The CTA komunikacije CEO Gordan Turković, in cooperation with the Association Brački pupoljci recently won the world’s most prestigious PR award, the IPRA Golden World Awards for Excellence, for a campaign that greatly facilitated the lives of many island families with children with disabilities, and many celebrities were there to support him.
It all started with a petition for the ruling party that my childhood friend Mate Mladina sent me to sign in March last year. Namely, I spend my every summer on Brač, considering that my roots are from that island. As part of the petition, there was a description of the ten-year-long history of unsuccessful demands and requests of the Brački pupoljci Association to the ruling party to finally provide free ferry transport to island children with disabilities. I was also quite shocked to learn that they do not have this right even though it was made possible for school children and students from the island, therefore, their peers. An absurd and sad situation, really.
I spent one whole day talking to Mate who introduced me to all the details that could not leave anyone indifferent. Something had to be done against this injustice and from that moment on we turned all our attention to amending that law. We were soon joined by Gina Victoria Damjanović, and around that time we devised a campaign slogan that turned into a popular hashtag for sharing – #nestozbiljavazno/#thistrullymatters – Gordan Turković answers the question of what motivated him to, after ten years of unsuccessful struggle for fundamental human rights, take over the Brački pupoljci project and fight to amend the Law on Transport in Linear and Occasional Coastal Maritime Traffic, which now finally grants free ferry transport for children with disabilities from all Croatian islands to their much-needed onshore therapy. It is an endeavour that cost the island families up to 3,000 HRK a month and all this was undetected as an issue by the ruling party. Can you imagine this?
You recently won the world’s most prestigious PR award, the Golden World Awards for Excellence of the International Public Relations Association (IPRA) for the This Truly Matters campaign. We would like to remind our readers that, in cooperation with CTA komunikacije agency, the Association of Parents’ with Children with Disabilities, Brački Pupoljci fought last year to amend the Law on Transport in Liner and Occasional Coastal Maritime Transport, which now finally provides free ferry transport for island children with disabilities to much-needed therapy on land. What, in your opinion, “truly matters” in that victory, what does it actually represent?
The result of our campaign is, above all, the correction of a huge social injustice towards island children with disabilities and their parents. You know, most people perceive the islands primarily as carefree places for summer vacations and swimming and they often forget that there is life there the entire year, with great challenges and without some services that are considered normal and common in other parts of the country.
One slightly stronger northern wind during winter can easily break your connection to mainland and you may need emergency medical help or something similar right at that moment. Imagine what it’s like to live on the island as a child with disabilities.
Unfortunately, there are no adequate health facilities where they can attend their much-needed therapies. Also, private therapists usually avoid coming to the island because it is just not profitable enough. Therefore, the dependence of these island families on the mainland is even greater, and the cost, which exceeds 3,000 HRK per month for a ferry, has simply been unbearable for years. Namely, children have to travel to mainland up to four times a week for therapy on average, and one of their parents usually does not work due to providing the required care 24/7. It is important to note that this is a calculation for Brač, the costs are even higher if we are talking about some more remote islands like Vis or Lastovo.
It was necessary for the ruling party to finally understand that due to a large financial burden borne by one of the most vulnerable groups in our society, going to therapy i.e. a basic human right, was endangered.
I believe that this victory and the change of the law, as well as the award of the world communication profession, confirmed that the values advocated by Brački pupoljci Association are universally recognized and that no child with disabilities and their parents should ever be denied the opportunity to live a normal life. This will truly matter forever!
The campaign brought strong positive changes and contributed to the protection of basic human rights of the most vulnerable groups, but it should be noted that the struggle of the Brački pupoljci lasted for ten years. Why on earth was this the case?
All Croatian governments have neglected the Brački pupoljci since they were founded in 2009, when their struggle to amend the only Article 47 of the Law on Transport in Liner and Occasional Coastal Maritime Transport began, which would make their lives much easier by introducing free ferry transport. During this period, they had a series of meetings with ministers, members of parliament and other state, regional and local officials. They all promised the world to them, but never did anything to finally improve this situation. They were even rejected several times in the parliamentary committees, I guess they thought that they could ignore them because it is a relatively small association that cannot make too much noise in fight for their rights, and they redirected that money to some other things more important to them. Now we see that they were very much mistaken.
On the other hand, this topic was almost not covered in the media in those ten years, which led to the Croatian public not being aware of the challenges of island children with disabilities. Therefore, one of the main goals of our campaign was to inform Croatian citizens about this injustice using all available channels.
A key change occurred in the thinking of the members of the association who, after the last rejection in the parliamentary Committee on Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure, decided not to wait for the ruling party. This happened in March last year, and as early as April 1, began the campaign that is today known as This Truly Matters. Kudos to those brave parents and children who persevered in this fight to the end, it was not easy for them to withstand all the pressures until the final victory and law amendment.
“Never again should any child be denied the opportunity for a normal life. This is what truly matters.”
It is also interesting that the campaign whose value is recognized worldwide was conducted with a budget of 0 HRK. Did you think that because of the core values it stands for, it was strong enough to roll like an avalanche or…?
In only a few days, we conducted interviews with a large number of people about this situation. We wanted to inform them about the topic, ask for their support, as well as examine their reaction. Everyone was just as shocked as we were when they found out that island children with disabilities were at risk of going to therapy due to the huge financial burden and that all Croatian governments did nothing to solve it. Their reactions could be summed up in one question: “Isn’t that already possible?”
So, we realized that the request of Brački pupoljci has the potential to unite an otherwise very heterogeneous Croatian society. Therefore, it was necessary to increase public awareness on this topic and at the beginning we worked hard to get at least some articles on the portals. Believe it or not, it was not easy to impose this story on the media agenda, but when we finally succeeded, the topic spread everywhere like wildfire. In the end, reports on this request were present in large numbers on portals, as well as on television, newspapers and various radio stations. Thus, the entire of Croatia, directly from the island families of children with disabilities, could hear about all the challenges they face every day.
The key role was played by both national and leading Dalmatian local and regional portals and newspapers and radio stations. Their approach and regular follow-up to the story of the struggle of the Association for children with disabilities from all Croatian islands contributed to the first awareness of this injustice in Dalmatia and the coastal part of Croatia. When those to whom this was “closest” became active in giving support, it was much easier to attract the rest of the country to this goal. In the end, the amount of engagement and solidarity of people from all over Croatia exceeded all our expectations and wishes.
Soon, numerous citizens joined in through social networks, creating and publishing their own photos and videos with #thistrullymatters and demanding that the government finally pass amendments to the Law on Children with Disabilities from all Croatian islands. For a campaign with a budget of 0 Kuna and thus dependent on the organic reach of her message, this was crucial, as was the support of celebrities spreading over the internet. Actors Nadia Cvitanović, Slavko Sobin and Marko Petrić, host Katarina Moškatelo, as well as Psihomodo pop, Neno Belan, Vojko V. and Hladno pivo broke the ice together with Gina, followed by everyone else. Dora Kršul, Jelena Tešija and Boris Jokić, as well as many other journalists and influential media personalities, made a huge contribution to this fight with their reports and comments in the media.
The story, which had previously been neglected for more than 10 years, thus finally rolled. Brački pupoljci were no longer alone in their demands and could no longer be ignored. One of the most impressive moments was the July protest in the Supetar ferry port, when the unloading of the ferry was blocked for 120 seconds to symbolise the 120 months of Brački pupoljci’s fight for a basic human right for their members. Shortly afterwards, the Government issued a special Conclusion on free ferry transport for children with disabilities from all islands, and in November, complete amendments to the Law were unanimously passed in Parliament.
Who was the biggest driving force behind the project at the time?
Along with parents and children gathered in the association, the “engine” of the whole campaign were Mate Mladina, who has been helping Brački pupoljci and fighting for their rights for years, and Gina Victoria Damjanović, being Supetar-born herself, who told a huge part of this story. I must also mention my colleagues from the CTA komunikacije agency, Valentina Mezdić, Eli Čerkezović and Petra Tanta, who selflessly invested their work and experience in order for us all to achieve something that many told us was impossible to achieve. This small group decided not to accept “no” as an answer and to fight to the very end for what should be a basic human right. I am sure that it was the energy and perseverance of this group that attracted other individuals to help us achieve our goal.
What did you learn from this story? What have you gathered form this experience?
In each case, my belief was confirmed that the impossible can still become possible if you are committed enough, persistent and work from the heart. On the other hand, it is much more important that Croatian society sees that there is a way to change things and that every individual can correct injustice in their area and fight for their own or the rights of their loved ones.
You are a communications consultant with many years of experience in strategic consulting, crisis communication and political marketing. To what extent can we influence a faster achievement of goals, i.e. reach others, through proper communication and presentation? Do you think that communication and presentation are important skills that children should be taught from primary school?
The example of Brački pupoljci shows how public relations and quality communication in general can be put in the service of humanity. Timely and correct presentation of key arguments and regular information on all events in the campaign played a major role here. Whoever engages in communications and uses these three elements in the right way has the right to hope to achieve their goals. I certainly advocate that communication skills be learned from an early age. We live in a time of unlimited technological development, channels and ways of communication are changing and multiplying every day and we need to adapt to it minute by minute. Better start as soon as possible.
Source: Storybook – print edition