How to use national awareness days in a PR and social media campaigns
by Suzanne Howe Communications Senior Consultant Bill Bruce
Once an American phenomenon, national awareness days are now popular around the world, and have even expanded to become weeks as well as whole months. Historically, awareness days were created by organisations or charities to highlight a cause or issue, but today there seems to be an awareness day for almost everything. Many are backed by governments or international bodies such as the United Nations, but if you want to create your own, you don’t have to go through any official channels.
Many national days are worthy, such as World Hunger Day, World Book Day, or International Women’s Day, while many have been created to bring focus to important subjects such as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, World Blood Donor Day, or Mental Health Awareness Week.
The origins of the more bizarre, such as National Lost Sock Memorial Day are unknown, while the American founders of International Talk Like a Pirate Day have a Wikipedia page explaining how it came about. If your audience is likely to share the joke or admire them, then even the most unusual days should be considered.
However, some which began as light-hearted, have gained credibility by being adopted by good causes. One of my favourite examples is National Cupcake Day which has become a vehicle for fund-raising for the Alzhheimer’s Society.
During the pandemic, some already established focuses such as National Hygiene Week, and National Handwashing Awareness Week, gained in importance.
Let’s look at how to use national awareness days in a PR and social media campaigns
Planning ahead and choosing the right day(s)
Working in PR can often feel very reactive and last minute, but national days are literally calendarised, so they provide the opportunity to plan ahead and create campaigns around days which are relevant to your client’s business or sector.
Finding a day that is relevant to your client or sector does not take a great deal of research, as there are several websites devoted to listing all of the National Awareness Days, weeks and months. You’ll come across many that amuse and you’ll no doubt spend a moment wondering how you can connect them to your client.
There are a few that we have been able to use for our clients including National Drive-Thru Day which is a good match for our client Amipak, as a producer of packaging for takeaway food, while National Baklawa Day is a perfect fit for our client Dina Foods which manufactures the Mediterranean sweet treats and connecting to the day created a successful Instagram competition. Who wouldn’t want to win a kilo of delicious hand-made baklawa?
Just a word of warning. Check your client’s competitors and avoid aligning your clients with specific national days that they support. Even if relevant, it may still look as if you’re copying them. However, for celebrations such as World Environment Day, or Earth Day, it may be that collective sector support is actually the right way to go.
It’s all about the hashtags?
Attach your client to the right days for the right reasons. If you’re a vegan food producer then choosing to launch a new product on World Vegan Day, or championing Meat Free Monday provides context, while also making it easy to collect followers who are actively looking for like-minded individuals and companies.
Don’t forget to use relevant hashtags for the day, so that your content can be easily found. Pictures, gifs, and videos grab extra attention on social media, but remember to include the client’s logo for added value.
Don’t overdo it!
Frequent use of awareness days on social media is acceptable and audiences might even grow to expect your client to tell them it’s National Fish & Chip Day, but if you’re weaving awareness days into news stories and product launches, be careful not to devalue your message by doing it too often – and keep the connection as relevant as possible.
It’s the story, not the day
Finally, national awareness days themselves are not the story, they’re just a reason to post something related to them on the day or run a campaign building up to them. It’s all about how that day relates to your client’s business or sector. Using national days on social media platforms is fairly obvious and can be very effective, but if you’re connecting a launch or event to a day via news stories, you’ll need to get your timing right – and ensure the story is genuinely newsworthy.
For content-hungry social media channels, national awareness days are a gift, but use them carefully to gain best value for your clients. Having said that, they can be ice-breakers and talking points. There’s something comforting in knowing that it is National Pencil Appreciation Day, or National Awkward Moments Day, while some can even inspire, such as National Clean Your Desk Day.
I wonder what day it is today? Maybe I’ll declare my own?