Interview: Ali Jeremy

The director of communications at the NSPCC says the charity's Underwear Rule campaign, which gave advice on talking to children about sexual abuse, was well received because it responded to parents' needs

Ali Jeremy of the NSPCC
Ali Jeremy of the NSPCC

The NSPCC believes that its Underwear Rule campaign has been a success despite its difficult subject matter and says it has resulted in "hundreds of thousands" of parents speaking to their children about sexual abuse.

The campaign helps to teach children that anything covered by their underwear is private and advises parents how to discuss the issue with their children without having to mention sex or abuse. This aspect has been welcomed by parents. Ali Jeremy, director of communications at the NSPCC, says people also liked the slogan "Talk pants and you've got it covered" because it adds humour to a serious issue and they find the material unthreatening and not finger-wagging.

The campaign was prompted by the Jimmy Savile scandal, which led to an increase in the number of calls to the charity's helpline and ChildLine from concerned parents unsure of how to talk to their children about the issues. Before it was launched, the charity carried out research that found the issue of child sexual abuse was "on the radar" of 64 per cent of parents of eight to 11-year-olds, the campaign's primary target group.

"We ran focus groups in which we found that parents did not want to have conversations about sexual abuse with their children because they felt it was very scary," says Jeremy. "We needed a campaign that showed parents how to create an environment in which they could talk to their children in an informal way and come up with something that was easy to remember."

Jeremy, who joined the children's charity in 2010 from BT Retail, says it is important for charity comms teams to do pre-campaign research that helps them to know their audience and what they want. "Rather than impose what you think they want, ask what they want and respond to that," she says.

Jeremy also recommends that charities use ambassadors to support campaigns. The NSPCC did this by making a short film of parents talking about their own experiences of using the campaign materials with their children. "Using real people as ambassadors to endorse what you are doing is very powerful and has been very successful," she says.

Jeremy thinks parents responded to the £1.5m campaign, which was launched in July last year, because "the language is easy and the tone is right - it is not preachy or confrontational". The advert, which features children saying which words they use for their private parts, has recently been expanded from radio and online to national TV, with peak slots during Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

The NSPCC website, which includes downloadable resources to support the campaign, has received more than half a million unique views since the launch, says Jeremy, and a sex offender has been jailed for eight years after a three-year-old girl who was taught the Underwear Rule told her mother she had been abused.

The charity is also harnessing word of mouth and social media methods to promote the campaign by asking parents to share their experiences of talking to their children about the Underwear Rule with friends and on the charity's Facebook page, which Jeremy says has received "good dialogue and comments from parents".

Campaign partnerships have been run with the online network for mothers, NetMums: the materials have been promoted on the website and the charity has run online sessions and conversations on how to use them. There has also been a paid-for partnership with the radio station Heart FM.

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