Voluntary sector - Society looks inside the mind of a child

Campaign: The Good Childhood Inquiry

Client: The Children's Society and Penguin publishers
PR team: In-house
Timescale: October 2008-February 2009
Budget: £8,500

The Good Childhood Inquiry was commissioned by The Children's Society and launched in September 2006 as the UK's first independent national inquiry into childhood. It aimed to renew society's understanding of modern childhood, and inform, improve and inspire all our relationships with children.

More than 35,000 children, parents and professionals contributed to the inquiry, and their evidence was considered by an independent panel of 11 experts. The panel's final report, A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age, was published by Penguin Books on 5 February.

OBJECTIVES

- To generate an informed debate about childhood in the UK among the public

- To promote the major findings and arguments in the final report

- To sell copies of the book

- To raise awareness of The Children's Society and position it as an authoritative voice on childhood in the UK today.

STRATEGY AND PLAN

The PR team built awareness of the book launch through six media events presenting evidence gathered on the themes of friends, family, learning, lifestyle, health and values. All of the events were covered extensively in national and regional print, online and broadcast media.

The media team picked out likely stories from the draft of the report. The team also chose BBC home editor Mark Easton as a key journalist for pre-briefing, as he had run a TV series on one of the author's previous books and specialises in the relevant topics. The book's principal authors, Lord Richard Layard and Professor Judith Dunn, were professionally media trained and made available for interviews, as were other panel members and spokespeople from The Children's Society.

Children and young people who had given evidence for the inquiry were prepared to act as case studies for the media.

The team released two chapters and the ability to 'dip' into the book to The Sunday Times the weekend before publication.

MEASUREMENT AND EVALUATION

Broadcast media followed The Sunday Times coverage through the day, and Monday's newspapers followed up story angles to which The Sunday Times had not given attention, such as the impact on working mothers. Broadcast media also followed the story and the BBC Radio 4's Today programme ran the first interview with Lord Layard. On Tuesday, national and regional newspapers continued to follow the story.

In total, more than 70 articles in national newspapers referenced the report and there were more than 64 news items mentioning the report on national radio and TV, and 61 items on regional radio and TV.

RESULTS

In its first week, A Good Childhood twice reached number four in Amazon.co.uk's best-selling books list. Booktrack figures put the report as the 29th best-selling non-fiction paperback in the UK. It has already been reprinted twice and the launch sparked a national and ongoing debate about childhood.

SECOND OPINION - Niall Cowley, MD, Bright Young Things Communications

One would be forgiven for thinking children's charities have it easy. The media appetite, particularly morning 'sofa' broadcast media, for reports and findings from children's charities, is vast and consistent. In many cases, mere policy recommendations from an NGO can lead the news agenda, never mind a comprehensive report dripping with headline-grabbing findings.

However, they can be victims of their own success. Internal and stakeholder expectations can be so high that what might be seen as a huge media relations success, can fail to impress charities that are used to blanket coverage every time they open their mouths.

The Children's Society's effort was a masterclass in media relations. The tactical approach was rigid, detailed and formulaic, in a way only a team that knows exactly what it is doing can achieve. There were no surprises and everything went to plan, which, in media relations, is a rare treat. The team knew exactly how the media would treat its story and as a result was able to exploit the report and its findings for all they were worth.

Launching a story exclusively with a Sunday paper and then continuing into broadcast and national media on the Monday is a great media relations model, but to achieve a third day of coverage on the Tuesday, as The Children's Society succeeded in doing, is nothing short of brilliant. High expectations were met, but I would hate to follow up this one.

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