As communicators, I believe we have a responsibility and a tremendous opportunity to help address social injustices and raise awareness about issues that affect the most vulnerable in our society. When there is an opportunity to make a difference, we can – and should – help propel positive change.
At Strategic Objectives, helping to #EndHumanTrafficking is an issue we are passionate about. And the more we learn, the more we want to make a difference. Once you uncover its insidious nature and hear the heart-wrenching stories of those affected, it is simply impossible to ignore.
Through our work with The Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking (The Centre), we know this is a complex issue that is misunderstood by the majority of Canadians. By simple definition, human trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, harbouring and/or exercising control, direction or influence over the movements of a person to exploit that person, typically through sexual exploitation or forced labour. But the impact is far from simple. Especially when dealing with the emotions and life-altering ramifications of sex trafficking: the most common reason for calls to The Centre’s Human Trafficking Hotline and a facet of human trafficking which predominantly impacts young people.
It isn’t Love. It is Luring.
The topic of sex trafficking is ripe with misperceptions, but here is the startling reality: sex trafficking is taking place in every community across Canada affecting our children, our neighbours and our friends. It often starts not with a kidnapping, but with someone the victim knows, loves and trusts. Traffickers can be a romantic interest or “friend” who has mastered the process of luring, grooming and trafficking individuals. They prey on vulnerabilities and offer whatever is missing in the target’s life — often love and healthy relationships, money or housing. However, these always come at a cost, and the payback is inhumane and traumatic.
February 22 is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in Canada. Our original research shows that a staggering 93 percent of Canadians believe it’s important to raise awareness and increase education* on human trafficking. And Strategic Objectives is working with The Centre to do just that through a dynamic campaign that spotlights sex trafficking. Disrupting the usual focus on idyllic love and romance around Valentine’s Day, we are raising awareness of the more toxic side of human relationships, all while promoting the Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline. If you see it: Report It. If You are Living It: Know you are Loved and Call: 1-833-900-1010 or connect via the website at canadianhumantraffickinghotline.ca.
Our campaign focuses on what constitutes a healthy relationship as well as the signs of an unhealthy relationship, which can be a precursor to sex trafficking. By no means am I implying that all unhealthy relationships result in sex trafficking situations. But we do know that sex trafficking begins with an unhealthy relationship. And before you think, “that could never happen to someone I know” unfortunately I must assure you, it can. While certain populations are more vulnerable, the reality is that it happens across all socio-economic levels and impacts lives that seem untouchable.
You Are Loved
To help bring our campaign vision to life, Strategic Objectives brought on board the passionate teams at Good&Ready and Hotspex Media to work hand-in-hand with us. Our integrated campaign includes public relations and media relations activities, online advertising, wild postings, subway advertising, and convenience store ads, to share the disturbing story of sex trafficking in an innovative manner.
The ad campaign is aimed directly at helping those being trafficked know they have options. Ads revolve around a simple, attention-grabbing design, and the bold proclamation of “The world’s most understanding” message which raises awareness of the Hotline and its trauma-trained staff who listen, provide support and do not judge. Visuals also include a homespun heart icon featuring the words “You Are Loved” to let victims know someone cares and wants to help. And PR provides added insights and depth to the issue, emphasizing the importance of fostering healthy relationships as integral to ending sex trafficking.
Communications and advertising activities take place throughout the month of February. Additional communications assets have been created and are available for public use. We encourage everyone, particularly teachers, doctors and other professionals to download them from the Hotline’s website and to post in their workplaces. The Centre is also inviting Canadians to get involved in the conversation online using #EndHumanTrafficking.
Strategic Objectives’ History on the Issue
This is not our first campaign to help raise awareness on this issue. Sex trafficking, as part of the larger issue of human trafficking and social justice, has been a focus of Strategic Objectives for many years. We began our journey back in 2009 when we partnered with The Body Shop on a three-year program which resulted in more than 500,000 Canadians signing an online petition encouraging the Canadian government to take action on this vile crime. And it achieved action! This campaign won many national and international awards and continues to be highlighted as a case study of excellence in PR schools. Then in 2016, we volunteered to help a small group led by Margot Franssen O.C. which would go on to establish The Canadian Centre To End Human Trafficking. And a few years later, we helped The Centre launch its Canadian Human Trafficking Hotline and now, once again we are partnering to drive further awareness and more calls to the Hotline.
Help Make a Difference
As we celebrate the season of love this year, take a moment to think about those who are being trafficked for sex and how we can all lend a hand. It may be talking about the issue. It may be downloading a campaign poster for your workplace. It may be guiding someone you love towards a healthy relationship or supporting them as they leave an unhealthy one. Or it may be donating time or money to organizations like The Centre that are propelling tangible change. Just know that society’s most vulnerable are counting on us – all of us. Communicators can make a difference. Thank you for doing your part.
* Angus Reid Survey Methodology: Survey of Canadian adults (n=1,514). In-field: November 15 – 17, 2021. Margin of error: +/- 2.5 percentage points at a 95% confidence level. The sample was balanced and weighted on age, gender, region and education.
About the Author
Judy Lewis is the co-founder of Strategic Objectives, Canada’s most award-winning PR Agency.
Judy provides senior counsel to many of the world's leading brands to advance their success in Canada, and has led numerous award-winning, purpose-driven programs that have been instrumental in changing perceptions, public and media understanding, and even inspired legislative change.
Judy is the Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms (CCPRF) which mobilized its members as signatory agencies to a Commitment to Anti-racism, Diversity and Inclusion. She is also recognized with CPRS Lifetime Membership and is the recipient of both the Queen’s Diamond and Golden Jubilee Medals for Outstanding Contributions to Canada and the Communications Industry.
Judy and Strategic Objectives are internationally renowned for campaigns that make a difference. It is the only Canadian agency to ever receive the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations.
An eternal optimist and community builder, Judy is the volunteer Communications Strategist for the Professional Women Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) and serves on non-profit boards and on the Centennial College Communications Program Advisory Committee.
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