As part of our guest blogging series, Act for Kids Executive Director Public Affairs, Partnerships & Advocacy Stephen Beckett shares how the media helps his organisation communicate its mission.
Who is Act for Kids?
Act for Kids is a ‘for-purpose’ enterprise working tirelessly to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect in Australia. Through prevention, treatment, research, education and advocacy, we are committed to supporting thousands of children, young people and their families.
Every single day in Australia, 130 children suffer abuse or neglect and since 1988, Act for Kids has provided life-changing therapy and support services to help children overcome their trauma. Last year alone, we helped 46,084 children, parents, and carers, however, there are many more kids who need urgent assistance.
Why is media relations important to Act for Kids?
Engaging with the media is a key part of our advocacy strategy. We are focused on protecting vulnerable children and their families, and giving kids a strong voice.
That means we help tell the stories of children and young people who have experienced the trauma of sexual, physical and emotional abuse, neglect and all forms of harm. We shine a light on the complex challenges children and families face in modern Australia, and aim to influence government policy, corporate business practice and community understanding that child protection is everyone’s business. We all have a role to play.
One statistic that breaks my heart is that when a child works up the courage to disclose they are being harmed, only one in four adults do anything about it, such as reporting it to authorities. That means 75% of kids being harmed fall through the cracks.
At Act for Kids, it’s our job to bring child abuse and neglect out of the shadows and motivate Australians to take action. This can be done effectively via the media and by leveraging partnerships. An example is our terrific partnership with the Brisbane Broncos. Together, we are clear that domestic and family violence is never ok.
Through all forms of media, we provide a platform for role models within the Broncos to connect, particularly with men, and implore Australians to ‘make your home game your A-game’.
The media is also key to driving our fundraising efforts to fund a range of our critical services – the more funds we raise, the more kids we can help.
What media campaign has worked for Act for Kids?
A recent highlight was last year’s ‘One Less Present’ Christmas initiative. The campaign invited children to write their Christmas wish list to Santa and then choose a present they would ‘give up’ for a child who has nothing. Their parent or carer would then visit the One Less Present website and donate the value to Act for Kids.
It was a thought provoking campaign encouraging all members of the family to consider that Christmas isn’t the most wonderful time of the year for everyone – it’s not what’s under the tree that matters, it’s what isn’t.
Media relations was a huge part of this campaign to reach both national and local audiences and this was supported by engaging some of our media ambassadors.
We launched the campaign with a video of a social experiment where we asked children to give up one of their presents for a child with nothing. This was supported by a physical media launch at King George Square, Brisbane. The central location raised awareness of the community-wide issue of child abuse and neglect, while urging a rethink of the true meaning of Christmas.
To give the occasion a festive vibe we engaged with local youth choral organisation, Voices of Birralee to sing Christmas carols, and were also joined by Act for Kids’ ambassadors Kay McGrath and Kim Skubris, both affiliated with Channel 7 Brisbane.
The campaign exceeded our expectations, securing positive media coverage and reaching over 2.8 million people. It raised $145,000 to provide 1,446 hours of evidence-based integrated therapy.
This result was the outcome of a successful partnership with four dedicated agencies delivering their specialist services via a pro bono capacity; Elevate Communication, Publicis Australia, Zenith, and an outdoor advertising agency.
What are some of the challenges Act for Kids faces with media relations?
Much of what Act for Kids deals with is too difficult to communicate in the media – the extent of hurt can be challenging for ordinary people to understand – and we have to protect the interests and identities of our kids.
People often ask how we do what we do, and I tell them it’s simple. We see and hear traumatised kids who have struggled to survive turn the corner and thrive. I know firsthand of the positive impact trauma-informed therapy has on a young, developing mind. Our team can literally put broken hearts and minds back together.
I owe it to those kids to tell their stories in a way that protects their identity, and at the same time doesn’t vicariously traumatise our supporters. That’s often a really hard task.
But it’s their stories that force governments to act, and change people’s mindset on mutual and community responsibility reminding all Australians that child protection is everyone’s business. We often focus on what’s amazing; how trauma therapy helps these beautiful kids get a second chance at childhood. Something many people take for granted.
The people I work with are amazing, they’re inspirational. When a child so horrifically abused is well enough to go to school and fit in like everyone else, and now lives in a safe place with people who care for them, then we know we’ve made an impact.
How else does Act for Kids communicate its messages?
We engage with our supporters through regular email updates, and via our social media platforms; Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. These channels have been growing in popularity, as we provide updates for families, positive parenting tips, and outline what we’re doing to protect children. Social media is a great avenue to encourage the community to engage in public debate and to have input into policymaking, and we use it to execute our broader advocacy plans and to raise funds for vulnerable families.
How can people learn more or support Act for Kids?
I’d love to hear from people who are interested in knowing more about our work. We rely heavily on a range of corporate and pro-bono supporters including Elevate Communication!
I’m always up for a chat about how partners can work together – please send me an email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about Act for Kids via actforkids.com.au.