OverviewDo’s and don’ts
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Do’s and don’ts

Last edited: January 03, 2012

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  • Plan: As part of the overall strategic planning process, carry out a deliberate strategic communication planning process to devise and write down an explicit communication strategy. Ensure all campaigners know and support the communication strategy and its different elements.
  • Understand your audience: Undertake participatory research to define and understand target audiences precisely and choose the communication channels, techniques and tools most likely to reach them. Adapt your message, techniques and tools to the target audiences, diversifying methods so as to speak to all the segments of the audience that need to be reached.
  • Combine channels and tactics: Combine different communication channels, techniques and tools to reach target audiences in a range of settings and situations. Broadcasting messages via mass media is more likely to prompt lasting behaviour-change when combined with interpersonal interventions, in partnership with, for example, community organizations, schools and health providers (VicHealth, 2005: Review of Communication Components of Social Marketing... and Promundo/WHO, 2007). These can include engaging audiences in direct ways such as through media interviews or profiles, listener call-in radio segments or TV talk show formats, among others.
  • Keep abreast of new modes of communicating: The use of the internet and other modern technologies, through social media networks, Youtube, text messaging, Skype etc., is no longer a new phenomenon. Understanding how these work, and exploiting their potential for conveying messages rapidly to mass audiences, and mobilizing quick action, can be extremely beneficial to a campaign’s success.
  • Pre-test: Plan for ample time to check and re-check all messaging and communication materials with stakeholders, partners and members of your target audiences, through consultations, focus groups, feedback sessions, etc. Find out about other campaigns and how they have reached similar target audiences. Consider copying successful elements of other campaigns. Refer to Leading Initiatives, as well as access the References and Resources List at the end of this module for links to current campaigns.
  • Call for action in a straightforward way: One simple message that calls for clear action has a better chance of being understood than complex, multiple messages.
  • Value stakeholders’ and target audiences’ existing efforts to end VAW: Show how your campaign can complement or build on this, and help them to reach their goals.
  • Be prepared for unexpected communications opportunities and emergencies: For example, this could take the form of a media attack against the campaign (emergency), or an influential public figure may change his mind about the campaign issue and be willing to speak out publicly in support (opportunity). Any unexpected developments should include preparation of response messaging to react quickly, in order to either seize opportunities or mitigate crises. Where possible, the communications strategy should outline a number of potential unforeseen scenarios, and include specific related action plans to respond decisively.
  • Respect ethics:  Ensure messages and their delivery, are gender-sensitive and consistent with human rights, and do not reinforce negative stereotypes about women and men, and their roles. Address concerns of those experiencing multiple discriminations (e.g. because of disability, age or descent) by involving them in planning your communication strategy, and facilitate their participation in campaign events (e.g. by providing sign language translation). See also Adhering to Ethics in Campaigning under Guiding Principles in this module.

Ethical issues to consider when developing campaign communications

  • Assess risks when using testimonies and appeals for action by VAW survivors. Testimonies can be a powerful means to raise interest, but may cause harm for the survivor, such as psychological re-traumatization, unsupportive or hostile reactions from members of her community, or violent, potentially lethal assault. Discuss these risks with VAW survivors who intend to appear in public and verify whether their security is not under threat. Ensure there is someone who can comfort and support the VAW survivor in case of a crisis, e.g. psychologists, social workers or – if specialized support is unavailable – trusted friends. Additional precautions must be taken when working with girls who have survived VAW.
  • Do not use any information on specific cases of VAW that could make it possible to identify those concerned, unless there is informed consent. A possible exception is “naming and shaming”, i.e. publicizing proven violations perpetrated by well-known personalities, as a deliberate campaign tactic. In this case however, it is crucial to consult with the survivors affected by the case and obtain their full consent, and to present the issue in a way that protects the survivors’ dignity and privacy.
  • When selecting men as advocates for ending VAW, reduce risks through a vetting process, i.e. research and consult on their background to ensure they uphold women’s rights; ask them to sign a statement saying they have never used violence. Past histories of violence can derail the best campaigns!
  • As with all communication materials related to women’s rights, promote empowering messages, and abstain from presenting VAW survivors as passive victims who cannot change their situation. It may be necessary to coach any VAW survivors who give their testimony so that they can present their stories in a way that is moving, respectful and empowering for them.

Please see Adhering to Ethics in Campaigning for a fuller discussion of ethical issues to bear in mind.


  • Betray principles of gender-sensitivity and ethics for the sake of getting more attention (e.g. by displaying nudity or sensationalist images).
  • Exclude people affected by multiple discriminations from campaign activities, whether deliberately or by unintended omission.  
  • Adopt a negative or confrontational stance (e.g. by blaming all men for VAW), or belittle or disparage the work of others who are working to end violence against women and girls, even if their efforts have reaped little success. Instead, build on experience accumulated by others, and explore constructive ways in which existing efforts can be improved and errors corrected.
  • Get distracted by fads or gimmicks: Just because a communication channel or tool appears attractive (e.g. SMS campaigning, or offers by companies for free advertising in exchange for marketing their products), this does not mean that it is appropriate for your particular campaign. Gimmicky communications activities can sometimes backfire, distracting or turning your target audience away from your core message. It is important to research the benefit and consequences of using different types of channels or tools to see if these will work in your context and to your advantage.