Campaigns – make them fizz, not fizzleOctober 17th, 2011 | Posted by in Blog
Lawyers are often the perfect candidates to launch, support and publicise a campaign. They can be the voice for those who have been wronged, when they are unable to do it for themselves.
Contrary to some views, lawyers do have a leaning towards the most natural form of justice rather than being focused on the billable hours. A campaign is an excellent PR vehicle for carrying the core message and aims of a cause that would otherwise be voiceless.
It is the human rights lawyers who will stand up to any plans to remove the Human Rights Act, it is lawyers behind the Sound Off For Justice campaign who petition to give access to justice for all , and it is a 29 year old solicitor based in Manchester, Greg Almond, who is behind a campaign to ban a dangerous hair dye chemical, PPD. Just this week, two weeks after the campaign launched to highlight the dangers of using hair dye, the news reported a tragic story about a young girl who died after using a home hair dye kit. Critics of lawyer-backed campaigns will sometimes point to a hidden agenda, but the other side of the coin is that agents of justice have spotted a serious injustice or danger that needs fixing.
Solicitors often see the consequences of other people’s actions. Greg feels passionate about highlighting the dangers of using hair dye and in particular getting a regularly used chemical ingredient PPD banned after seeing the effects on his clients. It’s already been banned in parts of Europe so why not here? Greg makes a good point when he says solicitors have a role to play in ensuring justice is done for each individual client, but even more importantly, where there is a widespread problem solicitors are in a position to do something about it and act as the voice for those who have been wronged and make critical changes.
There is no doubt that a campaign will raise a lawyer’s profile, but that is a by-product of being a part of it rather than the purpose. The broadcast and print media are covering the campaign and MPs are coming on board while the signatories to the e-petition are growing in numbers.
Even if the aim is not achieved the outcome can be that the issue has been put on the map or climbed the agenda, entered the public consciousness.
The point is a campaign has the impact and momentum to drive a single issue or message into the media.
The Almond Solicitors hair dye ban campaign might seem strange at first – solicitors and hair dye allergies are not naturally synonymous – but perhaps that’s what will make it stand out and give it momentum.
Even the Law Society’s latest consumer campaign, with it’s ‘use a solicitor’ core thread is a useful vehicle for delivering that message to consumers.
However, it’s what happens after a campaign that is critical. Does everything come to shuddering halt? Do you pack up and go home? Often the PR you pursue post-campaign is more important in maintaining the presence of the issue or message, otherwise it risks being yesterday’s news rendering the campaign completely pointless.
To illustrate this it will be interesting to see what happens after the campaigns I mentioned above come to an end. The Law Society consumer campaign will probably be recycled under a different heading next year, while the Almond Solicitors campaign will be ongoing, highlighting the dangers of hair dye and other products containing PPD, and picking up support until the dangers are highlighted and PPD is banned.
It is campaigns like this that can bring all sides of the legal profession together. Leading personal injury QC Gerard McDermott says that lawyers are often criticised for the work they undertake in personal injury claims. He commends Greg’s approach which he says underlines the fact that for most solicitors the work they undertake is more than about earning a living – it is about pursuing a remedy for their client – but sometimes more importantly, also about seeking to address issues such as these in the wider public interest.
The campaign plants the seed. It’s the big bang, but it requires ongoing growth and development to embed the messages the campaign sought to achieve. Every campaign communications strategy needs a post-campaign PR plan attached to it otherwise the whole thing will have been a waste of time. Maintaining the message is the name of the game.
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