Lobbying: Mum uses election to highlight dyslexia

Campaign: Listening to an ordinary mum with dyslexic children Client: Xtraordinary People PR Team: Firefly Communications, with help from The Television Consultancy for broadcast coverage Timescale: April-June 2005 Budget: Pro-bono account

Kate Griggs, mother of two dyslexic children, set up charity Xtraordinary People in 2004 to boost understanding of the learning disability. She enlisted Firefly Communications to promote her cause as an election issue.

It advised her to give the charity a voice by standing as a Parliamentary candidate against education secretary Ruth Kelly.

Objectives

To raise awareness of charity Xtraordinary People and its goals. To gain access to government ministers to get the issue of dyslexia on the political agenda. To increase understanding among teachers that dyslexics need specialist teaching to learn effectively.

Strategy and Plan

The PR team knew that getting coverage for the charity in the run-up to the May election would be extremely difficult. To make its story newsworthy, Griggs set up the one-woman Xtraordinary People Party to contest Kelly's Bolton West seat. This gave her a springboard for conversations with national media about her manifesto, focused on raising awareness and understanding of dyslexia. The primary audience for the campaign's message was government ministers as well as teachers and mums of dyslexic children.

The aim was to create an ongoing lobbying campaign to run during and after the election and elevate the charity to a profile that might otherwise have taken months or years to attain.

The biggest challenge was qualifying Griggs as an election candidate.

The team had to knock on 100 doors to persuade the required ten residents to support her application.

A petition to persuade the government to add a dyslexics module to teacher training posted on the charity's website also acted as a news hook. This prompted further press coverage when the petition was delivered to Downing Street by school children holding banners carrying a letter from famous dyslexic Sir Richard Branson.

Measurement and Evaluation

The manifesto launch resulted in substantial local coverage including a feature in the Bolton Evening News and interviews on local radio. Griggs went head-to-head in a debate on GMTV with Kelly, and her story ran on the front page of The Times Educational Supplement. These anchor pieces led to coverage on all major TV news broadcasts.

Results

More than 10,000 people signed the petition. Griggs received numerous emails from parents with dyslexic children, as well as 74 votes in the election.

The front page TES coverage in particular reached the key teaching profession.

Griggs gained accessed to Kelly and schools minister Andrew Adonis.

TES reporter Michael Shaw says: 'It was a particularly good photo of Kate and it was a lighter story for us to run during election week.

'There was also something wonderfully cheeky about her campaign and she was very honest about the fact that she didn't think she was going to win it. She could also talk a lot about her experiences of her own dyslexic children.'

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