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Three key questions to ask yourself when planning a responsible campaign

Posted on Fri 15th Jun, 2018 in: Advice, Industry Comment, Planning, Reputation Management by Laura Cavanagh

The Lush #SpyCops campaign, which aimed to bring to light how undercover police officers had infiltrated the lives of activists since 1968, opened up a seriously big can of worms in June.

Lush stores across the UK decorated shop windows with posters featuring police officers and the words "paid to lie", along with fake police tape emblazoned with the words: "Police have crossed a line". Social media also played a key role in getting the campaign message and creative out far and wide.

The key issue was that it was unclear why Lush was involved, the imagery and language used in the creative could have suggested an entirely different meaning, especially for those that aren’t familiar with the history of the Undercover Policing Inquiry.

After reviewing comments on social media and on various news outlets, it’s clear there was a secondary issue as some people didn’t understand the connection between Lush and the cause they were highlighting.

Using generic pictures of the police, alongside words that would naturally ignite feelings of worry and anger, certainly grabbed people’s attention. It sparked a public debate about Lush’s execution which resulted in the true meaning of the campaign being overshadowed. It also meant that those working in Lush stores were targeted directly.  

The only reason Lush paused the campaign was because the “safety of staff” was put into question. It’s recently been relaunched with a new shop poster that doesn’t include a photograph of police and the text now makes it clear what the message is.

Regardless of whether Lush were right or wrong in their positioning, or whether the campaign was a success or not, a key takeaway has been highlighted to the communications industry: the importance of communicating in a responsible way.

Whenever we start campaign planning we ask ourselves three key questions to ensure we’re minimising risk and acting in a responsible way.

  1. Why are we doing this?

It’s important that there is a clear and easily understandable reason why you, your brand or organisation is carrying out the activity.

If the audience you’re trying to influence doesn’t understand your campaign then you’re not going to get the results you want. Or, like Lush, you’re going to have to change the direction of your activity which makes people feel that you didn’t understand the situation enough in the first place.

In this instance Lush probably gained more attention than the public enquiry itself, which surely wasn’t the aim. As comms professionals it’s our role to represent clients/partners responsibly. Taking the limelight from the true meaning of the campaign could be viewed as being irresponsible.

  1. How will it be executed?

Audience insight is imperative. Knowing who you want to influence and understanding how you’re going to do it will determine the tactics used.

Sense checking or audience testing activity will help you make sure that the meaning behind your campaign is clear.

Working backwards it could be interpreted that the initial Lush campaign was aiming to target the entire police force, rather than those involved in the current public enquiry.

The aggressive nature of the imagery and the language used meant that many felt the need to defend the police, even if they supported the victims involved. Putting the public in a moral dilemma left many feeling frustrated. Again, this meant that the true message of Lush’s campaign was diluted.

  1. What is the desired outcome?

Having a call to action is not only going to help your audience understand the meaning behind the campaign, but also how you measure success.

If Lush was hoping to gain more support for the public enquiry, then that certainly wasn’t made clear. Therefore, it’s hard to know whether they would deem this campaign a success or not.

Looking at their website, they’ve included case studies from the victims. They’re powerful. And perhaps would have been more impactful to front the campaign rather than generalising the police’s involvement.

There’s no doubt that the Lush campaign was a success in raising awareness and getting the public inquiry back on the main stream news agenda. Despite that, it’s lucky that the situation didn’t escalate any further, especially for those working in stores.

If you want help with your campaign planning then get in touch here for more information. 

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