A louder voice – challenges faced by smaller charities
For smaller charities supporting a lesser-known disease, creating media interest to raise your profile can be hard. It is often the case that these charities need to shout louder in order to be noticed among the large campaigns of bigger disease groups. Sometimes, the best way to do this is to do something different, something radical.
UK-based advocacy group Pancreatic Cancer Action (PCA) faced just this problem when struggling to raise awareness around symptoms of pancreatic cancer, a little-known but deadly disease, and the need for research. But how could they break into the loud advocacy world of high-profile campaigns and get their message heard?
PCA decided to step out on a limb and develop what some would call a controversial advertising campaign, which featured real-life pancreatic cancer patients wishing they had a more survivable form of cancer. Ali Stunt, pancreatic cancer survivor and founder of PCA, knew it would create some turbulence but felt it was the only option they had to get their voice heard.
The campaign created a storm within the advocacy community, stirring an online debate on social media, on whether the advert had gone too far in its awareness efforts and “belittled the impact of other cancers”. Generating national media attention, the controversy of the campaign led to opportunities for PCA to speak to outlets including newspapers and television programmes and discuss the disease.
Did the campaign achieve PCA’s goals? The organisation did see an increase in traffic to their website, in particular to the webpage showing the symptoms of pancreatic cancer. It is also reported that the campaign raised awareness of the disease in more than a quarter of the adult UK population. In addition, PCA received an award at the IPA Effectiveness Awards, recognising the success of the campaign in raising awareness.
PCA’s “controversial” campaign created heated dialogues, generated media exposure, and led to opportunities for the organisation to discuss pancreatic cancer. The question is whether PCA’s campaign achieved the desired outcomes, around raising awareness and increasing funding for pancreatic cancer research, or whether it just caused a debate on the controversy of the campaign itself?