The awareness day paradox

This is an article by Jessica Kieran.
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A charity fundraising event

It’s beginning to seem like there’s an awareness day almost every week. And some are not just a day, they’re a whole week.

This brings the question, do awareness days really raise awareness?

There are those few awareness events that are always better promoted than others. Almost every parent in the UK knows when World Book Day is because of the countless letters sent home from schools.

But ask them when mental health awareness day is and they’ll probably go blank. The truth is, there are too many awareness days to remember them all.

There’s a handy website with all these days on them but with 48 awareness events in March alone maybe we’re being so drowned in awareness that we stop being aware altogether.

When looking at all the awareness events available you notice something.  A lot of the events are about the same topic, but are being covered by different organisations. There are four awareness events centred on disability, two of these events cover the same topic on the same day. They just have two different names.

Another thing you notice is there are some topics that don’t really need an awareness day like “National Richter Scale Day” and “National Stationery Week”.

It’s making serious awareness events seem like one big joke. Stationery is a thing everyone uses in their everyday life so it’s fairly clear the public are aware of it. Why do we need a week devoted to it?

Awareness days should cover something people are less aware of like the Breathe Easy campaign which focuses on lung health. People would probably want to know more about their lung health than about paper.

There’s also an uneven amount of events per month. It seems as though organisations want to get their awareness days out of the way at the start of the year so they don’t have to worry about it. There’s also no really accurate way to check when awareness events take place. It can be compared to “own clothes day” in school when one person always got confused and wore their uniform because they didn’t remember the date.

Awareness days can’t really be seen as all bad though. When they’re well known they can be a very effective way of raising the profile of a specific issue.

The promotion of the event can also be unique and a good way to gain interest. Macmillan wanted to host the world’s biggest coffee morning. Red Nose Day always tells people “do something funny for charity,” World Book Day  encourages people to dress up as their favourite book character.

Doing something small can be just as effective as hosting a big event though.

People do simple things like wearing jeans for a day to promote the Jeans for Genes charity. If ten people out of one hundred do further research into Jeans for Genes that raises more awareness that the large charities such as Macmillan’s world’s biggest coffee morning as most people know who Macmillan are so won’t be as likely to look into it further.

Clearly there are some issues with awareness days, like knowing when they take place! And perhaps the number needs to be cut down. However awareness days are also a wonderful and fun way to spread messages about topics. So whatever happens, it seems awareness days will always be around.

Jessica Kieran is a first year studying Public Relations with Politics at Edge Hill University

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