Print campaigns by Extinction Rebellion and Bauer Media are driving change and even changing the law. But why are magazines and newspapers so good at driving social change?
At the time of writing, hundreds of people are occupying the streets of Perth in a series of peaceful protests against climate change. Under the collective name of Extinction Rebellion, the protesters have set up camp at various points around the city, blocking streets, chaining themselves to buildings and generally causing as much non-violent disruption as they can to focus the attention of the country’s political leaders on the climate emergency.
This fresh wave of action comes after a series of global Extinction Rebellion protests in which activists in 60 countries around the world, from Melbourne and Brisbane to London and New York, held demonstrations and marches to rally support and urge their own governments and organisations to take steps to tackle climate change.
As well as the marches, speeches and sit-ins, the London protest group also produced a newspaper, distributed free to commuters to let them know more about their campaign. Over a few days, more than 110,000 copies of The Hourglass were handed out, filled with expert opinion on the environment, reports on threatened species and an article on how scientists are warning that the climate crisis is developing faster than predicted, all on recycled paper of course.
You could argue that the protests are getting enough media coverage as it is, with reports on the disruption they’re causing on every news bulletin, but publishing their own newspaper allowed the organisers to get their message across without interruption, stating their case directly to their target audience in a physical format that has gravitas and permanence. If Extinction Rebellion were a brand, this print campaign would be a resounding success.
A history of social campaigns
Newspapers and magazines have a long history of instigating social campaigns and raising awareness of issues. Away from the hard news or soft lifestyle features, campaigns are a common feature of publishing, using the publication’s powerful brand value and incredible reach to drive real change at the heart of government.
Just over a year ago, Bauer Media launched a campaign through its magazine brands called No Gender Selective Tax (No GST).
The campaign was created to remove the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from the price of tampons, pads and sanitary items for all Australian women. Since the introduction of the GST in 2000, women have been paying tax on sanitary products – almost the only essential item purchased exclusively by one sex, meaning that the GST on it directly and solely penalises women.
Bauer Media placed content in 36 of their media brands, including Elle, The Australian Women’s Weekly, Cosmopolitan and Woman’s Day, highlighting the issue and calling for changes in the law, before encouraging people to sign a petition at bloodyannoying.com.
After over 100,000 people signed the petition, the Australian Government scrapped the tax just a few months after the campaign began.
Four steps to campaign success
The power of magazines and newspapers to rally the support of its readers and deliver social change is something that all brands can learn from, and boils down to four key points:
- Have a defined objective
The clearer and more focused your objective, the more successful your campaign is likely to be. Whether it’s raising awareness of climate change or forcing a change in the law, magazines usually have one thing they want to achieve and they throw all their weight behind that one objective. This means that the campaign is easy to communicate, easy to understand, and easy to get involved with.
- Be creative
The relationship between publication and reader is a two-way transaction: the reader gives their time, money and attention in return for entertaining and educational content. But when it comes to getting them to give extra, by lending their support to a defined campaign, they need something extra from the publication, so the editorial teams stretch their creativity, offering something new and surprising. So, think about how you can surprise your customer – make them laugh, make them think, offer a new take on a traditional format – and you’ll be rewarded in return.
- Use every platform available…
By their very nature, magazines and newspapers have a wealth of content and media space at their disposal, across a multitude of platforms. As experts in keeping the attention of their readers, they use that content and space to give maximum exposure to their campaign in the most engaging way possible. Not only that, each platform feeds into one another, creating a ‘virtuous circle’ of content that strengthens the bond between reader and campaign.
- …Especially print
It’s no accident that almost all campaigns for social change have print at their core. There will be online, social media, video and countless other forms of content, but the heavy lifting involved in grabbing attention, explaining the issue and compelling someone to take action will all be done by print. This is because publishers know that print offers the time and space for a reader to fully understand an issue, as well as providing a physical reminder that they need to get involved.
The Real Media Collective is an industry association representing the paper, print, mail, publishing and distribution companies across the Australian and New Zealand landscape.
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