but there is no denying its success and the affinity many viewers have with the contestants.
Alongside its popularity (especially with females) and the potential to reach a huge audience, the whole premise of Love Island is about relationships, so it is important for Women’s Aid to watch it and have an opinion on the content, regardless of individual opinions about the programme.
You can do that too. Keep an eye on current affairs and popular culture so that you can take advantage of appropriate opportunities to relate your message to whatever’s happening. This is termed “newsjacking” and PR specialists have been doing it for decades.
2. Respond quickly
Women’s Aid released a statement the day after the controversial episode aired. It was clear and concise, but well thought out. It was picked up by scores of publications that day and led to additional interviews, such as on ITV’s This Morning.
For this kind of story to get news coverage, you really have to act fast, because in the world of digital media, the next news story is just moments away…
3. Get the tone right
What I believe is particularly powerful in Women’s Aid’s statement is their acknowledgement that Rosie herself, and thousands of people on Twitter, had recognised and stood up against Adam’s behaviour. The charity was not simply wading in as an expert on the subject, defending Rosie’s honour; it was instead galvanising people to make a stand with Rosie.
“Last night, Rosie called out Adam’s unacceptable behaviour on the show. We ask viewers to join her in recognising unhealthy behaviour in relationships and speaking out against all forms of domestic abuse – emotional as well as physical.”
They were also very careful to comment on Adam’s behaviour, rather than Adam himself. This is highly significant. This serves to focus the audience’s attention on the common behaviour (gaslighting and emotional abuse) they were wishing to raise awareness of – so that the public could identify the behaviour in others.
4. Do not alienate people with your message
A laudable quality of Women’s Aid’s response to Love Island was that it communicated its serious point without alienating the audience. So many critics take a holier-than-thou attitude towards Love Island and this just gets fans’ backs up. But Women’s Aid placed no judgement on the programme, or its viewers. It didn’t generalise and become morally outraged by the whole show. Instead, the charity used a very specific episode of behaviour to explain why it was unhealthy. I for one had never heard the term ‘gaslighting’, so Women’s Aid has educated me and allowed me to label a behaviour I knew was wrong but didn’t realise was such a common ‘technique’ of emotional abuse.
5. Include a call to action
And finally, every piece of marketing content should have a call to action – and this is often forgotten. What do you want your audience to do after reading or engaging with your content? Women’s Aid wanted people to recognise abusive behaviour and then know where they could turn for help. At the end of their statement, they offered their helpline number and web address.