World PR Forum – Using the Power of Stories to End Global Poverty

With the World Public Relations Forum arriving in Melbourne 18-20 November 2012, there’s bound to be plenty of on and offline conversations around the changing role of communications. But with a theme of “Communication Without Borders” – it appears the organisers are setting a broad agenda.

One of the more interesting sessions scheduled for the three day event will be hosted by Michael Sheldrick, from the Global Poverty Project (GPP). His view is that the world of PR has plenty to learn from the practices of seasoned social campaign-focused organisations like the Global Poverty Project.

The GPP engages people in a new way that shows progress in the fight against global poverty. Through their work and directly via their communications at all levels, the GPP aims to “show people that movements can still change the world”. The key to this, Michael explains, is to “craft stories that captivate large numbers of people”.

He sees that there are four elements to a successful campaign:

  1. Grassroots advocacy – tapping into the personal power and passions of your grassroots supporters
  2. Media engagement – enlisting celebrities and activists with loyal followings provide a focus for media engagement and storytelling
  3. Public engagement – extending the conversation on and offline (from YouTube and image sharing, petitions through to local activists making phone calls to local MPs)
  4. Government relations – lobbying and working with political advisors, ministers to provide them with the “public ammunition” they can use to effect change

But how does this work in practice? Is there a measurable impact?

The GPP measure by outcomes – not likes, follows, impressions or even reach and frequency. By way of example, Michael shared details of the recent The End of Polio campaign.In Australia, there were two goals – to have Prime Minister, Julia Gillard raise this campaign at a regional summit – and for the Australian Government to contribute $50 million to polio vaccination programs. Both of these goals were achieved – and Prime Minister Gillard went a step further, urging other leaders to contribute – resulting in a total of $118 million being contributed.

But there is also plenty of experimentation in the GPP approach. They are hosting a “free ticketed” music festival in Central Park, NYC, featuring Neil Young, Foo Fighters and the Black Keys later this month. To attend, you have to download the app and then earn points by learning, sharing and taking action against extreme poverty. Concert goers go into the draw to win two tickets only AFTER earning “three points” on the Global Citizen App.

With over 50,000 downloads, over 30,000 people have already accrued enough points to go into the draw for tickets.

One of the things that I like most about this is the strategy. There is clear alignment between the brand, the vision, the action and the lifestyle of their social consumers. There is an experience on offer but there is also a social compact. This shifts the relationship from merely one of transaction (buying a ticket, watching a show) to engagement (make an impact, join a movement).

Now – if only more of our communications achieved this much – we’d all live in a much better world. Or at least a world without poverty.

Don’t forget you can catch Michael Sheldrick at the World PR Forum in November 2012.

Read previous post:
Sydney Cycleways Changing the Way We Experience Sydney

Years ago I did some work in Munich. Our office was in the centre of town and my hotel (if...

Close