CAMPAIGN: Mencap viral push reaches wider public - Online PR

Client: Mencap PR Team: In-house with assistance from Countrywide Porter Novelli Campaign: Do You Understand? - a viral campaign to increase understanding of learning disabilities Timescale: April 2002 to present Budget: £10,000 (pro bono work by Countrywide Porter Novelli and thenetcompany)

Do You Understand? is part of a campaign by UK charity Mencap to challenge misconceptions about learning disabilities which can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

This included replacing the term 'mentally handicapped,' used in the organisation's full legal name, with 'Mencap, Understanding Learning Disability' to include people with autism or dyslexia through to Down's Syndrome, and updating its logo.

To provide an idea of the frustration those with learning disabilities can feel in making themselves understood, Mencap created an interactive questionnaire entitled Do You Understand? (

The survey asks visitors to answer questions against the clock and then taunts them with the words 'failed!' and 'are you stupid?'


To increase public understanding of what it's like to have a learning disability. To reach a younger audience (most Mencap donors are over 50).

Strategy and Plan

Mencap worked with Countrywide Porter Novelli and web agency thenetcompany to produce doyouunderstand.-

To kick off the viral element, it encouraged both companies' employees to email the questionnaire to friends. To reach more people Mencap asked AOL to link to the site from its Research and Learn and Teachers and Parents sections.

Following this, traffic to rose by 17 per cent.

Meanwhile, Mencap approached BBC Radio 1 DJ Jo Whiley, who has a sister with a learning disability, to front the campaign. It took photos of Whiley and distributed a press release entitled 'AOL helps Mencap and Radio One DJ Jo Whiley to set the record straight on learning disability.'

The first stage of the campaign was followed in June with National Learning Disability Week.

Measurement and Evaluation

According to Mencap head of media relations Mary Sweeting, the charity lacks the funds to specifically measure the extent to which Do You Understand? increased public awareness.

Coverage included the Daily Sport, Disability Now, Precision Marketing, Third Sector, Professional Fundraising, New Media Age, Voluntary Sector, Community Care and Disability Times.

Results had 40,000 hits between April and the week Mencap spoke to PRWeek. Of these questionnaire participants, 2,000 supplied their names and email addresses and are now sent regular updates on Mencap's work.

It is hoped these participants will support the charity, either through donations or volunteering. Since the site launch Whiley has spoken at several Mencap events.

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