Making our audiences feel heard, and creating opportunities for them to see how what they have shared making an impact, is an important and rewarding part of working in comms. It is through talking to those we exist for and understanding what they need that we are able to work with them to deliver real change.
That’s why Fastn, which promotes healthy, dependable relationships in schools, the media and the workplace, recently decided to work with the Media Trust, who work in partnership with the media and creative industry to give young people a stronger voice. A project that led to the creation of practical reframing guidelines that reflected the needs of young people.
Where did we start?
Survation polling (2019) showed 79% of young people across a wide mix of races, faiths, sexualities and geographies considered being in lasting/ fulfilling relationships to be just as important or more important to them as their working life. And that the media played a central role in their expectations of these relationships. We wanted to facilitate a dialogue with young people and the media to explore how the relationships they valued so highly were being portrayed. What we heard was that young people did not feel they saw in the media, relationships that reflected their circumstances, nor relationships they wanted for their future.
Based on this, Fastn and the Media Trust brought together a small yet diverse group of youth and media representatives. We wanted to explore the problem and developed tangible actions to drive change, and so Reframing Relationships: how the media can support young people to form and sustain healthy and dependable relationships was created.
The project, ‘Relationships, the Media and Me’, revealed four key communications learnings:
- The power of listening
Too often we can think we know something, but it’s a salutatory reminder to us all that we need to ask questions and then we need to listen. At times, this felt quite challenging, we didn’t know who was going to say what, if anything, a comms professional’s nightmare! But in fact, through trusting the
process we all learned. The polling was with a diverse group of young people and so acted as a springboard to more qualitative, deeper work. It was then through the in-depth discussions with youth partners that we really began to understand the extent of how ‘unheard and unseen’ they felt and what changes they sought. Creating a space where a representative youth group could speak directly with media representatives and share directly how they feel was an important step in trying to redress this feeling.
- The Importance of two way, ongoing communications
Whilst we may ‘know’ a conversation is two way, this takes time and needs to be ongoing. We worked with a wide range of young people with different demands on their time; school pick ups, jobs, disabilities, caring roles and so on. When organising workshops and the roundtable we had to listen to their needs as well as the media – mediating this wasn’t easy and took much effort to ensure we maintained a high level of engagement. We were asking people to volunteer their time, on top of the many demands that they have and so it was crucial to maintain an ongoing dialogue with all involved. Making sure they realised their central role in the project and how through their participation they could make a real impact. Throughout we strived to model what makes a good relationship.
- The power of bringing people together
This project only succeeded through bringing different experts together; Fastn’s relationship expertise and links with youth groups, Media Trust’s understanding of the media and creative industry and then the youth and media representatives themselves. Fastn’s role as a facilitator and catalyst for a conversation created something – we didn’t know what we would end up with at the beginning, but we knew we wanted something tangible and we feel incredibly proud of the result. Not knowing, and then seeing what would be created left the space for creativity and freedom for something that was truly audience led.
- The need to create something tangible
What we did know when we set out on this project was that we wanted something tangible, something that would live on and act as a catalyst for driving change and further conversations. We hope that charity communicators far and wide will read the guidance and be able to use it when thinking with media contacts about how to build on any work that is already being done in this area. Some key questions for discussion include; how they are portraying relationships – are they real, and are they modelling something we would want to achieve some time in the future?
And what did the Fastn team specifically learn from co-creating these new media guidelines with young people? That young people’s outcomes are heavily influenced by the media’s portrayal of relationships throughout their lives and this needs (our collective) action. Thanks to the creation of Reframing Relationships: how the media can support young people to form and sustain healthy and dependable relationships happily we now can all do something about it.
Banner image: Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash