I CAN alerts parliament to learning cause - Voluntary Sector

Campaign: Make Chatter Matter
Client: I CAN
PR team: In-house
Timescale: Nov 2005-Feb 2006
Budget: Undisclosed

Children's charity I CAN has, over its 20-year history, helped more than a million kids in the UK with communication disabilities. This year it launched its first national awareness week, Make Chatter Matter (6-12 February), highlighting the importance of communication as the foundation for learning and social development.

The week was I CAN's first attempt at actively engaging parliamentarians and included the 'Chatterbox Challenge', a fundraiser event where children were sponsored to perform rhymes, songs and stories.


To launch Make Chatter Matter to parents and childcare professionals, and encourage participation in this year's sea-themed Chatterbox Challenge. To highlight communication development issues with MPs, and raise awareness of the charity's Early Talk programme, which provides specialist support in mainstream nurseries.


Having signed Nursery World as campaign media partner, last November the PR team alerted nurseries and playgroups to the upcoming Chatterbox Challenge. To drive registrations from these groups, the charity ran promotions with challenge sponsors, including nursery LeapFrog, Toys UK and The Early Learning Centre.

This activity included competitions on local radio, reader offers in regional newspapers, in-store sales promotions and an advertorial by the charity in Mother & Baby magazine.

In January the PR team announced the programme of events for Make Chatter Matter - including details of how families could take part in singalongs hosted by Early Learning Centre stores across the UK.

In order to build political pressure, the charity approached celebrities to submit their favourite words to an online Wall of Words - it then contacted MPs with an interest in education issues, alerting them to the Wall and what it represented.

All activity was supported with press-released case studies for regional media. I CAN also signed up poet-turned TV executive Daisy Goodwin (responsible for the BBC's Essential Poems programme) to take part in radio interviews with the charity's chief executive, Virginia Beardshaw.


Regional interest ranged from the Belfast Telegraph to The Sentinel in Stoke-on-Trent, which built a Wall of Words structure at the local Potteries Shopping Centre.

The campaign was reported by 139 radio stations, including BBC Newcastle, BBC Three Counties, and Stafordshire and Cheshire's Signal. Photocalls with celebrities including Big Brother 6 contestant Eugene Sully and kids' TV presenter Dave Benson-Phillips led to an article in Heat. Meanwhile, Goodwin was interviewed by The Sunday Times and BBC Breakfast.

Early Talk gained a double-page spread in Nursery World, while the online Wall of Words was reported on in The Times Educational Supplement.


More than 5,000 groups registered to take part in the Chatterbox Challenge, compared with 3,000 groups last year. Eleven celebrities, 29 MPs and more than 1,300 members of the public posted their favourite words online - including the word 'discombobulated' by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.

In February, 48 MPs backed an Early Day Motion to investigate the issues highlighted by the campaign.

Nursery World editor Liz Roberts praises the campaign for highlighting the seriousness of 'a big issue'.


Tim Linehan, assistant director of campaigns and media, The Children's Society This was clearly an integrated, creative campaign. Media partner Nursery World tied up the professional audience for the charity, while corporate sponsorship, alongside support from The Early Learning Centre, made for a strong alliance that catered for all target audiences.

The combination of commercial and media needs via competitions forms an effective method of spreading interest and generating serious messages at the same time. Adding a snappy title - Make Chatter Matter - and political pressure meant all the stakeholders were covered.

What would be interesting to know is the outcome of the Early Day Motion, and how the annual campaign will retain momentum. Raising awareness is important, but achieving policy outcomes has got to be the overarching goal.

This campaign was truly inclusive, and this was reflected in the range of media coverage and the involvement of more than 5,000 groups. What hasn't been fully answered, though, is whether policy objectives have been met.

Nevertheless, this was a smart campaign - lively but serious, fun yet engaging, educational while being light-hearted - that achieved mainstream coverage for specialist interest group.

Creativity: 5 - Delivery: 4 - 9/10

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