In a first for Pakistan, Mediators Private Limited (MPL), an affiliate of Burson Marsteller, a global PR company part of the WPP group, won two awards at the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) Golden World Awards for Excellence in Sofia, Bulgaria, on October 13. Dr Samia K. Babar, CEO, Mediators, received the awards on behalf of the consultancy.
MPL won in the Healthcare Category and was also the recipient of the Global Contribution Award for their campaign ‘Student Movement Against Childhood Diseases’ which was executed on behalf of UNICEF.
The first award was for executing an outstanding public relations campaign in the pharmaceuticals or healthcare industry while the second one was for implementing a campaign that best meets one of the UN’s 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
Since the objective of MPL’s campaign was to raise awareness about polio and other childhood diseases in Pakistan, this initiative was aligned with SDG3, “to ensure healthy lives”.
The campaign,which targeted the lower income groups, began in Karachi towards the end of 2014 and continued until the beginning of this year. The initial plan was to develop an awareness campaign for polio to encourage parents to have their children immunised.
However, the negative public reaction prompted MPL to change their strategy. According to Babar, “a large section of our target audience believed that having their children vaccinated for polio would endanger their lives or make them infertile. We therefore decided to make the awareness campaign more holistic by including eight other diseases affecting children, including diphtheria, measles, meningitis, pneumonia, tetanus and tuberculosis.”
MPL developed the literature in English and Urdu which informed people about the dangers that each one of the diseases posed. A major challenge was communicating this information to the intended audience and changing their mindsets.
For this, MPL collaborated with Dow University of Health Sciences and more than 1,200 students joined the campaign as volunteers. Kiosks were installed at various points throughout the city where students handed out the literature and interacted with the local community to educate them about the benefits of immunisation.
Babar adds that “each student was tasked with the responsibility to reach at least 10 people, which means that campaign reached almost 12,000 families across the city.”
In addition to creating awareness about these diseases among parents, the student volunteers also made presentations and performed skits in schools so that children were informed about the health risks they face if they have not been vaccinated against these easily preventable diseases. The idea was to encourage children to ask their parents to have them immunised.