Case Study


Equity engaged its target audience as part of its communication to drive a shift in culture. 


21st August 2020

When toxic behaviours become part of an accepted culture, it can take a huge fallout to bring about change. This is something that Equity, the UK’s trade union for creative practitioners, found in 2017, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment scandal that rocked the film industry.

The important communication that came out of it – specifically, Equity’s Agenda for Change report – centred on addressing sexual harassment, but there are plenty of lessons to be learned for organisations tackling bullying.

Equity has long been working to address the harm sexual harassment is doing to people working in the creative industry, but the end of 2017 brought widespread attention to it.

To make the most of the momentum that came from the sexual harassment allegations, Equity created the Agenda for Change report to create a culture shift that welcomes and encourages the reporting of inappropriate and unacceptable behaviours.

Gathering insight from across the board

Discussing the creation of the report, Phil Pemberton (pictured below), head of brand, communications and membership at Equity, says: “It was a huge piece of work that brought together insight and advice from industry professionals, and ideas from hundreds of Equity members.

“It involved many stakeholder groups, first-hand accounts from victims and data gathered from other unions challenging inappropriate behaviours.”

In order to enact real change, it’s important to engage with those that you’re targeting. Agenda for Change was focused on encouraging reporting – so Equity took the time to understand the reasons members weren’t doing this and the struggles they were facing.

“This approach worked really well, and the feedback we got was incredibly positive, shown most evidently by the uptake in reporting we have observed, and an increased willingness to engage in conversations around harassment,” says Phil.

“The accessibility of the resources available to members was also of major importance. Often, organisations have ways for staff to report incidents, but they’re not widely communicated. Agenda for Change encourages members to report harassment via a helpline, so we put up posters with all the key information in green rooms and other areas they would be guaranteed to see it.”


Fear of reporting incidents

The report was launched alongside a campaign that focused on the importance of reporting, but Equity was sure not to overlook the very real culture of fear that surrounds it.

“The ability to report anonymously was a major selling point of our hotline, so we reiterated this regularly,” says Phil. “We also made sure it was clear that there is support in place for those who speak up. Anonymity and support should be a focus point for all reporting methods – addressing both bullying and harassment.”

Agenda for Change and the campaign around it helped Equity to make an impact, but, like bullying, harassment doesn’t go away overnight, and the longer it has been in place, the harder it is to eliminate.

“We continue to assess the ways in which harassment is impacting the industry, and it remains an embedded part of our ongoing work,” says Phil.

“When it comes to topics like bullying and harassment, you need to keep your foot on the pedal and keep re-examining the advice and resources available. And, importantly,  make sure support is always easy to access – whenever it may be needed.”

Read our Voice feature on tackling workplace bullying.

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