MCA Management Awards 2010: Customer Engagement

Category winner

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Tribal with Parentline Plus

National charity Parentline Plus provides support and information for parents. But it had a vision: to enable parents of teenagers to access the kind of social networks that were available to parents of younger children at the school gates. They wanted to enable parents of teenagers to choose how and when they access support and the tools they might need to tackle potential problems.

Parentline Plus hoped to offer these services to an additional 50,000 hard-to-reach parents of teenagers, but at the same time lower the cost per individual contact from ú25 to just ú10.

Tribal collected research data from parents of teenagers through consultation and focus groups and by surveying callers to the Parentline Plus helpline. Its research revealed that information about teenagers was the largest driver for users of the Parentline Plus website, with 43% of postings on the message boards resulting in 44,000 page views and more than 11,000 leaflets on teenage topics downloaded. A focus group showed that parents wanted support on talking to their teenagers about risky behaviours from a website, because it was immediate, private and visual. And 74% of parents of teenagers surveyed said they would seek information advisory services online.

Those research findings lined up with the 'Parent Know How' focus of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF), encouraging initiatives and directing funding towards services that were developing new ways to engage and communicate with hard-to-reach parents. Tribal recommended combining an online information advisory service with access to deeper specialist support from a range of other sources, such as via telephone or face-to-face meetings.

After further consultation with parent stakeholder focus groups and Parentline Plus frontline staff, Tribal used a weighted scoring matrix to assess priorities and established that, in order to reach parents of teenagers, the service needed to be available both online and by mobile phone.

Yes, there was already a Parentline Plus website, but new ways of thinking were needed to address issues and engage the target audience. A portal service might offer additional reach - by providing social networking facilities, channels, extended parent support, signposting, and anytime/anywhere access, as well as a range of interactive and engaging materials.

So together, Parentline Plus and Tribal created a unique online interactive portal: This forum gives parents the opportunity to post their own experiences, advice and questions to support. It includes private messaging, articles, blogs and message boards to provide exactly the 'virtual school gate' environment required.

Tribal worked with parents, agencies and Parentline Plus staff to customise the system, and make both data and language meaningful and specific to the target audience.

But the innovation lay not only in the new channels this project opened up but also in the content and style in which it was delivered. The social network facility, for example, engages parents' interest, then builds and sustains an informal support network by offering parent-to-parent interaction.

Thanks to a PR and advertising campaign, the gotateenager portal even caught the attention of the national press, thanks to content like the 'teenage jargon buster', and resulted in 32,000 site visits within two weeks of the portal's launch.

Independent research commissioned by the DCSF found that 90% of parents who'd visited the portal had 'taken action' or 'planned to take action' in their relationship with their teenager.

Tribal helped the client reach an additional 86,500 parents, and reduced the cost per contact to ú5.77 between September '08 and March '09. And Tribal is working with Parentline Plus to deliver a ú3.6m contract to establish a national information service, the DCSF 'Parent Know How Directory' for parents and family service providers.

'Parents of primary school children enjoy a network of support and friendship that is lost when their children make the transition to secondary school,' explains Lucy Edington, acting chief executive of Parentline Plus. ' plugs that gap by creating an online community for parents of teenagers. The social networking element is key and runs throughout the site, encouraging parents to interact, share tips and strategies and gain confidence to tackle issues.'


Tribal helped Parentline Plus to realise its vision of bringing advice cost-effectively to the parents of teenagers. Additional reach was achieved with the launch of a customised portal on the charity's website that offered a social network forum and interactive material - a 'virtual school gate' environment. It was an instant hit with these parents, attracting 86,000 additional visitors at a cost of just ú5.77 per contact.

- Define your objectives. Time spent detailing exactly what you want to achieve is rarely wasted.

- Seek continuous stakeholder feedback - virtual communities are built from the ground up, so you can't get too much input from those on the front line.

- Use PR and advertising to create a buzz around your offering.

Award sponsored by Concep

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