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Every year thousands of animals suffer from neglect, cruelty and abuse. The RSPCA relies on voluntary fundraising and donations to carry out their vital work, but how does RSPCA Cymru continue to create engaging campaigns, capture the attention of the public, raise awareness and generate income to help these animals in need?

Working on the front line to prevent cruelty and rescue animals in need, RSPCA Cymru rescue, rehabilitate, investigate and advocate. Producing engaging and effective campaigns, RSPCA Cymru aims to raise awareness of animal rights issues and enable supporters to make a difference and end needless suffering. The RSPCA is the leading (and oldest) animal welfare charity around, comprised of their fearless inspectors and field staff, dedicated rescue and rehoming centres and branches, and support teams. In the words of Shelley Phillips “We are animal lovers on a mission to facilitate change”. We chat with Shelley Phillips, Campaign Manager at RSPCA Cymru, who sheds the light on the campaigns they create to keep audiences engaged year after year.

E: Tell us about your role at RSPCA Cymru.

S: As Campaign Manager for RSPCA Cymru, I manage our campaign development and delivery in Wales. Filled with thought-provoking campaign topics and sometimes devastating case studies, my job requires plenty of empathy, patience and agility.
My role is both politically powered and emotionally charged, which makes it as equally challenging as it is rewarding. The External Relations Wales team is fortunate enough to be based with our local inspectorate group, and the stories we hear are a daily reminder of the bigger picture, and of our purpose.

E: What campaigns and initiatives are RSPCA Cymru currently working on and what can we see for the future?

S: With a bursting portfolio of campaigning issues, we are always working on multiple areas at any given time. This year, we’ll be doing one last push of our long-standing campaign to end the use of wild animals in circuses, as we inch closer to the legislation coming into force in 2020. We’ll also be formally launching a new dog welfare campaign at our annual Big Walkies LIVE event, which we’re really excited to introduce to people. We’ll continue our efforts to change fireworks regulations for the better with our #BangOutOfOrder campaign, evolve our new project for businesses, the Animal Welfare Charter, and we’ll also be hard at work collaborating with other leading organisations in our bid to end breed specific legislation with a brand new campaign in 2021.

E: How are priorities planned and how do you split your efforts between campaigns?

S: We plan our work pretty far ahead, anticipating any political movement and working within our organisational goals, while weaving our calendar of in-house events. This means we need to start thinking about the year ahead in early Autumn, and put together rough timelines and goals for the upcoming year. We also have seasonal campaigns which ebb and flow throughout the year, such as Dogs Die In Hot Cars – these are issues we know we’ll be working on, so those are the easiest to plan for as activities peak at certain times. It’s also worth saying that there is also a great deal of decision-making that is naturally reactive, aligning with political shifts. We’re realistic about the fact that it’s not always possible to anticipate how and when things are
going to happen!

E: Has there been a shift in the types of campaigns that are created by RSPCA Cymru over the past 10 years?

S: At our core, our work is about preventing cruelty and creating an environment that respects and treats animals with kindness. Naturally, our campaigns fall in line with our mission by identifying areas or issues in Wales where progress can be made. Over the last decade, the campaigners who have worked at the organisation have led on key welfare issues such as wild animals in
circuses and third party sales of puppies and kittens but there has also been a gradual evolution into behavioural change campaigning too. I think this is due to the understanding that while our lawmakers hold the keys to enforcing change, that influencing and motivating human behaviour is equally as important.

E: What has been your favourite campaign at RSPCA Cymru?

S: While every issue is worthy of attention, it’s hard not to get attached to particular campaigns. My personal favourite is #EndBSL, which is our campaign to end breed-specific legislation in England and Wales. In a nutshell, BSL is a law that unjustly sentences countless dogs to death, just because of how they look. This is a campaign that tries to save the lives of innocent dogs, end discrimination and encourage education around responsible dog ownership.

The stakes are really high with this one, and last year saw some rewarding campaigning work for the cause, including our mini digital campaign for the legislative anniversary, and our discrimination themed “Do we look dangerous to you?” selfie frame at Pride Cymru. It’s also my favourite to work on as it is undergoing a big Cinderella moment, with a new campaign launching in 2021.

E: How do you measure the effectiveness of your campaigns and how do you use this information to develop future campaigns?

S: Like any organisation, we need insight to develop our campaigns. It’s within my nature to try to have the answers, but I’m completely realistic and honest that I can’t always get them by myself. I need to do the work and the research. While I absolutely loathe numbers, this is where they’re invaluable. We’re also fans of testing the water. Sometimes, it’s absolutely necessary
to trial a campaign before it is fully formed. A strategic soft launch can help us identify current public attitudes, tactics and how much budget should be allocated. Measurement can take place in many ways, but it really depends on the campaign itself. If there is a supporter action such as a petition or a letter, we can look at the number of actions taken and the political interest. If it’s behavioural change, we may need polling and some deep diving into social media engagement to pinpoint attitudes.

E: What do you see as the main challenges in terms of welfare and raising awareness and how do you overcome these in the campaigns you create?

S: I think as a charity, we face the same challenges that so many other third sector organisations face. Like many others, we rely heavily on the generosity of the public pocket, and I think the major challenge we face is being able to meet expectations of both our supporters and our critics, especially in a social media echo chamber, which can be quite critical. When it comes to campaigning, I firmly believe that creating human campaigns with emotional marketing that respects our audience helps people understand what we do, and sometimes this means tapping into new markets. Of course, our regional and national press and social media teams are also overcoming these challenges daily with brilliant reactive work and distributing heartfelt, crucial animal welfare stories to the public.

E: What top tips would you give for creating an effective campaign?

S: I say this a lot but bravery is such an underrated (and little talked about) trait in campaigners. It can be very easy to rely on the tried and tested approach, and there certainly is a time and a place for that. Don’t be afraid of ditching the predictable and tapping into emotion, getting more creative with concepts and taking a well calculated risk. The stories we tell are different each time, but the way we tell them shouldn’t be textbook. Be brave, not bored. With any kind of strategic comms, we’re taught early on that timing is everything. While timing does matter, deadlines aren’t everything and sometimes moving dates around is the smarter option. With budgeting, always pay your bills first. Always aim to deliver your campaigns slightly under budget and use the leftovers for additional social media spend and spare merch. All campaigns require an element of plate spinning, and sometimes, something has to give. Hiccups will happen, and it’s okay when they do.

Read this interview plus more from RSPCA Cymru and Mundy & Anson in BARK 9 HERE.

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