Opinion: Hot issue - Have awareness days become a waste of time?

The Stroke Association has scrapped its annual awareness week and replaced it with an 18-month campaign, saying there are now so many of these 'days', 'weeks' and 'months' that they don't necessarily work any more

NO - HAZEL PARSONS, Million Children campaign manager, Shelter

Our recent experience has shown that a day spent engaging people can really help to further a campaign.

Our awareness day this month was focused on a call to action - a petition to ask the Chancellor to include a commitment to more social rented homes in this November's pre-Budget report. Events were held all over the country to encourage people to sign up and to raise awareness of the need for more houses.

This brought dividends for us: more than 4,000 signatures on the day, the support of local MPs, and local and national publicity for our campaign call. All of this helps to ensure we have a much better chance of influencing the Chancellor to take action to end the housing crisis.

Awareness events shouldn't happen automatically, as if set in stone.

If you can integrate them into the larger campaign agenda and ensure they are innovative and challenging, they have a much greater chance of success.

NO - DAVID PRAILL, chief executive, Help the Hospices

Before we launched World Hospice and Palliative Care Day this year, we thought hard about whether such an initiative would be effective. We were concerned about fatigue, so we researched other organisations' experiences of holding charity days and learnt from them.

The conclusion we reached, which has been borne out by our own recent experience, is that although there are an awful lot of charity days in the diary in this country, this is not necessarily the case internationally.

Furthermore, even in the day-saturated UK market, they can still be effective if the issues they highlight, and the associated content and activities, are sufficiently stimulating, substantial and interesting to capture the public imagination.

You have to look at it as a long-term commitment, and to approach it collaboratively - you must give campaigners and fundraisers the tools to develop their own unique activities, using the central premise of the day as a hook.

At the grass-roots level, our first ever World Day did provide a highly effective focus. Furthermore, hard content - the publication of a major global report into hospice care - ensured it was also a big media event in the UK and worldwide.

YES - DAVID BURROWS, planner at direct marketing company TDA

Want to see a journalist yawn? Tell them you are having an awareness day. Awareness days smack of unoriginal thinking and an assumption that the world's media will find your cause so interesting that they'll clamour to cover it.

In today's overcrowded charity marketplace, this thinking needs to be reversed. To get publicity, you need to begin by asking what journalists want, then find a way for your cause to give it to them.

In my experience, journalists want to tell their readers something new and relevant to their lives, they want human stories (based on their own interviews), arresting images and, ideally, exclusivity.

Journalists are human beings (yes, really) and like any of us they want to be inspired. Trotting out some tired old awareness day formula won't do it - but telling them they can have an exclusive interview with a woman who has struggled with an eating disorder for 20 years might just reach them.

Remember Fathers 4 Justice? Of course you do. Who could forget seeing blokes dressed as superheroes climbing up Clifton Bridge or Buckingham Palace. Do you think they should have had an awareness day instead? I rest my case, m'lud.

NO - EMMA HALL, director of public relations, WSPA

Awareness days, weeks and months, such as World Animal Week, can be vital for raising the profile of a particular issue or campaign. They can also provide an opportunity for staff and supporters to regroup, share experiences and increase momentum.

Awareness days provide a focus for supporters, ideas, a timeframe for fundraising initiatives and a media hook for gaining publicity and short-term celebrity support. In addition, annual events help charities to avoid competing with others and to present often serious and sobering issues in a positive and digestible way.

This was proved by the success of this year's World Animal Week, which saw people around the globe celebrate and share the successes in animal welfare that have been achieved over the past year, while highlighting current projects and issues of ongoing concern.

World Animal Week also helped to introduce WSPA and its network of more than 550 member societies to those who may not otherwise have heard of its mission and work.

Such an awareness week increases and strengthens the existing ethos for those working in the field.

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