Pro Bono: good for business and good for the soul

By James Porter

Oct 16, 2018

The relationship between PR employee and journalist is complicated. When it’s going well it involves a graceful back and forth and an emotional symbiosis that Seann Walsh and Katya Jones would be proud of. When it goes badly? Think Theresa May doing the robot levels of awkwardness.

What helps this relationship are good stories, interesting events and important news. Whilst this can often be a troublesome trio to pin down, they come more naturally to some clients. More often than not, these clients are charities and the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) has been my first encounter with this sector. It has been both rewarding and interesting in abundant and equal measure.

CALM’s original mission was to shed light on the issue of male suicide and raise awareness of the terrifying statistics that show that I am the biggest threat to myself whilst under the age of 45. The biggest threat to me living a long and happy life is myself…it is a bizarre thought and a hard concept to get one’s head around, but it is true and the statistics are terrifying.

The top lines are as follows: suicide is the single biggest killer of men aged under-45 in the UK. 84 men a week attempt to take their own life. Only 55% of men who’ve experienced depression will tell anyone about it.

These three stats encapsulate one underlying problem: society is facing a huge challenge and only half of those directly affected by it feel okay talking about it.

To combat this epidemic, in March 2018, 84 life-sized sculptures were installed in London as part of Project 84, a campaign which raised national awareness of the fact that 84 men take their own lives every single week in the UK. It initiated a much-needed conversation around male suicide and launched a petition calling for better suicide prevention and bereavement support, in particular calling for government to take responsibility in the form of a minister for suicide prevention.

Working on CALM over the past few months has been endlessly inspiring. Those that work at charities are invested in their cause to a degree that makes the collaboration involved meaningful at every junction. There is no money involved and profit is not the end: awareness and advancement of the cause is central and this makes for a very rewarding relationship between client and agency.

Whilst driving change for a traditional client may be hard to measure, in the case of CALM, the change is visible. Male suicide statistics are decreasing and, last week, Theresa May created a ministerial position for the prevention of suicide. Being able to cause change at the highest office in the country is an incredible achievement and is testament to the work of all those involved during Project 84. Not only have we raised awareness of CALM but we have also been involved in fighting a blight to the UK.

There is undoubtedly still a long way to go when it comes to the topic of suicide and the work does not stop in the aftermath of the ministerial appointment. Concerns have already been raised regarding the funding, or lack of, that Jackie Doyle-Price is receiving and whether the position has been created simply to answer the calls for its creation.

However, where business goals at for-profits can be ambiguous, the goals of charities are well defined – beating the blight that led to their creation. With this in mind, the work goes on and I speak confidently on behalf of all of those at W that working with CALM is a highlight of our day, has far more benefits than first meets the eye and we won’t stop until every man and woman in the country knows about CALM and takes a stand with us.