R U OK? using data to better target the support network of those in need

How do you track success in a marketing campaign when preventing suicide is your end goal?
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor
Image: R U OK?

R U OK? is an Australian non-profit with the overarching mission of empowering everyone to meaningfully connect with people around them and support anyone struggling with life.

With suicide prevention being an enormously complex and sensitive challenge, the non-profit believes the best place to start is with the simple question "Are you okay?".

R U OK? has headed down a data and analytics path, hoping to reach more people with its message and therefore prevent people from taking their own life.

Speaking at Alteryx Inspire APAC 2020 in Sydney on Tuesday, R U OK? campaign director Gennie Sheer said as a suicide prevention charity, it differs from others in the mental health space as R U OK? pitches its resources towards the help-giver.

"We're trying to get to the people who are around someone who might be struggling to give them the skills and the confidence that they can ask, 'Are you okay?' And when they ask that question, know what to do next and how to help someone get professional support if they need it -- or just be a listening ear," she explained.

In kicking off a data and analytics project, Sheer said it's important that any decisions made about resources it is providing, or who it is targeting with campaigns, is based on evidence.

"It's a little bit challenging for us because we're not targeting the person who is in crisis, we're targeting people around them and it's a little bit harder to figure out who they are, because it's a bit like your Facebook friends network, you know the person on Facebook but do you know all the people that influence their life and connect with them?" Sheer said.

Currently, the organisation runs a quarterly tracker that asks people if they have been exposed to R U OK?; and if they have been exposed, do they feel more confident that they can have a conversation with someone in their life who is struggling.

"There are measures that we can use, but there's no hard data that says, 'Yes, you made a difference here' because we're in sort of a realm where people are not going to put that into a letter or put that into a message to us, so it makes it a little bit more challenging, but also it opens avenues for what datasets that are out there that can help influence that decision that we're not thinking about yet," Sheer said.

Sheer hopes that the data and analytics project will serve as a roadmap for what the charity can do in order to reach the right people.

"I'd like a bit of a roadmap of where do we need to focus attention and what's the best way to deliver the message to that group of people that we're trying to target," she said.

"I think having that roadmap of this is where you should be directing your effort and this is where you'll get the best outcome, the most impact, is what we're hoping to get out of it."


  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527


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