If you want to run a campaign for good: be credible, be authentic and mean it

This week we are celebrating the winners of the second Campaigns for Good Awards.

Use your creativity but don't lose your authenticity, warns Sue Tibballs
Use your creativity but don't lose your authenticity, warns Sue Tibballs

As chair of judges, I was delighted by the number, range and quality of entries and my congratulations go to the winners, to those who are commended, and to all those trying very hard to 'campaign for good'.

Campaigns for Good Awards 2019: all the winners

As we enjoy reading about the winners, this seems a good time to pause and ask what 'campaigning for good' really means in 2019.

These awards are unique – and powerful – because they invite applications from charities, companies and the public sector.

This already feels very fresh. Are there some common features we can pull out that can help guide thinking across sectors?

Be credible

You actually have to be 'good' – whatever sector you are in. And that holds for both client and agency. With very transparent standards such as BCorp gaining ground, you cannot just claim this stuff; you have to be live it, breathe it, do it.

Be authentic

The 'cause' you are campaigning for has to feel right for the organisation or brand. There has to be some rationale for tackling a particular issue, and ideally a commitment beyond comms. 'Woke-washing' – where brands just riff on social issues without any genuine commitment – might work, sadly. But it definitely should not be rewarded with awards.

Mean it

This might seem obvious, but Campaigns for Good have to be driven by good – any campaign that whiffs more of profit than purpose will not prevail. Not even charity fundraising is always a 'good' in itself, nor spending public money on expensive campaigns that don't shift the needle. We have to ask what the real motivation behind this campaign is, and be persuaded it will deliver a social good.

Measure it

Assessing the impact of campaigns is hard to do, granted – but it is not good enough to just capture clicks, views and retweets. And awareness-raising on its own isn’t really enough. Campaigns are supposed to change things – attitudes, behaviour, policies, laws. Evidence is needed that a campaign has actually done this. This is an area of weakness in the field at the moment. I have seen a great many campaigns win awards by claiming changes that the evidence just doesn't support.

Be innovative

All campaigns are competing for attention. Finding new ways to gain it, cut through and have an impact is key, particularly in a context where earned and borrowed media are so strong. Beware, however, the temptation to cause a controversy just to gain the airtime – not because there is something to actually contest. This is a tactic that can't be used too many times.

Be creative

Creativity has always played a central role in social change and the best agencies and campaigners know how to tap into the zeitgeist in a way that can be powerfully transformative. But the most exquisitely conceived and executed campaigns shouldn't win if they aren't meeting other criteria given here.

Collaborate

Many of this year’s winners come from really powerful – and sometimes unexpected – partnerships. This is great to see. We know from our own work at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation that more collaborations between actors and sectors are needed if progress is going to be made on some of the most pressing challenges of our times. And this needs to happen much, much more.

Campaigning for good is not easy, and nor should it be. The Campaigns for Good Awards are a lovely opportunity to celebrate the best of 2019 – and celebrate we should.

There are some really impressive and important campaigns in our line-up this year.

However, the Awards also afford an opportunity for all of us in the 'social good' game to keep asking ourselves what 'good' means and push for more rigour and higher standards; not just because it is the right thing to do, but because our audiences are demanding it.

The public at large – and the young, in particular – care deeply about the world around them and are not easily fooled.

If we want to keep winning their attention, we are going to have to keep raising our game. 

Sue Tibballs is chief executive of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation and chair of judges for the Campaigns for Good Awards 

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