Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Use of Public Relations by Non-Government Organizations (NGOs): A Case Study Approach

Key aim of this paper is to discuss how an NGO can effectively use Public Relations (PR) activities. Taking a case study approach, this document will outline the issue of Child labour in India and how Child Rights and You (CRY) can use PR activities to better communicate the issue of child rights in the country.

Situational Analysis: India is home to the largest number of child labourers in the world – 17 million continue to suffer even after the the Child Labour (Prohibition & Regulation) Act, was passed as early as 1986. Child labour in general terms means the work for children which harms them or exploits them in some or the other way, either mentally, physically, and morally or by restricting them the right to education. Children according to international conventions are those aged 18 and under.

While various specialized agencies and NGOs continue to aggressively push this message in India, Child Relief and You (CRY) is the most vocal amongst all and hence chosen as a case study for this document.

PR Objectives: To successfully deliver the messages against Child labour, CRY needs to first identify the key objectives (below) that it must achieve through the PR activities.

· Educating the masses in India and helping them understand the true meaning of child labour.

· To ensure both parents and children are aware about Right to Education (RTE) and that children must go to a school and not work instead

· Ensuring that each family has basic rights and the pressure of poverty does not force the child to get into child labour

· Gather support from civic, legal authorities and push them to ban employment below the age of 18

Target Audience: Given the multi-faceted nature of the cause, it’s imminent for CRY to target a variety of groups and ensure activism can be transpired to the grass root levels.

· Firstly, while the onus will be on people who employ children aged 18

· The campaigns will also target people in the community who already support the cause and are willing to help to further spread the message.

· CRY will also target associations and bodies that are in position to fund such campaigns, and

· Lastly, civic and legal bodies that can help to enforce laws to curb the issue

Key Messages: As discussed above, while the campaign is targeted at a host of groups to collectively make the move against this cause a success, the fundamentals and underlying messages remain the same. The broader messages arising from this campaign must include, but not remain limited to:

· There’s an imminent need to look at the children’s issues in their entirety, rather than just focusing on education, child abuse, child labour, health etc.

· The issues of Child labour has a strong connect to the broader issues of caste, livelihood, deprivation-gender etc

· The need for various local communities to come together and find a long term solution to these problems

Strategy & Tactics: While a variety of PR and marketing tools can be implemented, it’s important to for CRY to handpick those that offer a healthy balance between high reach and effectiveness.

Stage 1: Awareness

· Create a website that explains the campaign, its activities and reasons why we must act collectively to eradicate child labour from our country.

· Use of Twitter and Facebook – social media has proved to be an effective PR tool, offering the much desired reach to a large base of users at an effective cost. CRY must use Twitter and Facebook to spread awareness about the issue to large volumes of people.

· Blogs – A blog on Child labour can be used in tandem with the website to reflect on the issues faced by the underprivileged youth of our country and how all of us can help in eradicating this issue. Blogs can also be used to arrange online discussion on the issue and exchange ideas.

Stage 2: Activism

· Celebrate World day against Child labour – The International Labour Organization has declared June 12th as the world day against child labour and this day can be celebrated through organizing rallies and sport events in metropolitan and other key towns in the country. This effort can be coupled with social media tools to spread awareness.

Stage 3: Action

· Take the Oath Campaign – Aim to get at least 5,000 people across each Indian metro to take oath of not employing children as a household help.

· Hold press meets and get local governments to publicly announce their intent to help enforce law.

Evaluation: Following the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) approach, an ideal PR strategy must uses a mix of tools that work in tandem to achieve the desired objectives. In this case, while there are certain tactics that have a wider reach and can help spread the message, others help to create on-ground activism and action. For example, social media tools will be most successful to build awareness about the issue (given their wide reach) and can help to engage proactively with the audience and get comments, suggestions and their thoughts about the issue instantly. On the other hand, tactics like a press meet, sign up by local government and taking oaths help in on-ground, real-time action which social media tools cannot provide. Overall, I expect the campaign to leave a strong impression on people’s mind and help move steps closer to eradicating the issue from India.


  1. Yes, it has to be a mix of strategies and it would be better to first segment the target audience and use specific PR tools for those segments. For example, two types of child employment come to my mind as of now:

    1) Children employed in middle-income and higher-income households: the employers here are educated and are regular users of all sorts of media (print, TV, social media, etc.) and therefore can be easily educated by using social media campaigns, oath campaigns etc. One analogy here would be NiE (Newspaper in Education) and some other campaigns where schools were targeted to educate the children about the various ills (smoking, etc.). These children would then go back to their homes and educate their parents, and this turned out to be much more effective than educating the parents directly. Similarly, if the children of the employers of child labor are made to feel that the child whom their parents have employed also has a right to education just like them - that would be a much more effective strategy.

    2) Second category of employment is the children employed in restaurants, factories, etc. The employers in this case are neither highly educated nor active Internet users. Moreover, they are highly insensitive to the awareness campaigns and the needs of the children employed by them. Such employers can only be dealt with strong implementation of laws.

    So, while 'shaming the employer' can be effective in the first category, the same tactic would not work in the second one.

  2. Well said Vineet. I totally agree with you and thank you for exchanging your thoughts with me :)

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  4. Nothing remain forever. Then why to keep same patter of work again and again. Why to repeat same strategy for very essay. Use differ strategy for different subjects because every subject has its own meaning. Keep such posts on.waarzegger