Creating social change: the power of optimism

optimismPublic affairs tip: Talk to your values not your feelings.

Welcome to the third and final instalment of this series. At the end of this post you’ll find a comprehensive Creative Public Affairs guide that explores how to engage effectively with secondary schools.

One of the joys of getting older is that you pick up a few useful insights.One of the biggies is learning that staying optimist and inspired helps keep you motivated .

Here’s some tip on how to promote a positive mind-set. Why not try out a few and tell me how you get on. I’d love to know.

  • Feed your personal energy. Stay inspired.
  • Repeat after me: Change is possible.
  • Talk to your values rather than your feelings. It helps you and others to engage with what really matters.
  • Always keep your destination in mind.
  • Keep reminding yourself that people can do great things together especially if you make the messages personal. Focus on people’s everyday concerns and interests.
  • Consistently talk about what you do and why you’re doing it. Again concentrate on positive messages that concentrate on action, impact, effectiveness, outcomes and benefits. Clock what people are paying attention to. There’s your hook!
  • Share your successes eg announce when you’ve arrived at one of your milestones.
  • Choose how you want to be seen. How are you communicating your project’s identity? Are you going to invite opinion/feedback on how things are going? Will you be promoting your work internally in newsletters, bulletins and social media?
  • Seek local news coverage when success happens.
  • Help other people understand how they can get involved in the work you’re doing and how they can make a difference in their local communities.
  • Finally, never give up hope.

After all: “What matters most is that we learn from living.” (Doris Lessing)

I hope you enjoy the Guide: May 2014 VOLUNTARY SECTOR GUIDE How to effectively engage with secondary schools.

Good luck! I’m always happy to promote good stories.

If you need any help on communication, lobbying, campaigning and working with the media, please get in touch.

 

 

 

How to earn the trust trophy: 11 ideas

trophy and artPUBLIC AFFAIRS TIP: Trust is a trophy that’s given to you by other people because you’ve proved to be trustworthy.

 Would you say you’re an honest person? Trustworthy? I’ve been asking myself these questions following some work I’ve been doing recently on how best to promote more effective engagement between non-profits and secondary schools. Building and maintaining trust seems to sit at the heart of the solution. So how do you do it: earn the trust trophy?

Here’s 11 ideas I cooked up earlier.

  1.  Promote honest conversations with the secondary schools. When you pitch your project be honest about what you can and can’t deliver.
  2. Show schools you can deliver a relatively flexible, high quality service that meets an urgent need of theirs that’ll benefit their students/their parents/families.
  3. Set clear boundaries: what will you and won’t you do in the medium and long-term.
  4. Ask questions. Ensure you have the “difficult conversations” upfront. But be mindful: tread with care, tact and diplomacy.
  5. Clarify what the school wants out of your session(s). This is really important in faith-based schools where you have to be clear about what messages you’re going to promote?
  6. Answer positively to any questions.
  7. Provide evidence of your expertise: good, local, professional testimonials; well-designed websites; professional marketing collateral.
  8. Set up relationships with young people. They’re key. They know the school curriculum and how they feel about their school experience.
  9. Dress appropriately professionally and turn up on time. Remember you’re on show as soon as you come through the school gates.
  10. Respond to any communication promptly. Tardiness costs relationships.
  11. Ensure you, staff and volunteers have had safeguarding training.

I hope you found this helpful. In the next post – the final blog of the schools project series – I’ll be delving into how to remain positive and stay inspired.

Do get in touch if you’d like to share your thoughts about what worked or didn’t work for you when you worked with secondary schools. I’ll blend your insights into future posts.

Also if you need any help with communicating, campaigning, lobbying and working with the media please do contact me on 07966 369577 or sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com.

 “Honesty is not a policy, it is a state of mind.” Eugene LHote, philosopher.

 

 

 

10 tips: engaging with schools – making the first move

door

Quick Public Affairs Tip: If you want to open doors, tailor your approach to your target audience and their needs

I’ve always promoted the importance of a rounded secondary school experience. Something that enables people to create the lives they want whether it’s to do with banking or organic food farming. So I was chuffed to receive a commission to develop a strategy on how the local voluntary sector could engage more effectively with secondary schools.

It was a bit of an eye-opener. I’ve opened a lot of doors in my time – universities, trade unions, think tanks, government departments and ministerial offices – but this was a little different. Tougher. After the first couple of hiccups I’d managed to collect some crucial dos and don’ts to making that initial contact.

Dos

  • Make sure you have a contact name within the school when you phone reception. Using a person’s name is always a good way to build trust. If you don’t have a contact name, then you could try business and enterprise; deputy heads, subject heads, pastoral heads or PSHE heads, inclusion unit managers, SENCO (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator), welfare and pastoral leads.
  • If you can find someone with a bit of influence in the school to introduce you to the “right” person – perhaps a governor or a member of staff in the school – that would be great. Or perhaps you know someone who used to go to that school who can help introduce you to someone.
  • Time it right.  September’s a good time to approach schools. Avoid post-April.
  • Frame the messages in the offer around their needs, what the school wants and how the project will benefit their students. Be clear about where you’re pitching (year, subject, theme); how it’s value for money; and how you intend to measure success.
  • Be super-nice.

Don’t

  • Cold call schools.
  • E-mail/mail bomb schools.
  • Phone up during school hours expecting to talk to a teacher.
  • Contact the head teachers as they’re always very busy. Their PAs can be very helpful people. They know the school and can help you find the right person.
  • Antagonise the school receptionists. 

Hope you found this helpful. I’ll be continuing this school series with what to do in steps 2 and 3 (building trust and creating strong sustainable relationships).

I’d love to hear about your stories. What worked – or didn’t work – for you when you first approached a secondary school with your idea?

Why not get in touch:

07966 369579

sofija@creativepublicaffars.com

@businesses4good

 

How to create a story the media wants

how to create a story the media wantsQuick public affairs tip: if you need to sell something into the media –  use a story line that people already know well. Stories strike at the human heart and engage our attention. 

Whenever I’m a little glum, one of my favourite pick-me-ups is to re-vamp what’s happening to me into something a touch happier. More often than not it’s re-framing from a tragedy to triumph or comedy. It always works and it’s fun.

The 7 most common story types with strong characters and a lot of conflict to boot are: 

  •  Overcoming the monster – the battle between good and evil. Alice in Wonderland slaying the Jabberwocky and Jaws. 
  • The Quest. Jason’s adventures searching for the golden fleece and Bridget Jones quest to find herself a fella.
  • Voyage and return. Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz becomes older and wiser. 
  • Rags to riches. Cinderella, Rocky, dear Pip in Great Expectations.
  • Death and Re-birth or the redemption story. A common one in US politics.
  • The classical comedy. Midsummer Nights Dream where Bottom’s head’s transformed into an ass’s head but he’s clueless. Has a happy ending.
  • Tragedy: Deluded King Lear who chooses to give his estate to his two “evil” daughters and disinherits the “good” one. He goes mad. She gets hanged. In a tragic story the character doesn’t over-come the monster, reach the end of his quest etc.

Over to you:

  •  What story lines does your local paper like?
  • What stories do “leaders” like to tell us?

I’d love to hear how you’re getting on. If you need help with communicating your key messages – big or small – then please do contact me on sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com or 07966 369579.
Enjoy the day!

How to make joined-up working work well: a nifty idea

how to create successful partnershipsOne thing I love about being a public affairs professional is talking to loads of different people and picking up inspiring success stories; then sharing them.

Looking back on 2013, The Homework Club – set up by Reading Refugee Support Group (RRSG) and The Abbey School struck me as a nifty idea THAT WORKS. It began in October 2012 and:

  • Supports children and young people (7 to 18) from refugee families from neighbouring schools to do their English, Maths and Science homework.
  • It runs between October and April – twice a week – Tuesday and Wednesday between 4pm and 5.15pm.
  • It has room for 45 children/young people
  • Most attend twice a week.
  • RRSG select the children and young people who need help with their homework.
  • The project co-ordinator at The Abbey School selects the “tutors” from their upper and lower sixth form.
  • Abbey teachers supervise the sessions with RRSG representatives on hand.

RRSG’s story: “What prompted us to work with The Abbey School was that we were getting a lot of parents coming to the centre saying they’d needed some help for their children with their school work. They didn’t have the reading and writing skills. As well as improving educational performance amongst children of refugees and asylum seekers, we wanted to expand their career and higher education aspirations; increase their self-esteem and confidence; and engage refugee parents with their childrens’ learning. (Nina Lugor, Casework Manager, RRSG)

 The school’s story: “What prompted us to work with RRSG a few years ago was that I recognised that our girls’ general knowledge about the world could be a little better; and that there was a lot of negative refugee press stories going around at the time. Initially RRSG accompanied a refugee to tell his story. It was very powerful for all of us. We extended the relationship with RRSG to assembly talks; and Refugee Week activities. We thought the homework club would be mutually beneficial and it was. The student tutors got a kick out of making a difference, seeing someone learn. It also helped them with their personal statements for university; and the International Baccalaureate (IB). The home work club is a cheap, easy and practical way of making a difference. The model could easily be transferred to other schools, perhaps one day a week with one school staff member co-ordinating it. There’s no cost involved apart form the staff time (which three of us gladly volunteer). For me, I’m particularly glad at the success the homework club has had in promoting community cohesion and raising awareness of global issues.” (Julia Turkington, Director of Enrichment & Head of English and History, The Abbey School).

If you haven’t chosen your Christmas or local charity yet, please do donate to RRSG which does some fabulous work by visiting local giving. 

If you’ve enjoyed this post, then please do add a comment; drop me a line at sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com; give us a call/text me on 07966 369579. I’d love to hear about your success stories working with secondary schools.  Seize the day!

10 questions to ask before setting up a small business

how to set up a successful small businessA friend recently asked me for some advice on setting up a small business from scratch. Let’s call her April. She had a few ideas; and simply needed someone to help her frame her thoughts. In a bid to make her life – and yours – a little easier I cobbled together 10 questions to help steer April to shore.

Telling your personal story

1        How did you get to where you are now?

2        What’s inspiring you to go in this new direction?

3        What values and beliefs are important to you (and what you want to offer people)?

4        What have been your key successes so far?

Telling people what you’re offering – the benefits

5        Imagine you’re in a non-work situation and someone asks you what you do for a living, how would you describe your (fledgling) business?

6        What benefit(s) are you giving to your clients that your competitors aren’t?

7        One of your dreams has come true: you have a room full of hand-picked clients, who would they be?

Getting into the digital mind-set – finish off these sentences

 8    People know me because I know about . . . .

9     People like me because I have these values and beliefs . . .

10   People follow me because I can help people . . .

Some useful things to do if you’re thinking of setting up a new venture.

Attend one of Daniel Priestley’s strategy workshops. Very helpful!

Take a peek at The Rooted Guide and Penny Power’s book Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me. Full of inspiration and creative thinking.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. I’d love to hear your ideas about what you’d like me to write about. Perhaps there’s a burning communication, campaign or lobbying issue that you’d like a bit of help on? Or perhaps you’d like to share one of your public relations successes? Please do drop me a line at sofija@creativepublicaffairs.com or @businesses4good. Happy Days!

How to create powerful key messages

how to create powerful key messagesKey messages capture the essence of something that you want to communicate. They’re bits of information that people/organisations want their target audiences to know. They articulate what you do, what you believe in and how your work benefits people’s lives, the planet. . .

Here’s a couple of key messages to chew on:

“The melting Arctic is under threat from oil drilling, industrial fishing and conflict. You can Save The Arctic.” Greenpeace 

“Speaking openly about our mental health is an essential element in breaking down the stigma surrounding it.” Rethink 

Key messages are normally sprinkled into communications – website pages, newspaper articles, press releases, presentations, media interviews, MP meetings etc.

When creating strong key messages for your public affairs and media work remember the 10 steps:

  1. Short and simple – no more than a couple of sentences.
  2. Easy to understand.
  3. Conversational and is easy to say aloud.
  4. Jargon and acronym free.
  5. Has emotional punch.
  6. Captures the spirit of what you want to achieve.
  7. Uses a tone that will connect with your audience.
  8. Expresses your brand.
  9. Focuses on one broad idea.
  10. Is easy for people to remember.

So time to get out there. As Amelia Earhart once said: “The most effective way to do it, is to do it.” 

If you liked this blog then you might find these helpful too:

Key message development 

How to make your key messages interesting 

Good luck with your messaging. If you need any help just give us a call on 07966 369579 or contact me @businesses4 good or sofija@ creative public affairs.

Helping people say what they want to say: listening to articulate

claritySomeone’s trying to tell you something and it’s as fuzzy as a bear. Here’s four simple steps to help people find their own clarity.

One: Focus on them. Ask some good, well-pitched questions that get to the heart of their issues, needs and wants. One that’s always worked well for me with potential clients is: what’s your biggest challenge in the year ahead?

Two: Listen really carefully. What stories, phrases or words seem to keep cropping up? You’re picking up on their sub-conscious here.

Three: Reflect back to them and check your understanding.

Four: Be honest. It helps foster healthy relationships. If they ask you a question be honest.

The posh phrase for this process is “listening to articulate”. It’s a useful technique to have in your communication tool-box. It works by helping people bring to the surface what’s stuck in their sub-conscious.  It’s a powerful first step in influencing because it can change what’s in people’s heads.

You know you’re doing it right when people say things like: “how did that happen? I didn’t know that was there.”

Why not give the listening to articulate technique a try. I’d love to hear how you got on. Good luck!

Please do follow me @businesses4good.

Other people’s ideas you might like

Articulate listening 

Planting ideas 

8 ways to promote your cause using people’s stories

story 2Use stories:they’re a great way of connecting with people emotionally. Stories can be used many ways to help you promote your cause, for instance to:

  • Fund-raise effectively: Making things personal for potential donors adds the emotional wow factor by showing how you’ve helped someone or how you want to help someone.
  • Promote policy positions: Using case studies in consultation responses captures people’s attention.
  • Catch media attention:  Journalists are in the business of storytelling. So why not give them some fresh success stories.
  • Get an MP involved: With a face, a name and a story you can help politicians see how they can help someone in their constituency.
  • Engage with your local community: Stories are a great way of ensuring that people know what you’re up to.
  • Keep supporters happy: Success stories are a great way of keeping supporters happy.
  • Build alliances: Personal stories can help build stronger alliances by showcasing your expertise and promoting your strengths.
  • Increase volunteering: Promoting success profiles of current volunteers helps people get a grip on the benefits to them – as well as others – of volunteering.

One of my passions is re-cycling. Recently re-cycled an old Singer sewing machine with treddle; and a pair of 1980s glasses (you know the big, black rimmed ones) through Tools for Self Reliance and Vision Aid Overseas.

These two stories definitely helped me make my decision to donate to them:

Janet (trained to repair sewing machines) 

Phillipe (a tailor and father to six) 

If you want to get more communication, campaigning and lobbying tips why not follow me on twitter @businesses4good.

People’s stories: passion lives here

yellow brick roadOne of the key tasks of a public affairs professional is to create content which is then communicated to engage people with what organisations do and what they believe in. We do this by:

  • Commissioning new research

  • Identifying an interesting statistic

  • Developing some key messages

  • Enlisting a “celebrity” or an “expert” and

  • Composing case studies/human stories

Stories can be collected in a structured or unstructured way. With the first you’re collecting information from a prescribed list of questions. For instance, you might be collecting case studies to support an awareness campaign so you want the story to speak to that campaign.

With unstructured story collection you’ve chucked the questions out of the window. You’re open to what might emerge. One benefit of this approach is that it enables people to talk to their story. It can also produce some helpful insights and shape a story that – perhaps – you never knew existed.

If you want to know more about how to tell a great story why not click here. Includes a video by Isobel Allende’s (activist, feminist, writer).

I hope you found this post helpful. Please do leave a comment or question; and follow me @businesses4good if you want tips on how to communicate, campaign and lobby more effectively.

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