Making sure that your adult social services department has a good relationship with your local media is essential. Working closely with your local paper or radio or TV station not only showcases some of the positive work your department does, but also enables to you highlight and campaign on local issues as effectively as possible. The following top tips are crucial when it comes to reaching out to local media.
- Keep your stories focused around people. Never frame any stories for local media around ‘clients’ or ‘users’ – it’s always about helping local people. Make sure every press release includes at least one case study of a person being helped, to lend colour to your story and put a human face on the work you do. Ideally, include photographs which can ensure it gets wider space in the local media. Kate Terroni, Director of Adult Social Services at Oxfordshire County Council, advocates making sure that social workers ask people they support if they are happy to share their story with local media. “We now routinely ask people, who we know have had a brilliant outcome through our services, if they would be interested in sharing their story with the local media. People are really keen to do it – they don’t see it as a favour, more just a chance to share their experiences. One person we helped kept the newspaper cuttings on their wall at home!” Focusing your stories around a single person’s story can be a highly effective strategy.
- Serious stories can be uplifting, too. With the squeeze on social care budgets, it’s easy to get lost in a gloomy outlook. But it’s possible to both talk about the serious impact of the adult social care funding gap whilst also offering hope for a better future. Quotes that call on the Government to address our funding gap should also highlight the positive contribution that adult social care can make – especially if you’re asking something of the local community, such as for volunteers or more funding from the Government.
- Position yourselves as local experts. As social care providers, nobody knows more about this topic in your local area than you do. This can be particularly useful on broadcast media, where nobody can argue with your day-to-day experiences. Whether it’s a person benefitting from a new social group or a stroke survivor recovering thanks to rehabilitation support, you see it first-hand and you are the ones qualified to discuss this in your local media. Use both the human experience of what you see happen in effective social work every day and your professional expertise to claim the mantle of expert on this topic in your local area.
- Network and be available. Of course, a crucial part of being a local expert is being available and accessible to your local media. This component is essential – an act as simple as forwarding a work phone onto a personal mobile can mean that local papers and broadcasters can contact you. Often local radio and television will make notes on guests that have been particularly good interviewees, and want to come back to them when similar stories emerge on future. Make sure that your department can be accessible to local media, and that you are constantly building relationships with both your comms team and the local media landscape.
- Pay attention to the small stuff. All of the above will help, but it’s essential that anything you release is accurate, easy to read, and presentable. Journalists are inundated with scores of press releases every hour – it’s essential that what comes from your team not only stands out, but is easily readable and builds that reputation for local expertise that you’re after
These tips may seem basic, but they’re also important. Advocating for the people who depend on our services, whether it’s older people or adults with disabilities, is a crucial part of our job.
Following these tips, securing positive media coverage and establishing yourselves as local experts can help increase the impact of your work. It’s amazing the difference even a little outreach can make.