Find out how to use traditional and digital media for your Community Sponsorship project
Raising awareness of your work is going to be essential in recruiting volunteers and raising funds to support your Community Sponsorship project. This guide outlines some key things to think about when starting out. If you are working with a Lead Sponsor organisation, make sure you discuss with them if there is any guidance they wish you to stick to.
Publicising what you are doing can be hugely beneficial, particularly when you are fundraising, recruiting volunteers or looking for accommodation. Raising awareness of Community Sponsorship will also encourage more people to get involved and thus more refugees being welcomed through the programme.
You do not have to have a social media presence for your Community Sponsorship group to be a success. Many groups do not have any form of online presence and they are perfectly successful in supporting refugees. Other equally successful groups have found that they really enjoy publicising their work and that this has helped them reach more people.
Things to consider when deciding whether to use media
- Do you have the capacity to manage social media? The most successful social media accounts post regularly, answer questions and join a conversation. Some groups have told us that responding to requests from local press once you do advertise what you are doing can feel like a full-time job.
- Do you already have networks you can access? Many groups tell us that they heard about Community Sponsorship through their parish or village newsletter or posters on noticeboards.
- If you decide to use media, what will you share and not share? You should always keep in mind that the privacy and dignity of the refugee family you are welcoming is paramount. Read our case study below for how other groups have managed this.
If you decide to use social media, make sure you use #CommunitySponsorship – there’s a huge network of individuals and organisations who will help you to take your message further.
Important points to note
Sponsor Agreement. Groups should ensure that they take note that as soon as they have signed a sponsor agreement with the Home Office to welcome a family, they must clear participation in media or publicity activity with the Home Office prior to agreeing to do this.
Acting with informed consent. Taking photographs or sharing details about the family you support should be with the complete agreement of the family you support. Keep in mind that there will already be a power dynamic between you and the family you support (weighted in your favour), and they may say ‘yes’ to things to please you, rather than because they actually want to participate in media activity or have their photographs taken. Respect their boundaries and do all that you can to ensure that they are comfortable with how their story is being told and shared.
Sharing updates on the progress of the family. It’s natural for those who have donated or supported your Community Sponsorship activity to want to know how the family are getting along, or your progress as a group. Think through what it’s appropriate to share and how. Putting the flight arrival time and flight number of the family on social media is not appropriate as not everyone will be as welcoming as you. Sharing personal information about the family that may make them or their new home identifiable is also to be avoided. When progress is made, for example, when an adult member of the family gains employment, this is their success and story to tell, so make sure that you have their permission to share this news. Don’t be fearful of telling people that you can’t pass on information about the family you support; if you need other stories from Community Sponsorship to tell, visit the Reset website.
Managing offers of help. Having a public profile can bring many offers of help from organisations, individuals and others working to promote and support Community Sponsorship. This can be a huge help as you develop your own programme, but you don’t have to accept these – take a little from everyone or none at all.
If you’re sharing details on social or traditional media about your Community Sponsorship group, a name and a logo can help to create a consistent message and profile for your work. It can also help to give your group an identity and create a shared vision and purpose for your work. Remember that your name doesn’t need to describe where in the country you are, or who your group members are.
Whilst you are fundraising and raising awareness, you’ll need to use the term ‘refugees’ to describe who you hope to welcome, but this may change once a family do arrive so consider whether the name you choose is adaptable to this. It may be that you have a shortened version of your name that you could display on a poster or signage at the airport to use once the family have arrived. Remember too that the family you support are unlikely to want to be referred to as refugees; this is simply a status, not a type or group of people.
We would also recommend not identifying the nationality of the refugees you hope to support; whilst the vast majority of refugees resettled through Community Sponsorship have been Syrian, the programme continues to diversify and welcome more people of different nationalities. Some groups have had some tough discussions when they have fundraised to support a Syrian family, but been matched with a non-Syrian family, looking into whether this may have been misleading to donors.
Making ‘asks’ of the press
If you have a public presence and you want to utilise the local or national press to spread the word about your work, make your ‘ask’ specific. If you want your local paper to include news of a fundraising event you are holding, ensure they have the information they need in order to feature this, including details on the aim of the event, whether people need to register or buy tickets, and where and when it will be held.
Make sure the journalist you speak to has your contact details for follow up questions, and if appropriate, ask them if they can attend the event itself.
If you’re writing something for a local or national paper to print, you should avoid the use of jargon or acronyms. These can be exclusionary and off-putting to someone who doesn’t know what they mean. Be ready to explain what Community Sponsorship is. We know that it’s a young programme and there isn’t widespread awareness of it (yet!).
Managing your message
Remember that as a group, you will decide what you share and how you do so.
Do not be fearful of making your group the story, rather than the refugees you’re supporting. We hear time and again how transformational Community Sponsorship is to the people involved in the group. Group members have shared their stories with us, and how Community Sponsorship has had an impact on their lives – read these on the Reset website.
If there are things that your group doesn’t want the press to publish, don’t hesitate to say no to journalists. Remember also that your group cannot share private information relating to the family you’re supporting. For instance, you may ask your local paper to help publicise your search for sustainable accommodation in your area, but it would not be appropriate to announce that you have found a property in xx Street.
Speaking to the media
Some members of your group might have experience in communications and media, but others might never have worked on anything like this before. Some tips to keep in mind when being interviewed are:
- You control the message for that media piece; don’t fear saying ‘no’.
- If the family you support are participating in media articles, ask the journalist or media outlet to provide interpreters. If the family members don’t wish to speak about their previous experience before they fled their home, this is ok – it’s their story to tell.
- If you do not wish to be filmed, make sure the media outlet knows this.
- Most media outlets will need to ask for the permission of adults to film them, for children the parents/guardians will be asked to sign a consent form for their participation.
- You can be completely honest with the media, but you don’t need to answer anything you don’t feel comfortable answering. Only do what feels right to you.
- If there is something you want to tell the media team as context or background information, but not have the quote appear anywhere, be clear that you are telling them ‘off the record’.
- Remember to photograph your activities. It’s not only a great reminder of how far you’ve come, but also a great resource for when you’re publicising your work.
- If you see images on the Reset website that you would like to use, please get in contact and we will pass on what we can to you. We love the UNHCR photo series on Community Sponsorship.
- We advise that you avoid using overtly emotional or deliberately provocative photographs. You should also try to avoid being misleading with the images you use. For example, many of us will have an image of our minds of refugees living in tents in a refugee camp, but in reality less than 7% of refugees residing in the Middle East are living in a refugee camp.
- The family you support are individuals, people who have lived valuable and diverse lives before a conflict or crisis has forced them to flee their homes; something that no-one would choose to do, offering people in this situation dignity and respect is something we can all do through the way in which they are portrayed.
Dealing with negative responses to your work
If you’re promoting your work publicly, you may find that you receive negative comments or challenging questions from those reading about your work; you should try to not take these comments personally. It can be useful to think through how you may answer some of the common comments that are made, and whether you will respond at all. Online, it’s often best not to respond at all.
When the Refugee Welcome Dagenham Community Sponsorship group promoted their recruitment drive for volunteers, the local press picked the story up and put it online. The group had already decided on a policy of not responding to malicious or offensive comments online. The piece received some negative comments but the group found that other commenters on the piece effectively closed down the conversation. Reset can help you to prepare to answer these questions, just get in contact.
Here are some comments that groups have received when promoting their work:
- We have homeless people in the UK, why aren’t you helping them?
- Why are you doing so much work to welcome a single family unit?
- Aren’t you doing the Government’s work?
- Your group may not be resettlement experts, what qualifies you to be involved?
- The Local Authority also does resettlement, why do you need to do this as well?
Answering questions from refugees awaiting resettlement
If you are promoting your work through social media, some of the posts may be responded to or shared via those who wish to have their voice heard and will share and comment with a new hashtag, to promote their cause. It’s essential that you remember that as a Community Sponsorship group you have no influence on which refugees will be resettled in the UK; the only organisations who do this are the Home Office and UNHCR. This is not to say that we are not entirely sympathetic to the cause and their future resettlement, however, there is essentially nothing you can do about this. We have made available a comment on this in English and Arabic, which you can use as a response should you wish to do so.