Campaign: DTW changes tactics to boost foster carers - Public Sector PR

Campaign: Help Raise 100 Smiles Client: North Yorkshire County Council PR team: DTW Timescale: September 2003-ongoing Budget: £17,000

A shortage of foster carers in North Yorkshire meant many children were being placed in homes away from their local areas, so the council was keen to encourage more local carers. Objectives

To recruit 100 new foster carers in the area. To move away from the images of sad or abused children used in previous drives for foster carers.

Strategy and Plan

Following a series of focus groups to discuss the campaign concept, members of the public were asked for their views, as were other parties including councillors, foster carers and social workers.

It was decided that an image of 100 children with the slogan 'Help us raise 100 smiles' would be the centrepiece of the campaign. While the PR team approached all local newspapers and radio stations for editorial coverage, given the rural nature of the area, DTW had to find less conventional ways of getting the message across.

Car bumper stickers were given to council staff with their pay slips, leaflets and posters were put in doctors' surgeries, a screensaver was devised, and an information stand was set up at the Wensleydale Show.

Information was also handed out in shops.

Measurement and Evaluation

Coverage was achieved at the time of the campaign launch in all the target media, including the Darlington & Stockton Times, the Scarborough Evening News, and the Northern Echo. In many cases, short pieces were taken straight from the press release, while some stories included longer interviews about the work of foster carers.

The strong public response to the campaign meant that further news stories about the warm-heartedness of local people could be generated several months after the campaign launch.

Results

In the first four months of the campaign, foster care applications had increased by 56 per cent on the previous year, with 68 positive enquiries.

The success of the campaign so far means a similar approach will be taken by the council in its search for more people to adopt children in the area.

Scarborough Evening News chief reporter Chris Nixon said the paper ran several stories on the appeal for foster carers.

But he adds: 'If we had been provided with figures for (the number of carers needed in) Scarborough itself, or been provided with somebody who was able to talk about the joys and pains of fostering, it probably would have been given more prominence (in the paper) because it would have been more appealing.'

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