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Special Project

Special Project

Harnessing Small-Town Gossip for Good

Entered in Local Campaign, PSA



Survivor’s Hope Crisis Centre Inc. (SHCC) is a sexual violence resource centre serving those of all genders in the Interlake-Eastern Region of Manitoba. Through counselling, emotional support, education, referrals and advocacy, they empower survivors and communities.

Survivor’s Hope asked us to develop a campaign that would help them address and reduce the stigma around speaking out about sexual violence and spread the word about their vital services. Inspired by their Sexual Assault Recovery and Healing (SARAH) program, we worked with their team to develop Let’s Talk About SARAH. The grassroots campaign focused on starting important conversations around sexual violence by harnessing the power of small-town gossip—for good. Our main public relations goal was to earn positive publicity across Manitoba and secure as much earned media as possible, going up against a “filter” the organization sometimes ran up against in finding coverage in rural media.



Survivor’s Hope came in knowing their strengths, challenges and goals. They were an open book and extremely collaborative—this base of mutual trust and knowledge gave us room to take informed risks and craft a tailored strategy.

We wanted to keep the campaign organic, grassroots and local. The goal wasn’t to get the most eyeballs; we needed the right eyeballs. We wanted the campaign to be seen in places where it was private and easy to access without stigma.

The primary objective of this campaign was to reduce the stigma experienced by survivors, by changing ideologies and beliefs, and empowering survivors to share their stories. The secondary objective was to improve awareness of the programs offered at Survivor’s Hope and strengthen relationships with the public and potential funders.


There were a few challenges going into the campaign. Survivor’s Hope knew there was a larger problem than what was represented by the people walking through their doors but had no data to demonstrate the need for their services. COVID-19 also heightened stigma around sexualized violence which prevented them from effectively helping these communities.

Due to the sensitive and personal nature of their services, people were often unwilling to disclose they’ve experienced sexual violence creating an unfortunate cycle: if there’s no one to help, people won’t disclose—and if people won’t disclose, there’s no one to help.

Adding an additional challenge, the media actively turned them away due to “uncomfortable” content, and social media ad filters prevented some content from reaching their audience. This spurred the question, “How do we talk about it without talking about it?”


The seven-month campaign was broken up into three phases.

We kicked things off by focusing on the phrase “Did you hear about Sarah?” which was shared in intimate public settings though posters, magnets, a bus shelter and newspaper ads. There was also a QR code that directed people to a landing page on the Survivor’s Hope website. This kept it simple and played into the mystery and small-town gossipy feel of the campaign—who or what is SARAH?

We then shifted to small-town phrases like “we tell it like it is” and “we help our neighbours,” followed by the line: “Sexual violence happens in our towns. Let’s talk about SARAH.” This was shared through posters, washroom ads, Spotify, YouTube, Meta, and media outreach to get people thinking about supporting survivors in a new light. We knew for people to come forward, they needed to know they had the support of their community, instead of the risk of being isolated for shaking up the status quo.

The final phase centred on identifying and gathering “Friends of SARAH” (allies) in the community. This was done through social outreach and decals that simply read “Friend of SARAH.” Some of these community members were featured on the Survivor’s Hope social media platforms as Friends of SARAH and shared meaningful words of support and encouragement.



The campaign received coverage from three out of the four rural news outlets in Survivor’s Hope’s coverage area and CBC Radio. We kept it well-targeted to an audience that actively consumes those pieces and reached Manitobans with quality placements. The QR code from the first phase of the campaign directed approximately 900 people to the website. This resulted in an increase in:

In April of 2024, Survivor’s Hope received notification that the funding for the SARAH (Sexual Assault Recovery and Healing) Counselling Program was discontinued by the Federal Government. Without that funding, SARAH can’t support their programming, leaving hundreds of current and future survivors immediately without the therapeutic counselling, community-based legal options, advocacy and systems navigation that it provides. The need for community support became greater than ever.

Survivor’s Hope was able to revive campaign language and call on the Friends of SARAH to provide support. The community response was overwhelmingly positive. They were able to crowdfund around $30,000 and received $25,000 in emergency funding from the provincial government. In May 2024, the Justice Department announced that the federal government has committed $167,808 over three years, providing a huge sense of relief.


Video for Harnessing Small-Town Gossip for Good

Entrant Company / Organization Name

UpHouse Inc., Survivor's Hope Crisis Centre


Entry Credits