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.

 

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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.