Windows on Pain was a public relations campaign by the Pain Management Research Institute (PMRI) Sydney, which is renowned for its research of chronic pain. The program was developed to help raise awareness about the impact of chronic pain and by profiling the PMRI, encourage donations to support critical research into this area. Reputation worked pro bono for the PMRI on a targeted campaign in NSW and ACT from December 2008 to June 2009,
The Windows on Pain campaign was aimed at raising awareness of the high incidence of chronic pain in Australia and the lack of both government and private funding for ongoing research in this area.
The campaign included a travelling art exhibition, a fundraising dinner auction and a Windows of Pain Awareness Day, supported by a traditional media and social media outreach program.
Through the implementation of a comprehensive communications strategy, Reputation was successful in increasing the visibility of the PMRI and raising awareness of the impact of chronic pain. This resulted in an increase in fundraising for the PMRI and the development of an online community of people with chronic pain to continue to draw attention to this issue.
A key issue facing PMRI was the lack of funds for key research into chronic pain. In 2009, PMRI reported that they were not able to help up to 20 percent of the total patients approaching the Institute due to lack of resourcing and funding. At times it could take as long as one year for non-emergency patients to be seen.
Another key issue for the PMRI was that chronic pain was not perceived as a ‘glamorous’ subject, often shrouded in avoidance, invisibility and silent suffering. It does not have the same profile as other chronic conditions, despite pain being one of the top four health problems in Australia.
A 2007 Access Economics study revealed there are 3.2 million Australians of working age suffering from chronic pain with a total cost of $34 billion each year to the economy in form of lost workdays and associated healthcare costs. However, despite it being a widespread problem, affecting a range of age groups it was not seen as a “priority” area by the Federal Government.
In order to raise the profile of chronic pain in Australia it was important for the PMRI to provide a ‘voice’ for sufferers of chronic pain and give them an outlet to highlight the struggles they face every day. Given the impact of chronic pain on productivity it was considered important to emphasise to employers the impact of living and working with chronic pain to ensure understanding and tolerance in the workplace.
In 2008, the Windows of Pain campaign raised limited funds and created minimal visibility for the PRMI. In 2009 PMRI recruited the expertise of Reputation, who identified there was a clear need to target key stakeholders with a louder message and higher visibility, in order to raise much needed funds in a difficult economic climate and increased competition for funds from other charities.
Prior to developing the communications strategy for Windows on Pain, Reputation undertook the following research and activities:
- Hosted a communication strategy planning and brainstorming session with key PMRI representatives, supporters of the campaign, chronic pain patients and the artists who were to donate their artworks for auction
- Outputs from this session included identification of the key stakeholders, a clear understanding of both the business and communications objectives and provided Reputation with an opportunity to brainstorm key elements of the program with the group
- A review of the key learnings of the 2008 Windows in Pain program to identify new opportunities for 2009
- Desktop research of key stakeholder groups including the impact of both traditional print and social media on these stakeholders in relation to attitudes towards chronic pain and the main issues surrounding chronic pain including an audit of key bloggers and media
The communications strategy developed by Reputation included social media as well as a mix of media and non-media activities, to engage the targeted publics about the Window of Pain campaign.
The target publics were identified as the following:
Media – Mainstream media in NSW (print, TV, radio and online), health, workplace and arts media were targeted to raise awareness of the issues related to chronic pain and the PMRI in the general public.
Government – Reputation engaged directly Government departments and agencies on behalf of the PMRI to help put the issue of chronic pain on the Governments agenda in the hope of achieving more funds for research.
Employers - Reputation targeted large corporations (over 3000 employees) to educate them on the significance of chronic pain in the workplace and create an incentive to donate funds.
Health Networks – Engagement with industry associations and professional bodies, and area health services was crucial to raising awareness about chronic pain and support for the PMRI.
Consumers and General Public – Effective communication with the general public and those affected by chronic pain, their families and friends provided an opportunity to establish and engage a community of supporters and support network to express key issues.
The communication strategy developed by Reputation on behalf of the PMRI included a launch event for the Windows on Pain Art Exhibition; a media relations program and a consumer publicity plan for the Windows on Pain awareness day.
In order to achieve the main objectives of raising awareness of the impact of chronic pain, the work of the PMRI and the need for ongoing funding the following strategic approach was taken:
- The development of an innovative program to raise awareness of the impact of chronic pain and PMRI to a range of stakeholders including employers and Government to encourage funding for ongoing research
- A public demonstration of the PMRI’s commitment to people with chronic pain by developing innovative programs to raise the profile of PMRI
- The development of a community of supporters to continue to publicly advocate more funding for research and greater understanding by employers of people with chronic pain
Taking into consideration the PMRI’s limited resources and ad-hoc implementation of communication activities for the campaign in 2008, Reputation developed a comprehensive communication strategy and implementation plan incorporating traditional media, social media and non-media activities.
Given there was no budget for the program, media and online coverage was essential to generate awareness and support for the cause. Particular emphasis was placed on social media as it was the main channel used to drive traffic to the Windows on Pain website which was developed to encourage donations.
To help encourage participation of supporters suffering from pain, Reputation used peer-group discussions through social media tools to engage with those interested in participating in this ongoing community.
The Windows on Pain campaign ran from Monday 4 May to Friday 12 June 2009 in NSW and ACT, and consisted of two stages of activities: community outreach and media.
Reputation recommended creating a public awareness campaign with particular emphasis on digital tactics that included:
Major Event: Windows on Pain Group Show and Auction: Reputation worked with the PMRI to organise all aspects of this art show and auction as the major fundraiser for the campaign. Thirty leading and emerging artists interpreted pain in painting, drawing, etching, photography, sculpture, ceramics and installation and video works, taking pain beyond the stereotypes. A number of artists worked collaboratively with people with severe persistent pain.
The art show was launched at Carriageworks in Redfern, Sydney on 6 May which was opened by the NSW Health Minister. It toured to Willoughby, Gosford Regional Art Gallery, Parramatta Riverside Theatre and Canberra Theatre and helped raise funds for the PMRI.
The art works were then auctioned at a dinner for 300 people in the NSW Art Gallery on 12 June 2009 which was attended by the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health.
Major Event: Windows on Pain Day: Reputation worked with PMRI on the Windows on Pain Day, on Friday 5 June 2009, which focussed on public fundraising in NSW-ACT, particularly through badge sales in ANZ branches, pharmacies, hospitals, sports clubs and fitness centres. (See Appendix A).
‘Blog Your Pain’: Reputation created and managed a blog called ‘Blog Your Pain’ (http://windowsonpain.blogspot.com/) to engage a community of supporters with chronic pain and provide an opportunity for them to interact. (See Appendix A)
Reputation also created a two minute multi-media slideshow video on the response to the exhibition through interviews with the PMRI spokespeople and visitors to the exhibition and this video was posted on the blog.
Viral communication: Reputation developed a viral email titled ‘Do You Know Someone in Pain’ that was circulated to friends, family and other networks of the campaign supporters. This email was designed in such a way that clicking anywhere on the email would direct you to the Windows on Pain website. This viral campaign is continuing and includes a children’s competition, which is a strong “education and long term support” investment for the PMRI.
The media strategy developed by Reputation was undertaken throughout the campaign. In line with the PR strategy, Reputation distributed media releases and pitched targeted story ideas for different media in the build-up phase and during the campaign including:
- Health and pharmaceutical media – a media release was sent two months prior to the campaign to raise awareness about the impact of chronic pain, issues around research and treatment of pain, pain management and role of supporters such as Reckitt Benckiser;
- Arts media – this included issuing a media release focusing on artists, artworks and the exhibitions;
- Local media (print, broadcast and online) and what’s-on sections – an event press release was issued highlighting the exhibition and art auction; and
- Mainstream media – this included all major NSW newspapers, TV and radio programs with different story angles involving artists, artworks and patient stories
The Windows on Pain campaign allowed the PMRI to successfully launch its travelling art exhibitions and auction, with the dinner and auction raising approximately $85,000. This event also received the highest volume of media coverage to-date with 26 media placements. (See Appendix A)
Overall, Reputation was 100 per cent successful in achieving the overall goals and objectives through the strategic approach and the implementation of activities. Reputation was also successful in creating high visibility, greater understanding of chronic pain and increased fundraising for the Windows on Pain campaign.
Please refer to Results section.