Glad to report that the brand new Mental Health Carers Campaign Group in Reading (Berkshire) is now truly up and running. So that’s one New Year’s Resolution that can be ticked off the list. Getting support from some organisations was unexpectedly a little more challenging than I might have imagined. But what definitely helped open doors was:
- Engaging people with our vision and connecting this with their priorities. Having simple messages highlighting the issues that really matter to us (mental health carers) and using our words and stories.
- Developing a strong influencing strategy and focusing on the group’s key campaigns for the year ahead definitely helped focus minds in meetings with the NHS and the local authority.
- Clarifying what organisations want from the campaign group. Boundary issues are always a bit tricky at the beginning of any new project (it’s very easy to tread on toes) but I really believe it helps if you’re honest and open about how people can help you; and what you can and can’t realistically do for them. There’s nothing more trust-depleting that over-promising.
- Promoting your personal credibility. This always touches on my own carer (and professional) experience, being well-linked in with other mental health carers and influencers and staying positive whatever happens.
If you’ve found this useful please do drop us a line or share it with others. Please do follow me on Twitter @businesses4good.
Some useful mental health carer links
Mental Health Foundation
Royal College of Psychiatrists
- “What matters most is that we learn from living.” (Doris Lessing)
Have you noticed how much easier life is when you’re optimistic? That dark cloud lifts. The birds start singing. Fell into one of those sinking “Is it worth it?” moments mid-week about a new campaign group I’d recently set up. Challenges seemed to be coming fast and furious. In a bid to get to a better place reached for my Get Yourself Happy List. It brought back a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Here goes, remember:
- Your vision (for the project).
- Your life values.
- What continues to inspire you.
- What you’ve learnt and done so far (with the project).
- Change is possible (even if you’re kind of doubting it at the moment).
- People can do great things together (Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King).
The challenge is remembering why you’re doing something, why it’s important to you.
Some useful reads
Optimism health benefits
45 Benefits of optimism
If you’ve found this helpful, please do share it with other people. I’d love to hear what you think if you have a little free time.
“The literature of social movements suggests that the prudent choice of frames, and the ability to effectively contest the opposition’s frames [re-frame], lie at the heart of successful policy advocacy.” Framing Public Issues Toolkit
Have you ever noticed how the mainstream media frames people with mental health issues as violent and unpredictable? A common media myth: people with a mental illness are more likely to be a victim of violence; and are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others.
8 useful things to know about issues framing
- It’s a way of structuring or presenting information into messages (words, metaphors and images) that can influence how people think about an issue. The infamous War on Terror is a classic example.
- It aims to simplify reality by shaping people’s assumptions and perceptions.
- A good frame engages the listeners’ values and emotions and it’s easy to remember.
- It’s packaged to encourage certain interpretations and to discourage others.
- For political purposes, framing often presents facts in such a way that implicates a problem that is in need of a solution.
- In a political context issue framing means presenting an issue in a way that’s going to get the biggest buy-in.
- Frames are powerful because most of us have internalized them from the media so they’re second nature to us.
- Some people call it spin.
If you’ve found this post valuable, please do share it with others.
Public Affairs Tip: Know your outputs from your outcomes.
How would you feel if someone asked you to develop an engagement/public affairs plan? Would you know where to start? Squirm? Lose sleep? It can happen to the best of us. Anyway, this simple three-step guidance is here to help re-assure those who might fret at the thought. No more night sweats for you. Calm’s the word.
❶ Where do you want to get to? Be brave.
- Build a community of advocates to raise awareness about . . .
- Kick start a new conversation around . . .
- Create more positive media coverage so that . . .
- Extend reach to key decision makers/influencers/opinion-formers which would include . . . .
- Become famous as . . .
- Create business opportunities with . . .
❷ Where are you now? Be honest.
- Who are you engaging with at the moment?
- Are there key audiences you’re targeting?
- Who are they and why?
- Do people really know what your organisation does, what it does and why?
- How do you know that? (evidence)
- Has your public profile changed over the last couple of years (got stronger/weaker)?
- How do you know that?
❸ What does success look like? Be clear.
- How are you going to measure your outputs and outcomes; and evaluate success?
Outputs are the products, services or facilities that result from your activities.
Outcomes are the benefits and changes that result from your activities.
If we take the idea of building a community of advocates to raise awareness as where we want to get to, then:
The outputs might be:
- The number of advocates you’ve managed to recruit.
- The number of advocates who are MPs, journalists, councillors etc.
- The number of internal advocates who have been trained in effective messaging.
And the outcomes might be:
- A better understanding of . . .
- Improved quality of life for your clients.
- Improved experience for . . .
If you’re interested in knowing more about public affairs strategy, then why not take a look at two CIPR Excellence Public Affair winners: Guide Dogs Dog Attacks Campaign and Fair Fuel UK Campaign
I hope you’ve found this useful. If you have any thoughts, reflections, ideas, insights please do get in touch.
PUBLIC AFFAIRS TIP: Be clear about where you’re heading. Objectives, strategy then tactics.
INDULGE ME. Imagine you’re out and about networking and you come across someone who says she’ a public affairs professional (me). What pops into your mind? Perhaps a faint whiff of lobbying or campaigning or public relations? Yep, true. And perhaps you see Big Ben or council meetings or party political conferences bursting into view. Yep, also true.
BUT what we’re really about is helping you:
- Engage more effectively with your key audiences, whether they’re the local community, media, government, statutory or voluntary bodies.
- Build strong alliances by working together and keeping supporters happy.
- Promote your expertise with fresh messages that connect with people’s everyday lives.
So that you can:
- Increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your services and products.
- Ensure a high degree of brand awareness and perception among influencers, decision makers and funders that matter to you.
- Draw down additional funding so you can grow and prosper.
If you’d like to know more about how I can help you achieve your engagement objectives for the future, please do drop me a line.
Public Affairs Tip: People love you if you make their life easier.
Sure some of you have been here before: twiddling your thumbs trying to think up a good plan to get some journalists on-side. Indulge me, let me give you the bad news first: there’s no quick fix. Patience and perseverance rule. The good news: there’s some things you can do to help journalists like you a little better. Here’s six to help get you started.
1/ Quickly respond to their queries. Enough said.
2/ Make their lives easier. Journalists thrive on up-to-date, concise and accurate facts and statistics; and newsworthy stories that sell. Like most of us they’re not super-human and can’t keep up-to-date on every issue. So they tend to depend on a handful of people or organisations that they can turn to and trust when they’re on a sticky wicket. Why not become one of their friends? Recognise the value of the statistics and stories that you collect; and why not think about pinning down and narrowcasting your expertise to a tight, target audience. What issues do you really know a lot about and which journalists would be interested?
3/ Send out useful, engaging press releases and e-mails. Journalists are swamped with them.
4/ Have a sharp press officer on the end of a line. Being over-reliant on websites and social media to get out facts, thoughts and opinions on the politics of the moment can be a tad risky.
5/ Have human stories at the ready. If you happen to be an alert charity or campaigning group you’ll have a good up-to-date “case study” database housing contact details of all those lovely people who have promised to support you by sharing their story with the media.
Last but not least:
6/ A picture launches a thousand journalists. Snap a great shot and get it out there. Fast.
Some useful stuff if you’ve found this interesting
AskCharity a free service designed to help journalists and charities work together.
Volunteer Genie on how to sell a story to a journalist.
Love to hear from you.
Public Affairs Tip: If you want to engage well with schools step into their shoes.
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that local non-profits can find it a bit tough getting schools interested in working with them. It’s a shame because these projects are often full of imagination and young people generally like change. Take me: I still remember the first time I saw a play given by a local theatre company at my primary school. Gob-smacked. Such magic. A world from nowhere.
But don’t lose heart. There’s ways of building healthy, sustainable relationships with secondary schools. You just have to be a Ben not a Bill. They both want to “sell” an (identical) idea – a drug awareness project – to the same school. Both lead a different local charity.
Bill wasn’t at home when common-sense came calling. So he goes blundering in (in April/a bad time for schools/near exams) irritating schools by cold calling them (without knowing who he wants to talk to), e-mail and mail bombing, phoning up expecting to talk to the head or a teacher (during teaching hours) and gets all hoity-toity with the receptionist (who’d burnt her toast that morning). Outcomes: receptionist slams phone on Bill and forever associates him with burnt toast.
Bill likes putting himself in other people’s shoes. He knows that the best time to talk to schools about new projects is September (when everyone’s fresh and free of exams); and that the school receptionists are worth their weight in gold (and probably burnt their toast that morning). He has a few names up his sleeve: the PSHE (Personal, Social and Health Education) head, the inclusion unit manager and the SENCO (Special Education Needs Co-ordinator). He’s talked to his friends and colleagues and found out that they’re sympathetic to the idea of promoting drug awareness. He’s framed his messages carefully around their needs, how the project will benefit their students (being very careful to pitch it to a year, subject, theme) and how it’s value for money. Outcomes: Ben gets a meeting with the right person; and the receptionist forever associates Ben with the person who made her feel better post toast burn.
If you’re interested in getting better at engaging with secondary schools and connecting with young people why not take a peek at:
If you’d like to share your story about what did or didn’t work for you when it came to engaging with secondary schools please do give me a shout. I’d love to hear from you and include your stories in future posts.