What can cats teach us about digital campaigning?

The game changers

ben furberBen Furber is Digital Manager for Asthma UK.  He writes here in a personal capacity. 

All charities come about because of great injustices that either no one is doing anything about or not fixing fast enough. We have a raw and emotional desire to do something about it and want everyone to feel that too.

So to get everyone to take these injustices seriously, we bombard them with constantly serious and emotional stories, stats and figures. While our goals are always serious, do the messages have to be?

The digital world shows us another side of ourselves. The success of Buzzfeed shows us that to be successful online we don’t have to constantly be serious.

Buzzfeed’s core is cats. My problem is that cats ARE serious for Asthma UK. Pets are a trigger for 56% of people with asthma.

So we turned that on it’s head and asked our supporters to make the problem visual.

Asthma 1

Humour can also be part of big campaigns. Twenty-two people die from asthma every week, most of these are preventable (up to 90%). So we’re launching a campaign to do something about it. The first stage of Stop Asthma Deaths had a simple message. There are risks you can take, is not having your puffer one of them?

We’re not the only ones. Think Comic Relief, Movember or Greenpeace’s still amazing Volkswagen campaign.

For Scope there’s loads of potential. With so much misinformation around about disability, a witty and cutting response to an opponent can do wonders. A 20 stat infographic might be successful on Facebook for a day but what about a series disinfographics showing the lunacy of the UK government’s position? Or explaining the latest policy changes to a young child, filming their response.

Of course the final message is serious, but big campaigns are long – do they have to start with a frown?

International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities, a UN-day. The theme for this year’s is: “Break Barriers, Open Doors: for an inclusive society and development for all”.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the achievements and abilities of disabled people, with activities taking place around the world, from Gateshead to Australia.

Here in the UK, the past year has given us much to celebrate.

British double leg amputee and Paralympic Gold medalist, Richard Whitehead, highlighted just what could be achieved when he ran a marathon a day this summer from John O’Groats to Land’s End, to raise money for Sarcoma UK and Scope.

Holly Greenhow, a seven year old with cerebral palsy, continued to break down barriers by starring in the new Boden advertising campaign.

And five disabled campaigners won their Court of Appeal bid to overturn the Government’s decision to abolish the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which currently enables 20,000 disabled people in the UK to live independent lives in the community.

2013 has also been a tough year

But away from the successes spiraling living costs, and cuts to welfare and local care are leaving many disabled people in a critical situation.

Recent research by Scope found that disabled people are three times as likely to draw on doorsteps loans than the general population.

On ITV Daybreak this morning, Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes warned of a crisis in living standards facing many disabled people, with 1 in 3 older and disabled care users getting in to debt to pay for essential support to get up, get dressed, and get out of the house. Ahead of the Government’s Autumn Statement on Thursday, Scope are calling on Chancellor George Osborne to improve the standard of living for disabled people.

The WOW Petition

Comedian Francesca Martinez was interviewed by ITV Daybreak sofa this morning, explaining her support for a campaign calling on the Government to find out the total impact of all welfare cuts on disabled people. The WOW Petition has now been backed by over 100,000 people – which will enable it to trigger a debate in Parliament.

Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, has used comedy to challenge attitudes towards disabled people, and to fight for a fairer system. She believes that humour can be used to break down barriers.

Share your examples of people breaking barriers and opening doors this year – in the comments below, on Twitter or on Facebook.