Background: Getting men to volunteer to work with children has become a difficult task in recent years. So much so that only one in 10 volunteers at Chance UK, a charity that each year supplies mentors to 100 children aged five to 11 with behavioural difficulties in London, is male.
"There's a real nervousness among young men about whether it's acceptable for them to work with children,
says chief executive Gracia McGrath.
But how could such a small charity encourage a change in thinking? McGrath hired Gillan Media, a media relations company with extensive voluntary-sector experience, for £1,000 with the challenging brief.
Aims: The campaign had two goals: to increase the number of male mentors and to change the perception that it isn't suitable for men to work with children of primary-school age. By addressing the latter it hoped to solve the former and in McGrath, the campaign had the kind of media-savvy collaborator necessary to make a go of it.
Adrian Gillan, managing director of Gillan Media, targeted three groups: men's magazines, London media and black and ethnic media. The first was the gateway to potential mentors, the second focused on the city in which Chance UK operates and the third addressed a specific recruitment issue - the acute shortage of male mentors from minority backgrounds.
"It's important that charities realise a magazine like FHM won't cover something dull and worthy,
says Gillan. "Their readers want to be entertained and McGrath was prepared to play the game."
How it worked: There were no direct mails, ad campaigns or even a press release in the conventional sense. "The press release is dead,
"Most journalists just want the bare bones of a story so they can bring it to life in the way their readers want."
So he fired emails with bullet points to tease editors about the potential of running an article on the "Man Enough to Mentor
theme. Each one was adapted to appeal to the audience.
"Because it's a sensitive issue we couldn't do anything too sensational,
says Gillan. "So we came up with various angles, such as in the case of FHM 'how to deal with your girlfriend's nightmare seven year old'."
Results: Since its launch three weeks ago, the campaign has secured coverage in The Observer and New Nation. Radio 4's Woman's Hour and BBC Radio London aired features. FHM bit and sent a reporter to experience an afternoon with a seven year old.
"Just to raise the issue in a magazine with a readership like FHM's was a success,
says McGrath. Take A Break is due to cover the subject in its 26 October issue. "That was a big coup for us,
says McGrath. "To have a magazine that size, particularly one we hadn't targeted, to cover it was amazing."
After the coverage came the phone calls. "We've noticed a significant increase in the number of men calling us for information packs,
There was another unexpected spin-off. The publicity has positioned Chance UK as opinion-formers on issues affecting children.
"We've been approached by the BBC to take part in a documentary and BBC Radio Nottingham called for comments on social exclusion,
says McGrath. "It has taken us up a notch. People are seeing us as opinion-formers on issues like children and exclusion."