Fourth Day

Awareness days: tool to generate buzz or opportunity for authentic engagement?

I f you work in marketing, PR or social media, you’ll no doubt have your 2024 planners filled up with key dates.

These will include national and international holidays as well as events of importance for your industry.  Within these calendars, there will also be a weird and wonderful array of celebrations and commemorations.

These include the bizarre, such as “Talk like a pirate day” and “Take your dog to work day”, or the food focused National pizza day and World Nutella day. At the more serious end of the scale, there are also national events which encourage people to consider a particular issue.

For example, “Poppy Day”, created by the Royal British Legion, coincides with Armistice Day. The idea of wearing a badge or emblem is one that has been adopted by other charities, such as Marie Curie, which encourages supporters to wear daffodils in much the same way.

Today, almost every charity and campaigning organisation uses awareness days, weeks, and even months to get creative and connect with their audiences.

The question for brands is how can they authentically and effectively engage in the conversations that take place around these days? Making a comment on World Book Day is a world away from issuing a statement about Mental Health Awareness Week in your social media posts.

Being flippant can be costly

There are many examples of what NOT to do.  One high-profile example in recent years has been the use of International Women’s Day by numerous large organisations to proclaim their support of women in the workplace. Unfortunately, this led to many companies being exposed to criticism when it was pointed out that they were paying female employees significantly less than their male counterparts.

@PayGapApp, an account on X (formerly Twitter), was set up to automatically repost tweets by organisations on this subject, along with a note on the median hourly pay for women vs men at that organisation. Many red-faced companies removed their posts as a result of the exposure.

Even without this type of direct attack, if a brand behaves too flippantly it’s easy to look crass. Simply issuing a statement saying that you support a particular cause is not enough, particularly if there is no obvious reason why you should be supporting it.

"Today, almost every charity and campaigning organisation uses awareness days, weeks, and even months to get creative and connect with their audiences."

What’s the best approach?

If you decide to post about a calendar day, make sure it’s first relatable to your target audience. But it should also have a connection to your business values, services, or people. It may be an issue that has significance for just one individual at your organisation, but you need to make your interest clear.

You will also want to show that your brand is supporting the day in a genuine way. If the day is centred around sustainability for example, are you really doing more than just cutting back on the use of plastic cups in your office? If you’re posting about the day on social media, you could open yourself up to criticism if you can’t demonstrate that what you’re saying is in action at your organisation.

They can also be an opportunity for your brand to share useful advice and opinion from senior leadership. On International Women’s Day, for instance, we encourage female leaders among our clients to speak about their background and share advice on how other women can get into their industry with media.

Don’t just join in on every awareness day for the sake of it.  Make sure that for any “day” you put your brand behind, you can offer genuine insight or a different point of view for your followers. And above all, make sure that you actually care.

The author

Danny is an Account Manager in the Manchester office

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