How you can help mental health carers

A blog to mark Carers Week 2017

I’m a carer. An unpaid mental health carer. And a mental health carer campaigner. It’s not all of me, but it’s a very important part of how I’ve chosen to be. I’m proud that I care.

It’s easy to become apologetic and lose self-confidence when you tell someone new that you’re an unpaid mental health carer. Because people tend to respond to the news in one of four ways:

People switch off. Distance themselves from you. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe my face becomes a mirror reflecting big stuff they’d prefer to sweep under the carpet? Things like ill-health, lack of control? I don’t know, perhaps they’re frightened? A hopeless emotion that doesn’t help any of us. Best leave that because I’m digging myself a hole.

People start saying strange things to me like: “You’re get your reward in heaven.” Framing me as if I’m some sort of card totting up the points to heaven. This is a wee bit patronising.

People start interrogating me and questioning my judgement: “Why didn’t you . . . . .”

People presume you don’t work and time is not important to you which simply isn’t true in my case where my experiences have blended into my professional life.

So what can you do to help? Please ask:

How is . . . ? This is a really powerful question because someone is connecting with you about something that’s really important to you (the person you care for).

How are you? 50% of carers will become ill because of their caring role. So the more you can remind us to self-care the better.

How can I help? Kindness goes a long, long way; and can turn a tough day into a brighter one.

We’re all in this together: living, loving, being. It’s just that some of us – at a point on the dial – have chosen to step into the world of the unwell to help someone out a bit.

How to create a powerful press release

thO1Z8IZY9What do you think makes an effective press release so that your story gets picked up by the local press? Something that’s worked for me and others is to help the local journalist write the story easily. About 70% of our local press coverage is directly taken from press releases. Local journalists are far more desk-bound with constant staff cut backs. The local press photographer is going the way of the dodo. So the more you do to help the journalist for instance by preparing a strong introduction with a powerful human story, an engaging quote plus a few landscape photographs – the better!

THE FORMAT: A POWERFUL PRESS RELEASE

Title/Subject line: Make it catchy. Remember it’s the local journalist’s job to develop the headline.

First paragraph/Introduction: About 28 words max, main point of story, tell it like a story. Grab the local journalists’ attention: put the main point of the story in the introduction.

Second paragraph: Expansion on introductory paragraph. Be informal. Tell the story as if you’re talking to someone. Avoid jargon and clichés. Keep sentences short. Be honest and try not to over-egg who you are.

Third paragraph: Strong quote, human, emotional.

Fourth paragraph: Further expansion on paragraph three. But there’s a common journalist’s joke that not many people read beyond the third paragragh.

Call to action: Link back to your website.

Your contact information: Make clear if it’s for the journalist’s benefit or for publication.

Notes to editors: Detail what you do.

Photographs: Ideally six/have a prize landscape Twitter one.

Caption:Including people’s names (left to right) if it’s a small group.

Word Count: 350 is normal length of a page lead (between 250-450). 125 words minimum for Google.

Good luck. If you want to know more, why not join us at our next media training event on Thursday 6 April 2017.

The power of optimism

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  • “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).

 

And that:

  • 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

Cultivate optimism

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.

How issues framing can help you deliver a sticky message

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“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.

Creating a strong engagement plan from scratch

media and public affairs professionalPublic 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.

       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 . . .

        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?

        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.

How a public affairs person can help you

 

creative public affairs

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.

How to get a journalist to love you

th9KKXI7FMPublic 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.