RSPCA is to begin a ten-year strategic plan to change public perceptions of the charity.
Speaking to civilsociety.co.uk, John Grounds (pictured), deputy CEO at RSPCA, said the charity wanted the public to have a better understanding of the full extent of the work the charity undertook as it approached its 200th anniversary in 2023.
“Our inspectorate work and cats and dogs rehoming work is at our heart,” he said. “But we do a lot of other things such as wildlife work, work on animal testing, farm animal welfare, standards and training work with animal support organisations worldwide, for example.”
He said the strategy would have an emphasis on public education, along with making sure the right animal legislation was in place. He added that the charity wanted to work with similar organisations as "we can't do the work to protect animals on our own", he said.
Grounds was promoted from director of marketing and communications at RSPCA in July, and in his new role as deputy CEO he will be responsible for all the charity’s outward-facing activities.
The charity's chief executive Gavin Grant is himself a communications expert, and was previously chair at PR heavyweight Burson-Marsteller.
Negative press coverage ‘limited’
Asked whether RSPCA’s new strategy had been provoked by a spate of negative stories about the charity in The Daily Telegraph, Grounds argued this sentiment was not widespread.
“The negative coverage is limited to a small section of the media. Overall the coverage is supportive of our work. People have supported RSPCA after seeing it criticised as they recognise the important and difficult job that we do.”
He added that it was interesting that it was set up in 1824 to educate the public about animal rights and seek justice against people who broke the recently passed animal rights legislation: “So we are being criticised for something which is at the heart of what the organisation was set up for.”
The Telegraph has run a string of critical stories on the RSPCA over the last year or two, kicked off by the charity's decision to prosecute the Heythrop Hunt.
The newspaper's coverage prompted the charity to complain to the Press Complaints Commission, arguing that the stories were “factually incorrect and politically motivated”. The PCC did not uphold its claim.
One more recent negative story about the RSPCA in The Telegraph centred on a leaked internal document, in which the charity's deputy chairman warned that the charity could be gone in ten years because of a lack of strategy around its campaigning.
New creative partner
As part of its decade-long strategy, the RSPCA has today announced that it has appointed creative strategy business Once We Were as its lead strategic partner for its marketing and campaigns programme over the next three years.
The appointment will be the first in a series as the RSPCA gears up to its 200th anniversary in 2024.
A main focus for Once We Were will be the creation and roll-out of a bold multi-channel brand marketing strategy. An RPSCA spokeswoman said: “This will see the seamless combination of streams like digital and content with more traditional media, and the strategic co-ordination of the RSPCA's new interagency family.”
On the agency's appointment, John Grounds said: "Ending cruelty to animals is really about creating a more compassionate society and Once We Were clearly demonstrated not only their impressive analysis and insight but also their engagement and commitment to this challenge."