CovidComms Awards Ireland

Launch of ‘Boots Ireland Safe Space’

Launch of ‘Boots Ireland Safe Space’ for women who are experiencing domestic violence
Boots Ireland and Safe Ireland
Winner: Best charity partnership
CovidComms Awards Ireland

Boots is in almost every town in Ireland. It also serves a predominantly female audience. When Safe Ireland, which offers help, support and refuge to women and children, experienced a sharp increase in calls – in some areas, up to 60 per cent more than a year earlier – since the beginning of lockdown, a partnership with Boots Ireland seemed natural.

In June 2020, the Safe Space initiative was launched – a confidential space in Boots’ pharmacy consultation rooms, where women could contact one of Safe Ireland’s 39 frontline domestic abuse services across the country.

Colleagues were given the necessary information to help them to sensitively and appropriately support any women who came to Boots looking to use the space, including suggested statements to put their minds at rest about confidentiality and security.

‘You do not have to be an expert to help a woman looking for safety,’ they were told, with advice on how to tell those seeking support that they were being heard and were believed.

To offer support to women experiencing domestic violence, Boots Ireland had to first publicise the initiative. However, there was concern that overamplifying the message could mean that an abuser stopped their partner visiting Boots if they thought they were looking for help.

The decision was taken not to utilise paid media but instead to launch a national and regional PR campaign, focused on media outlets with a high female audience. It was targeted at both women experiencing domestic abuse and their loved ones, who could alert them to the service.

Bernadette Lavery, managing director of Boots Ireland at the time, was quoted in the release to underpin Boots’ commitment. Given the sensitive nature of the topic, Mary McDermott, joint chief executive of Safe Ireland, acted as spokesperson.

The theme centred on the rise of domestic violence during the Covid-19 lockdown periods, with subtle messaging around the Boots Safe Space initiative. One national media release and four regional released were issued.

The campaign generated 45 pieces of earned media, which was 136 per cent higher than the campaign’s stated key performance indicators, reaching more than 4.6 million people. Every single broadcast interview or print or online article carried the message that Boots had launched a Safe Space in pharmacies, while 93 per cent mentioned the partnership.

And while Boots did not promote the initiative via social media, many influencers and women shared the news across their platforms.

Due to the sensitive nature of the service, Boots has not disclosed information about uptake. However, it has confirmed that the service was used in many Boots’ stores and that customer feedback was ‘extremely positive’.