Still from Scope's End the Awkward campaign video

Behind the campaign: Scope’s ‘End the Awkward’

The nature of campaigning is changing fast. Explosive campaigns can come from anywhere, anytime, and don’t care much for the carefully-laid comms plans made by professional communicators.

The way that campaigners are adapting to this new world fascinates us at Neo, so when we saw the brilliant End The Awkward awareness campaign it intrigued us to hear that Scope and its partners had tried a very different approach to coming up with it.

The campaign was the result of a programme they called Game Changers, launched in autumn 2013. It had ambitions to make a big shift in opinions on disability in the UK, but also to shift to a more open approach to sourcing ideas and feedback on the campaign itself, citing principles such as being transparent and accountable, learning from others and make people outside the professional comms team a part of it from the outset.

We spoke to Ashley Baldwin, national campaigns officer at Scope, about why they tried it and what the effects have been.

Where did the idea for Game Changers come from?

Last year, we conducted a lot of research into public attitudes towards disabled people. The research showed (amongst other things) that young urbanites, between the ages of 25-30, have some of the worst attitudes towards disabled people.

We knew that if we hoped to shift attitudes, we would really have to focus on this age group and that meant a significant shift in the ways we have traditionally communicated and engaged with supporters.

This age range want to be a lot more involved in the causes they support and we thought that it would be great to get them involved in the earlier stages of campaigns development. We also thought it would be a great opportunity to learn from campaigners and activists from other organisations, especially if we were willing to be quite open.

How has your team at Scope had to adapt for this piece of work?

The Game Changers has had massive implications on the ways we work. It is not common for an organisation to share campaign development with other organisations or the public at this stage and, obviously, there are risks involved.

I don’t think we always got this right. We were sometimes quite slow to share things and there were other things that we decided not to share (as we thought it would impact on the “surprise” element of the campaign). We certainly have a lot of learnings and would probably do some things differently.

Does this way of working mean more work for your team?

It hasn’t really. I think it has been massively beneficial to open ourselves up a bit more to the campaigning community, generally, as well as to our target audience.

I think getting sign-offs to share things has been a process that it would be great to streamline and that we could maybe have managed better if we’d agreed some more set parameters for sharing at the beginning of the project rather than having separate conversations all the way through.

What’s the feedback been like from the community? Did you have to sell the idea much to get buy-in to the process?

The feedback has all been really positive. It was really easy to get buy-in and we ended up getting contributions from people we never would have normally expected to have been able to engage with (Jonah Sachs…for example!)

Any standout ideas or realisations that you think wouldn’t have happened if you’d been planning in a more conventional way?

Using humour came out quite a bit, as did the need to meet our target audience a bit more in their space. Absolutely all of the contributions we received were really valuable and gave us some food for thought and an external perspective that we wouldn’t otherwise have had.

So what will you do differently in future?

I think the process of deciding what should and shouldn’t be shared was a lot more complicated than we had initially thought when we set-up the Game Changers and the ongoing decision process certainly stalled things a bit.

When you’re looking to engage people, you really need to update content quickly and we just weren’t able to do this.

I think that in the future, if we were doing something similar, we’d have to agree on what we would share much earlier on, so that there was no question later on in the process.

So far, the End the Awkward films have been watched over 1.3 million times and the campaign has generated around 100 items in the media (see the Scope blog for more information). 

With thanks to the eCampaigning Forum for putting us on to the campaign.