Role descriptors: a great tool to get carers involved in your work

Do you have a bit of a challenge getting mental health carers involved in your work? Perhaps they’re not joining the group you’ve set up and you’d really like to hear about their “lived experience” and the many “insights” they’ve picked up along the rocky road that is called “care”.

Well, you’re in the right place. Because I can tell you about a very simple, nifty tool – a role descriptorthat can really help you.

Role descriptors frame what’s expected of you and carers in very explicit but simple terms.

Role descriptors are normally a couple of pages long and tend to include six pieces of really important information for the mental health carer:

1 – Background and timeframe. Aim/purpose/vision of group, project, task.

2 – Carer Role. What you’d like the carers to do (in a group you might like them to represent and liaise eg).

3 – Carer experience and skills – essential/desirable. I’ve found these really help the carer reflect/be able to detail the skills that they already have; and perhaps want to share with others. Putting it in jargon, public affairs speak they “help the carer map their innate assets”.

4 – Carer support. How are you going to help them in their role? If it’s joining a group you might like to provide them with a handbook, training, pre-meetings eg).

5 – Reward and recognition/Payment. Not everyone will want to take a monetary reward. Often they’re really confused and frightened as to whether they should declare it to the tax people. So please help carers out by directing them to expert help and information on this complex  issue.

6 – Who to contact and response time. Give very clear information about who to contact if you’re thinking of getting actively involved; and how long it’s likely to take to get a response to their query. It’s very easy to lose people at the first hurdle with poor communication. None of us want that!

Best of luck!

A little bit about me: I am a member (mental carer representative and campaigner) of the Reading Mental Wellbeing Group (RMWG). One of my recent projects has been trying to help the group better incorporate the “seldom heard voice” (including people who use mental health services and their unpaid carers – family and friends) into our work/meetings.

The group was specifically set up to:

“Provide a central point for the voices of mental health service users and carers to be heard and acted upon.

Ensure that the profile of mental health issues is raised and that outcomes for people who use mental health services and their carers are improved.”

Among many other things . . .

It includes a range of local “stakeholders” (people who are interested and involved in helping improve mental health services for everyone).  It’s chaired by the lead on community mental health in Reading who works for Berkshire Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Special blog written for Reading Mental Wellbeing Group to help us in our work together; and help promote our vision to those who might be interested in getting involved.

 

How to help someone who is suicidal

In honour of World Suicide Prevention Day: 10 September 2017

Spent last weekend creating a brand new Suicide Prevention infographic with a couple of friends (Mike, an illustrator; and Dan a word-smith) in honour of World Suicide Prevention Day on 10th Sept 2017.

Together we wanted to create something powerful that people could engage with easily and share with others; something that took the sting out of starting a conversation around suicide.Suicide Prevention Infographic 040917After just a few days we’re bowled over by the response in pledges of support. We seem to have struck a chord. The genie is out of the bottle: mental health is something that concerns us all.

It reminds me of the jelly fish story. Woman walks along a beach strewn with jelly fish. She sees a young girl chucking one into the sea. Woman says to girl: Why bother? Look how many there are! You can’t save all of them! The girl replies: Yes, but I saved that one.

Please share the infographic with anyone you think might be interested. If you tweet about it please do me the kindness of crediting: @sofijaopacic.

 

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.

How to write well: 14 tips

dr sofija opacic and creative public affairs Public Affairs Tip: If you want to improve your writing use short sentences; and strong, snappy, unusual words.

Have you ever been stuck for words? Or perhaps not been able to get the right words in the right order on the page? Some of us get stuck when it comes to expressing what we want to say on paper; but there’s hope at hand. Writing has been part of my working life for over 25 years. That means that I’ve had a lot of time to learn from my mistakes. Like a lot of things in life there’s some simple rules you can follow. Here’s14 classic do’s and don’ts I’ve picked up along the way.

Do:

  • Use short sentences.
  • Use snappy words.
  • Use strong, unusual words to attract attention.
  • Pepper with strong, active verbs.
  • Use vivid imagery (a good metaphor goes a long way).
  • Get straight to the point.
  • Be positive.
  • Use concrete facts.

Don’t use:

  • Flowery adjectives
  • Lots of adjectives
  • Long, complex sentences.
  • Vague, flabby words and ideas.
  • Hype (seen as advertising).
  • Jargon and acronyms (unless spelt out clearly).

If you want to know more about how to write well, why not take a peek at:

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What was the message again? How to create a sticky message.

06b6abaa90422778ddd37f485f1ef1b2Public Affairs tip: Spend time getting your messaging right so it connects with people’s emotions.

Have you ever tried to explain to someone what your organisation does? Only to be met with a bewildered, confused and slightly irritated look when the lucky person’s heard you out?

If the answer’s yes, then the first thing to say is don’t panic; it’s a common problem. Converting something complex into a sentence or two takes time; and it’s a bit of an art because you’re aiming to tug at heart strings as well as engaging people’s minds.

This post will help grow your confidence on what messages are and how to develop them so they stick.

Putting it very simply, a message is a clear, concise statement; or set of statements that describes a position, opinion or point of view. Messages form the bedrock of our communication. They’re the basic building blocks that are used to reach out to our target audience and persuade them to think or do something.

Three common organisational messages are the:

  • Strap-line: short, snappy, captures what your organisation’s about and what you’re trying to achieve.
  • Policy position statement: where your organisation stands on a certain issue. These often draw on extensive research, so it’s really important to cut out the jargon. People tend to zone out with statistics and arguments. So please be careful.
  • Elevator pitch: what your organisation does in about 30 seconds. This puts a very positive spin on what you want to change – the kind of impact you want to make – how you change people’s lives for the better, for instance.

Here’s three simple steps to help you start developing your organisation’s messaging platform:

Step 1: Be clear about who you are, what you do and why.

It’s important to get this first step right because without mutual understanding there’s little chance of creating effective communication, campaign, fund-raising, media or public affairs strategies. A common challenge for some smaller non-profits is getting people within the organisation on the same page (trustees, volunteers, staff). With larger non-profits common challenges are sharing key messages between departments; and aligning internal and external communication.

Step 2: Start with your strapline

Have you ever noticed how it’s always much easier to waffle than be concise? A strapline forces you to condense down who you are, what you do and why in around seven to ten words. It’s the jewel in the crown. It helps people engage with what you do and what you want to achieve. So it’s a good place to start.

Step 3: Empower people to become effective messagers

Given the direction of communication (fast, real time) it’s important that everyone is involved in developing and promoting effective organisational messages. Let’s imagine you’re part of an organisation that’s starting a new campaign to change a piece of legislation. Imagine how much more effective – how much more impact it would make – if everyone in your organisation went home and talked about it (on and off line). All those people telling their friends and family about:

  • The one big thing they want them to know about the new campaign.
  • The reason why it’s important.
  • What they could do to help.
  • Why it’s important for them to do something now.

 

If you’ve found this interesting why not try a couple of things out. Doing something will help you embed what you’ve learnt:

  • Look at some of your competitors’ straplines.
  • Find a campaign that’s made you do something. Work out what values sit at the heart of its messaging. Putting it another way: what tugged at your heart strings?

If you’re interested in sharing some of your thoughts or discoveries, please do get in contact. I’d love to hear from you.

Getting over the b-word

Creative Publc AffairsPublic Affairs Tip: Know who you are, what you do and why you do it.

This post is a gift to all those people who get a little tetchy when the b-word’s mentioned. BRAND. Why not give it a go when you have a mo, it might help you express who you are, what you do and why you do it. What have you got to lose? Why not take the first step?

What’s brand?         

It’s what people say, think and feel about you. It’s the impression you make. Think Red Cross and Microsoft what comes to mind?

What’s does brand focus on?

Three main bits:

  • Your mission, vision and values.
  • Your visual identity (symbols, colours and design).
  • Your tone of voice (how you use words to express your organisation’s personality. Think BNP and Green).

How do you create a strong brand?

A start might be to:

    • Know who you are, what you do and why you do it. This should come through everything you do whether you’re updating your twitter account or presenting a formal fundraising pitch.
    • Be clear about your position and what sets you apart from others.
    • Bring your brand alive through words, images and colour.
    • Take people on the journey with you by sharing your vision and a common sense of purpose.
    • Make sure everyone’s on the same page including people who fund-raise, market, recruit volunteers, campaign and develop policy.
    • Be experimental, entertaining and engaging. We like brands that fit in to what’s important to us and what we’re interested in.

If you’ve found this useful, then why take a peek at this.

Please do keep in touch.

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 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!