Journal:

From Data to Emotion: How Visual Storytelling Amplifies Child Advocacy Campaigns

One talk at a time animated campaign from the National Office for Child Safety. Empathetic illustration of mother in a scene from the video animation.

Child advocacy campaigns play a critical role in promoting the well-being of children worldwide. With around 1 in 7 Australians have experienced childhood abuse1, the urgency of these campaigns cannot be overstated. From reducing poverty to protecting human rights, these initiatives bring awareness to issues impacting children and mobilise support for solutions. However, breaking through the noise and capturing public attention remains an ongoing challenge for child advocacy organisations.

Visual and strategic storytelling represents a powerful way to strengthen the impact of child advocacy campaigns. By putting a human face and compelling narrative behind data and policy goals, stories can spark emotion and action in a way that facts alone often cannot. This post will explore the use of storytelling in child advocacy, from ethical considerations to storyboarding and distribution. We’ll look at examples of campaigns that have successfully harnessed visual narratives to drive change and highlight where child advocacy organisations can get started by embedding storytelling into their next campaign, irrespective of budget.

The following sections will demonstrate why visual storytelling is central to child advocacy efforts and can be used as a guide for incorporating powerful stories that make an impact. As our name suggests, storytelling is in our DNA and plays a big role in every project we work on. It’s our mission to help not-for-profit organisations have a greater impact with their audience, and we are committed to driving that change through the power of storytelling.

12021-22 Personal Safety Survey (PSS) released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

The Power of Stories in Advocacy

Storytelling is a powerful tool for advocacy campaigns. Stories can connect with people emotionally and make complex issues relatable and memorable. Rather than presenting stats and data, which sometimes can lack empathy and the human toll, stories put a human face on social causes, ultimately inspiring people to take action. 

Stories connect people emotionally in a way that statistics alone cannot. They allow the audience to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes. An effective story gives the listener a window into the subject’s inner world by conveying their hopes, struggles, fears and dreams. This emotional resonance helps the audience empathise with the person and makes them more likely to connect with the cause on a personal level.

Stories also make issues more memorable. Facts and data, while powerful when used correctly, can be easily forgotten. A powerful story can stay with a person, making a lasting impact, changing perspectives, and driving much-needed awareness. The narrative structure gives people something to latch onto and the emotional impact embeds the story in the listener’s memory. This makes stories a powerful tool for advocates to raise awareness of complex social issues and present real-life examples that will resonate with the public. 

Finally, stories inspire action. While facts state the problem and can highlight the depth of an issue, stories show people why they should care and motivate them to get involved. By humanising issues and tapping into people’s innate sense of compassion, stories spur the audience into making a difference. Advocates can use stories to illustrate how public involvement and societal change are possible, inspiring their audiences to believe change can happen.

 

Visual Storytelling in Campaigns

Visuals make stories far more vivid, engaging, and impactful. Advocacy campaigns incorporating visual storytelling tap into our brain’s hardwiring to process and remember visual information more readily than text alone.  Content that includes images and graphics has up to 650% higher engagement, according to searchlogistics.com.

Visual storytelling for advocacy campaigns can take many forms:

  • Photography: Still images that capture a powerful moment or emotion can convey the lived experiences of children far more than words. Photos allow the audience to see their daily lives and give a deeper understanding. It can also highlight the diversity within the subject matter based on many factors. Photos allow the audience to see their daily lives and give a deeper understanding of the message being shared. They can also highlight the diversity within the subject matter based on many factors. Photography and child advocacy require strategy and clear content systems, as photography can also be triggering and complex. This is an area that requires careful consideration, strategy, and execution, which we tackle on a brand-by-brand case.
  • Animation and motion: Motion picture storytelling elicits empathy and understanding through sight, sound, and motion.  It allows information to be easily digestible, memorable and sharable, maximising impact and reach. Short documentary-style films put a face and a voice to the issues. Videos can transport audiences right into the reality of a child’s circumstances.
  • Illustrations: Artistic illustrations, comics, or animations can make complex issues more understandable. They allow storytellers to visualise abstract concepts, simplify information, and still resonate emotionally. Illustrations are also useful for animating data and statistics. Illustration can enhance the brand’s foundation to give an organisation more depth and useable assets to strengthen its overall brand image, increasing trust and credibility.Skillfully incorporating visual storytelling into campaigns helps create compelling narratives that stick with audiences and inspire them to take action.

 

Real-Life Child Advocacy Campaign Examples 

Visual storytelling has been effectively utilised in many recent child advocacy campaigns to drive social change and impact. 

One Talk at a Time Animated Campaign, National Office for Child Safety

The initiative “One Talk at a Time” is dedicated to combating child sexual abuse by fostering open, ongoing discussions among adults, children, and adolescents. Through proactive engagement, the campaign aims to equip adults with the knowledge and tools necessary to address this critical issue. Specifically tailored for adults with children and young individuals in their care, “One Talk at a Time” seeks to create a culture of prevention through dialogue.

This campaign is not a hasty endeavour; it is the result of extensive research and consultation. Drawing insights from a comprehensive research program involving over 8,500 Australians, including targeted demographics, survivors, child safety specialists, and priority groups identified by the National Strategy, “One Talk at a Time” ensures effectiveness, cultural sensitivity, accessibility, and trauma-informed practices are at its core.

Read the research report from the National Child Safety Campaign that formed the foundation of the campaign here

Save the Children Launched the “Most Shocking Second a Day” Campaign

The Most Shocking Second a Day video campaign made an impact, telling the story of a young girl’s life over one year as it gradually deteriorated due to war. By showing the harsh realities of conflict through an emotional narrative, this powerful video went viral globally, helping raise awareness and spur advocacy for child victims. 

UNICEF’s “#ENDViolence” Campaign

Another impactful example is UNICEF’s “#ENDViolence” campaign, which shared children’s own stories and depictions of violence they face. The authentic first-hand accounts highlighted in videos and social media helped give vulnerable children a voice while inviting broader society to reflect on its responsibility to protect them. Strategic distribution of the visual stories enabled them to reach key audiences and decision-makers. As a result, the campaign motivated policy changes and funding allocations to address violence against children.

Stories to the Forefront, The National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse

Another powerful example was from a recent rebrand we undertook with the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse. After a series of workshops and co-design sessions with victims and survivors, there was a need to step away from the 1 in 4 Australians have been victims of the child sexual abuse narrative, and lean into the more human storytelling. We spent some time reflecting on this comment to create “stories to the forefront” a graphic campaign and flexible brand asset that embedded the real stories of our lived experience panels into graphic depictions within a thumbprint. These powerful narratives shared the stories of hope, resilience, growth, anger, healing, protection and so much more. Beyond this though, it gave victims and survivors a platform to share their stories nationally while keeping their identities anonymous.

Effective storytelling requires identifying and creatively conveying the core narrative through images, film, animations or other visual mediums. It can crystallise abstract issues, capture attention, and inspire emotions that drive social change. The examples above demonstrate the potential for well-crafted visual storytelling to strengthen the impact of child advocacy efforts.

Child advocacy campaign for The National Centre on Child Sexual Abuse, illustration of victims and survivors stories shared in creative artwork and emotive exhibition

 

Ethical Considerations

Marketers, advocates, brands, strategists, PR, and designers all have an obligation to portray children and their stories ethically. Two key ethical considerations in visual storytelling for child advocacy campaigns are:

Protecting child privacy and dignity

  • Obtain informed consent from the child and parent/guardian before capturing their story. Clearly explain how the stories/campaign/graphics/images/videos will be used.
  • Avoid identifying details like full names, locations, or other private information without permission. Use pseudonyms or blur identifying features if needed. 
  • Portray children in a dignified manner. Do not exploit their suffering or vulnerability. Refrain from images that could be humiliating or stigmatising.

 

Authenticity and truthfulness in storytelling

  • Do not falsify or embellish a story. Accuracy and truthfulness should be paramount. People connect with real stories and real people, so learn how to bring those stories to life in a meaningful, authentic, and dignified way. 
  • Images and videos should authentically capture the child’s reality. Avoid staging scenes, playing into stereotypes or manipulating content. Authenticity matters, it builds trust and creates more resonating stories. 
  • Be transparent about any editing or production techniques used. Do not deliberately mislead audiences.
  • Represent the complexity and nuances of situations versus oversimplifying into “good vs bad” narratives.

 

Advocates have a duty to tell visual stories ethically and responsibly. Though powerful, these stories involve real children whose rights, dignity and privacy must be protected—thoughtful storytelling uplifts, empowers, and connects rather than exploits.

 

Where to start when finding the right story

You can bring a story to life driven by research and conversations in so many ways. For us, mind mapping and storyboarding play a key role in idea generation, quickly testing our knowledge, utilising the research and seeing if a concept has an impact. The storyboard allows you to map out the narrative and visual elements before production to get a feel for the concept, idea and how it might come to life. It also allows alignment between the agency, internal team and any key stakeholders to ensure synergy, and that the campaign will reflect the organisation’s goals.

 

When creating a storyboard, focus on the key ingredients of a compelling story for campaigns: Tone of Voice 

Before we get started with the story developed, we need to ensure the tone of voice is right for the audience and purpose. From there, we can brainstorm using the below three part ideation tool:

  1. The hero aka the protagonist: Every story needs a protagonist that the audience can relate to and empathise with. This is often a child or family member affected by the issue. Introduce the protagonist early and help the audience understand their journey, struggles, hopes and life.
  2. Conflict/issue: There must be a central conflict, problem or injustice that the protagonist confronts. This should highlight the issue at hand in a way that connects with the audience. This creates narrative tension and gives purpose to the story. Clearly establish the issue or hurdle and stakes facing the protagonist.
  3. Resolution: The protagonist makes progress on the central conflict. Avoid overly simplistic or unrealistic resolutions, authenticity is key, especially with complex issues or topics. Show how the advocacy organisation’s work contributes to the resolution. For example, this could be the support of a family member or loved one, seeking a mentor, or a donation that started a positive trajectory. 

 

At Storyfolk, we understand the power of storytelling in child advocacy. We’re here to help you craft stories that inspire, engage, and elevate. Let’s make a difference and create narratives that drive positive change together, contact us here

 

See our work with the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse.

See our work with the youth mentorship program Sparkways

See our work with disability service provider, InLife.

 

Join our mailing list

Receive compelling industry insights, thought-provoking content and early access to events we are participating in.

Four emails a year. Unsubscribe any time.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.