Communications that save lives at scale: Lessons from Shelley Diamond, UNICEF USA CMO
June 01, 2020
By Robin Kim, PRSA-SV Board Member and Ruder Finn Practice Head, Global Technology & Innovation

Communication saves lives when you’re UNICEF. Its impact responding to the global pandemic with supplies, support and lifesaving information is as far-reaching as it is inspiring. UNICEF USA CMO Shelley Diamond shared the following insights during PRSA Silicon Valley’s #FridayForum.

Where pandemic attention hasn’t focused: the dire implications for children

When children are out of school, the impact goes well beyond education. An increase in malnutrition and domestic violence, combined with a lack of basic healthcare, kills 6,000 children a day around the world. Within the U.S., the challenges of online-only education threaten to leave poorer kids behind, as many children lack internet access or must share one computer among five or six family members at home.

Four ways UNICEF mitigates misinformation

  1. Empowers beneficiaries to tell its story. Our award-winning U-Report program uses eyewitness data directly from children to inform leaders and foster change.
  2. Leverages its brand as a trusted source. We’re not weighing in politically who should wear a mask and who shouldn’t. We tell you that when we dealt with a massive epidemic known as Ebola, this was a game changer.
  3. Gives advocates access to frontline information. Our supporter ecosystem has access to trusted program leaders and data. That shows we’re right there. It’s not second hand.
  4. Leverages social media to get the truth out. We partner with Facebook and other platforms to ensure accurate information is available and inform the public when inaccurate information emerges.

How to mitigate politicization? Play the long game on common goals 

Government relations are key. You don’t shut that off because you want to make a political statement. The only ones who will suffer are the children. A child deserves a childhood. A child deserves to survive and thrive. Children will change the world. We will be a better world in every way if we lift these kids up. People believe that. It doesn’t matter what your political affiliation is.

Three ways UNICEF cuts through the clutter to promote its brand

  1. Shows relevant impact now. We have to show people who we are, what we do and how we’re differentiated. We can’t halt because there’s too much noise. When we recover from the pandemic, how will we recover our brand resonance if we’re not out there talking at a time when children are being so affected?
  2. Makes heroes the face of what’s happening. Our front line workers are putting their lives in harm’s way to get masks to 40 million people. They’re fighters. If we feel like a charity, game over! We’re a humanitarian organization whose programs change lives on a massive scale. 
  3. Tells stories about things people care about. For us, that means showing how we’re helping local communities with education initiatives such as Kid Power, innovation such as our work with Conceptos Plasticos that turns plastic waste into bricks to build schools, and stories that resonate on social media, whether it’s drones in Malawi or midwives in Nigeria.

Shelley also gave advice on how to position a heritage brand against upstarts by modernizing messages and leaning into lesser-known aspects of differentiating strengths. She explained how UNICEF’s organization has evolved in 2020, and invited communicators to leverage their personal and professional skills for shared value in making change. These lessons speak to why UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization on the planet. 

To listen to the session, watch the live recording here

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