To engage audiences, it’s important to have one clear message and call to action. If you can make it accessible and doable with a little element of fun, even better. Because as charity communicators know well, a well-defined goal helps focus a campaign and ultimately makes it easier to measure its success.
As a health charity, one of the World Cancer Research Fund’s main goals is to support the British public in reducing their cancer risk by making positive health changes to their diet, weight, and physical activity levels. Lasting change can’t be down to individuals alone though. We need all of society to be involved, from government, policymakers, and industry to health professionals and individuals.
Individuals play a huge role in their own choices, though these may be easier for some and harder for others. So, it’s about giving people the knowledge to make informed decisions to change behaviour.
World Cancer Research Fund’s yearly Cancer Prevention Action Week (CPAW) is one of the ways we do this. Informing and engaging audiences in a way that empowers behaviour change.
Encouraging public behaviour change with a Great British Sarnie Swap
This year CPAW focuses on processed meat and encourages people to cut down on the amount they eat to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. Asking people to just cut down on the amount they eat isn’t going to engage them. So, we launched the Great British Sarnie Swap. The swap gives everyone something bigger to be part of.
It also creates a call to action that is accessible with an element of fun by challenging people – to swap the processed meat in their sandwich for a healthier alternative during CPAW, and hopefully beyond.
As a research-based organisation, our campaigns must be backed by evidence to further encourage buy-in from the public and see behaviour change. This also gives extra authority when doing any media outreach. In this case, the evidence shows that eating processed meat increases the risk of bowel cancer.
When it comes to talking about ways of being healthier, there is the challenge of ensuring that our communication isn’t perceived as being judgemental. Yes, it is important to give the facts and for the message to be clear – in this case, that eating processed meat does increase the risk of bowel cancer. The language we use needs to be sensitive and supportive in helping people make a change. Here, we created a campaign asking people to share their swaps. As well as highlighting that, to begin with, many people don’t know of the link between processed meat and cancer. If we can raise awareness, it can help people make informed and healthy choices.
Processed meat is often seen as a convenient and cheap option so it was important to come up with easy-to-make and affordable alternative swap ideas. We also considered how important it is to get children on board when changing mealtime habits. To help reach them, we have some great organisations that work with children involved in the campaign, and we also created some fun child-focused sandwiches of our own.
Using the support of internal buy-in
For the success of any behaviour change campaign, internal buy-in from colleagues is crucial. It ensures that there is support and commitment among staff and that everyone is working towards the same goal. A lack of internal buy-in can create resistance and hinder success and the implementation of change.
To achieve internal buy-in we:
- Involved colleagues from the beginning across the organisation in the planning and decision-making process to ensure they were invested in the outcome.
- Clearly communicated the benefits of the change and how it aligns with the organisation’s goals and values. Processed meat is part of one of WCRF’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations (there are 10). Internally, we discussed different campaign options and went through a process of pros and cons for each one. In fact, processed meat had a close contender (which may become next year’s campaign). A campaign on processed meat was timely, with increased discussions in the press and the wider community about its cancer link. Though it is a hot topic at times, one of the organisation’s values is that it stands by its evidence and is proud of how robust it is. A more straightforward subject may have been more feasible from a comms perspective; however, this is an important issue for people to be aware of. Add to these our new polling findings that show nearly 6 in 10 people aren’t aware that processed meat increases bowel cancer risk, and the benefits of such a campaign are clear.
- Addressed concerns by listening and managing them. For example, World Cancer Research Fund recommends not eating processed meat at all; however, it was agreed that a more achievable goal would be to ask people to reduce the amount they eat instead.
- Provided training and support, as well as celebrating successes with colleagues as we developed the campaign and during the week itself to give everyone extra motivation.
Fostering useful collaborations
When it comes to any campaign, you need to decide who your target audience is and how you will reach them. Our target audience is pretty much anyone who eats processed meat – which is huge.
We recognised that we would only reach some people and that to expand the campaign and build support for behaviour change we would need the help of others.
To engage with different external stakeholders, such as organisations and companies we:
- Identified the most important external stakeholders and tried to understand their motivations, needs, and concerns.
- Reached out to existing networks, such as coalitions and partner organisations.
- Tailored the message to each stakeholder group’s specific needs and interests.
- Made it easy for those who supported the campaign to join. For example, World Cancer Research Fund developed a social media toolkit with key messages and graphics for them to use.
- Offered incentives to encourage external stakeholders to participate in the behaviour change campaign. For example, the use of CPAW to amplify their own work.
- Will measure success and share how well the campaign has done.
Another important way to reach a larger audience is through the media – this can help your behaviour change campaign reach millions of people you wouldn’t otherwise. However, you need to build a story around the campaign to gain the media’s interest.
World Cancer Research Fund usually goes down one or two routes – using a new strong piece of research or running a public poll. We decided to poll the British public around our theme for the Great British Sarnie Swap.
Questions included their favourite sandwich, whether they’d consider reducing the amount of processed meat they eat, and whether they are aware of its link to cancer. These as well as our evidence that processed meat increases bowel cancer risk helped us weave a story around our campaign to create media interest.
Alongside the polling, we approached some well-known names to ask them to support the campaign. This helped reach their followers on social media and created other media opportunities.
Helping people take the first steps towards change
Taking that first step towards change is not always easy and our campaign is just that, the first step. Continuing meaningful conversations with people and supporting them long-term is vital for lasting behaviour change.
For this campaign, we created several assets to interact with the public, from recipe swap ideas to a fun quiz. We will then follow up with people who engage with us to understand if they’ve changed their behaviour and offer them further information, ideas and support.
The collaborations we developed also play an important role – as they can continue reaching their audiences. When it comes to change, there are so many important players in the mix. Working with government, health services, and industry to encourage them to be part of long-term change is vital for us as we try to reduce people’s risk of cancer and they can be important to you too if your charity has big change initiatives.
If you enjoyed this you may also like:
- How to build an educational web app to encourage behaviour change
- Prompting Behaviour Change: getting to grips with audience
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