Voluntary Sector: Barnardo's targets pundits

Analysis - Charity targets the 'commentariat' to challenge 'feral children' myth.

Barnardo's major campaign this week, which criticised 'the demonisation of children', was unusual in that it had worked hard to bring the 'commentariat' on side. Newspaper pundits from Polly Toynbee to Vanessa Feltz were briefed early on in the campaign.

The campaign, launched on Monday (17 November, PRWeek.com), aims to create more empathy for children, as well as demonstrating how Barnardo's services help to change children's lives.

The children's charity kicked off the campaign earlier this week with the launch of a viral film and the results of a YouGov survey that found 53 per cent of the 2,021 adults asked believed children were beginning to behave like animals.

Assistant director of comms Puja Darbari said the charity was pleased with the coverage so far, particularly the fact that The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail had covered the campaign as a news story without passing too much comment.

'We have been talking to the commentators throughout and made sure we engaged them as much as possible,' she said. 'One of the key things I would attribute as a success factor is that we sat down and did early one-to-one briefings with both broadcasters and print media to talk through the campaign. Most of the coverage was positioned exactly how we would have wanted it.'

But Barnardo's was hit on Tuesday by one scathing comment piece from the Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn, in which he attacked the charity's 'fatuous survey' and insisted a 'sizeable minority' of children were unruly or criminal.

Darbari, the former press secretary to ex-Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell, said the charity had not targeted Littlejohn. 'We felt that even if he had been informed about the campaign he was probably never going to be supportive,' she said. 'But his views help with the debate.'

The charity has also made use of the web to continue the discussion. The first part of the campaign aims to spark debate over the language people use to describe children and the general intolerance society has towards children.

Next week sees the launch of Barnardo's first TV advertising campaign. The in-house PR team will attempt to sell in positive case studies to the media throughout the month during which the ads are running.

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