This guide will help you create a media and communications plan for your prevention of violence against women initiative.
- the key elements of an effective communications plan and how to get started
- tips for developing your key messages and deciding which communications to use
- the best advice on preparing for and responding to backlash.
Communications and social marketing campaigns
These techniques use communications to raise awareness of violence against women and challenge harmful attitudes, behaviours and social norms across a variety of media and popular entertainment channels including television, radio, print, online media and social media.
Institutions like the media represent important ‘culture creators’ that can have a powerful role in establishing norms and disseminating information, and therefore influencing social change. These initiatives aim to encourage behavioural and attitudinal change.
Experience from communications initiatives on other topics show that communications campaigns alone have limited impact, but can be powerful when undertaken as part of a broader multi-setting and multi-technique initiative.
Key messages of communications initiatives must be supported by leaders within the community to demonstrate support for the desired changes.
Strategies should be based on rigorous and relevant research and testing with relevant audiences to ensure effectiveness and avoid unintended consequences such as reinforcing stereotypes. They should have simple and consistent key messages with tailored messages for specific target audiences and channels.
Examples of effective campaigns using this technique come from other areas of public health prevention including on tobacco use, physical activity and sun smart behaviours.
In each case, communications and marketing campaigns were effectively combined with broader strategies that contributed to whole-of-population change around harmful social norms, practices and structures.
Activities and aims
Sustained multi media campaigns
Challenge attitudes and norms that condone violence or promote gender inequality using radio, television, billboards or other channels to ‘saturate’ the wider community.
Bring together prevention practitioners and service providers to advocate for reform to policy and legislation to address structural, society-level barriers to gender equality.
Encourage young people to discuss violence and promote gender equality through the use of social media or television series alongside a complementary peer education program that reinforces key messages of the overarching strategy.
Engage arts organisations to find creative platforms to promote messages on ending violence against women.
Use creative platforms to engage diverse population groups through relevant popular culture.
A tip to ensure gender-transformation
Prevention strategies that incorporate a communications campaign must ensure that all messages and images used do not inadvertently reinforce stereotypes on gender or other forms of disadvantage and inequality.
A gender transformative approach to communications and social marketing means that all content is delivered in a way that challenges rigid and harmful beliefs including sexism, ableism, racism and other forms of discrimination. Be careful not to present messages that misrepresent, exploit or sensationalise people’s stories or lives and make sure all work is supportive of women’s independence and decision making.
Best practice is to pilot all campaign content with your target audience to ensure your messages are accessible and appropriate, and to seek media advocacy training and support where necessary.
What works and what doesn’t in campaigns and social marketing
- Avoid single component awareness-raising strategies, which are ineffective in shifting complex social norms. They may raise awareness and ‘break the silence’ about violence against women but are rarely transformative. They may also have adverse effects by reinforcing a belief that violence against women is normal or inevitable.
- Develop key messages that are simple, strong and consistent and address the drivers of violence against women. Move beyond raising awareness.
- If the campaign is targeted at the local community level, ensure it is based in community mobilisation and leadership at a grassroots level. Assess local experiences and needs of the community or setting you are working in before developing the key messages of the campaign. Test these messages again with your target audience before finalising them.
- Involve well-known leaders from a wide range of groups in the target community to appeal to and engage with a broader audience, and to publicly role model the key messages of the campaign.
- Devise campaigns with multiple components to promote key messages through a range of platforms including social media, posters and pamphlets, along with traditional media such as radio, newspapers and television.
- Brief relevant support services so they have an opportunity to plan responses to increased demand as a result of a communications or marketing campaign, particularly in localised areas.
- Be aware of potential backlash or other negative consequences that the campaign may have.
- Tailor messages for specific audiences and channels. Recognise that communications and social marketing campaigns will reach people from diverse backgrounds and work to make sure that violence prevention messages do not take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
- Develop positive and constructive violence prevention campaigns, which use inclusive images and language. This might include positive images of women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and older women, and diverse depictions of healthy relationships, families and communities. Do not use disempowering stereotypes such as racist stereotypes of abused women and children from a specific cultural or ethnic group. Images and language need to reflect diversity.
About Our Watch
Our Watch is a national leader in the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. We work to embed gender equality and prevent violence where Australians live, learn, work and socialise.Find more about Our Watch