Published: 26 October 2018

The collaborations behind Time to Talk Day

Time to Talk Day takes place on the first Thursday of February. It’s a day when we encourage everyone to talk about mental health. The day shows that mental health is not a topic we need to shy away from, and life is better for everyone when we can talk about it openly.

The day launched six years ago, in 2013, and has grown every year since. With a shoestring marketing budget to promote the day, comms is important to develop novel (and low-cost!) ways to reach new audiences.

Over the last three years, we have developed a three-pronged approach to our communications:

  • Get to know our audience
  • Use our existing networks
  • Look for opportunities to collaborate

Getting to know our audiences

Across the Time to Change campaign, we work with different groups. Some of the key ones are employers who sign the Time to Change pledge; schools who deliver our anti-stigma materials, and our community champions who spearhead local attitude change.

For Time to Talk Day, I work with the teams who manage these relationships to understand their audiences’ needs and develop bespoke communications. For example, organisations wanted to spread our messages, but were often pressed for time and capacity, while champions valued hearing about activities other people had run.

Based on these insights, we have developed communications packs for each audience group that include links to our downloadable materials, press release templates, and tips for how to run activities. All of this aimed to make their involvement as easy as possible.

These packs have been improved based on a range of feedback each year, including focus groups with our supporters. We use active listening to put their needs at the heart of what we develop.

Getting our messages into the hands of our most engaged supporters helps to drive results like the 1,115,000 shares that enabled #TimetoTalk to trend on Twitter, and over 700 pieces of press coverage.

Collaborating with our networks

Time to Change is unusual – we’re a campaign devised by two charities, Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. We run independently. We have our own comms, marketing and digital channels, separate from either charity. It means there are plenty of chances for collaboration, and a wealth of opportunities to reach our partner charities’ supporters.

In the past this has included articles in their membership magazines and e-newsletters. But I knew we could do more. I was keen make the most of the reach Mind shops could give us. Mind has over 150 high-street shops – that’s a lot of opportunities to get our message out into the community and in front of people who might not otherwise see it. We know that our supporters usually have their own experience of mental health problems. A high-street presence meant an opportunity to reach a more diverse audience, perhaps with limited or no experience of mental health problems.

Time to Change
Time to Change

Over the last two years, I’ve worked closely with Mind’s retail marketing manager to work out how we can get the most out of this presence. We started out by getting our posters into the shop windows, and from there we have developed ways of working with the shops that encourage them to hold their own events and make the most of the day.

I’d advise anyone looking to develop these kind of collaborations to think about what’s in it for both parties. For us, the draw was the reach. For Mind, Time to Talk Day provided a strong campaign to engage staff and volunteers, and entice people into the shops.

My second tip is make it as easy as possible for the people you want to work with to use your campaign.

Our head of communications went along to the retail manager’s annual meeting and talked about Time to Talk Day. We sent each shop a copy of our ‘Chatter Box’ – packs of materials supporters can order in the run-up to the day. And we developed bespoke guidance on different ways the shops could get involved.

The results were fantastic.

Over the week of Time to Talk Day, over 39,000 customers visited the shops. And in every shop, they had a chance to see or interact with the campaign.

As well as displaying our window posters, the staff and volunteers went the extra mile. Some used the editable resources on our website to personalise their displays. Others organised events. They set up areas for people to talk. Baked cakes with our key messages on. One shop arranged for a counsellor to sit in the shop and talk to people about mental health for the day.

We’re feeding these ideas back into the communications for Time to Talk Day 2019, using the case studies as inspiration.

Look for opportunities to collaborate

The success has also helped us to think about other ways we can work with external partners to develop the reach of the day. We’re in a unique position with our relationship with Mind. But we know that other groups are interested in mental health. We have a strong campaign to share, which can help them engage their members.

For Time to Talk Day 2018, we worked with England Athletic, who were keen to promote the mental health benefits of running. They organised #RunAndTalk events to encourage people to exercise and talk at the same time.

For Time to Talk Day 2019, we’re working with the Ramblers and the WI to encourage their members to take part and explore how we can work together. Both charities have already done their own work around mental health – now they can join the largest conversation about the topic.


Louise Penman, senior communications officer, Time to Change

Louise is currently the senior comms officer for Time to Change, England’s leading campaign to change the way people think and act about mental health. She will soon be moving to Rethink Mental Illness as its communications and membership manager. She loves the fact that working in comms offers opportunities both to geek out over supporter data, and to think creatively. She thinks the best campaigns create compelling messaging by putting people at their heart, and that’s what she’s always aiming for in her work.