Good storytelling is the art of PR, yet some stories can be easier to get your audiences to connect with than others. Choosing a subject that only affects women in developing countries, and around a topic which many find taboo, can make it hard to engage employees in the UK, who may seem far removed from the issue.
At Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., we have shown it is achievable – charity partnerships can engage, foster loyalty and create pride in a company, and in turn an individual’s own work. We have seen this through the company’s support of ACTION ON FISTULA™ and the work being carried out by the Fistula Foundation in Kenya to help end fistula, an injury caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leading to faecal or urinary incontinence or both.
We chose this cause as we knew our support would have a real, measurable and immediate impact, and our work of training surgeons and nurses would mean the good work would be sustainable.
To date, the programme has provided more than 4,500  life-changing surgeries, trained six fistula surgeons, set up a fistula treatment network to extend access to services, with six treatment centres enrolled, and built a major outreach programme to identify and bring women in for treatment. Some women require multiple surgeries but by 2020 the programme aims to transform the lives of 4,500 fistula sufferers in Kenya.
Our work with ACTION ON FISTULA highlights the pivotal role pharma businesses can have by using their expertise and collaborating with NGOs to jointly tackle global health issues.
Telling an unfamiliar story
Fistula is largely eradicated in the developed world  and so the condition as well as the social repercussions of having it – being disowned by your husband and family due to the stigma  – need to be explained to a UK audience. In the UK, incontinence largely remains a taboo topic and it is therefore a challenge to raise awareness of a condition that not only causes severe double-incontinence but is also unknown.
Through a multi-disciplinary communications plan, Astellas kept colleagues and other stakeholders up-to-date on the programme’s progress, reporting on the number of surgeries that have taken place, surgeons trained and outreach activities that were making a positive and tangible difference. This regular reporting on the lives we were helping to transform gave ACTION ON FISTULA resonance and made it ‘real’ for employees.
To keep momentum going on fundraising, we ran a competition among Astellas staff to win a ‘Seeing is Believing’ trip to visit the programme in Kenya. The competition was open for anyone who had helped fundraise throughout the year. The trip helped people understand their personal impact and for the winners it engaged them further in the programme and instilled a sense of pride in Astellas and our role in helping support Fistula Foundation on the ground.
Shout about your good work
Many charitable programmes can generate mass coverage, but the quality of the coverage and positive internal and public reception can be more meaningful than reach alone. After all, there is no better story for both media and your employees than having a great programme that you can shout about.
At Astellas, our employees were keen to get involved. They took it upon themselves to fundraise in many different creative and interesting ways. Their stories were then shared through internal communications, and by telling these stories people across the organisation were inspired to get involved.
With more and more people wanting to work for a company that embodies their values, there is an opportunity for companies engaging in great charity and CSR work to have the edge when recruiting and keeping the best people – while simultaneously making the world a better place.
Want to know more?
ACTION ON FISTULA was conceived, built and is run by Fistula Foundation. It was started in 2014 by a grant given to Fistula Foundation from an affiliate of Astellas Pharma Inc., Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd. Fistula Foundation and Astellas jointly funded Phase One of the programme, 2014-2017. Astellas is funding approximately 25% of the second phase of the programme running from 2017-2020.
By 2020, ACTION ON FISTULA wants to help more than 4,500 women to access fistula treatment. In order for ACTION ON FISTULA to continue this proven, life-changing work beyond 2020, additional financial support is critical. Anyone interested should contact Fistula Foundation via www.fistulafoundation.org.
 As of January 2019
 Fistula Foundation, at www.fistulafoundation.org [Last accessed: February 2019]
 Campaign to End Fistula, What is Fistula, at www.endfistula.org/what-fistula [Last accessed: February 2019]
Date of preparation: February 2019
This article is written and funded by Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd