Key challenges had to be considered. Many council staff were supporting COVID-19 efforts and thus had reduced capacity. Furthermore, social distancing regulations would make it impossible to meet in person to get film content. Anything recorded would be difficult to edit and upload to social media due to staff working from home. As such, it was decided that the best approach was a digital campaign that encouraged user-generated content.
Delivery staff started a dialogue with their participants regarding Refugee Week. This allowed the group to ensure that the content produced was something that participants would want to engage with. Their feedback helped to form a brief for a social media campaign called ‘Symbols of Home’. Here is an extract:
‘Home should be a sanctuary and a safe, supportive place. It’s what MiFriendly Cities is helping to create in the West Midlands. But right now, during COVID-19, it might also be a place of solitude, or even sadness. To many refugees, forced to leave their home and make a new one, these feelings are not uncommon. To mark Refugee Week, we are sharing images and ideas that symbolise home. For example, this may be an object, photograph or meal that reminds you of home!
The MiFriendly Cities Team invite you and your friends to join in, on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Just make sure to use #MiFriendly and #SYMBOLSOFHOME so that we can share your submissions!’.
The concept aimed to demonstrate that no matter our background, we share commonalities. We hoped this would encourage the sharing of posts and in turn generate empathy across communities. Several internal reminders were circulated. These included a schedule which listed which Project Partner was to participate on which day and nominated a person to ensure this. Participants and migration forums were contacted via email marketing. Graphics aimed at generating participation were also uploaded to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram leading up to the event, as well as during the week.
The #SymbolsOfHome campaign was featured in Coventry’s annual Refugee Week (Coventry Welcomes) programme. In Birmingham, Birmingham City Council promoted the campaign on its intranet and worked with its local Share My Language Champions to create content. At the end of the week, it was discovered that the posts most engaged with referred to identity, food or football – highlighting commonalities amongst those from different backgrounds. In line with this, more personal submissions had higher engagement rates than generic posts.
On Twitter, the campaign meant that MiFriendly Cities received 312 profile visits in June, up 112% compared to the previous month. It also received 108 mentions, 125% more than in May, and gained 29 new followers. On Facebook, the MiFriendly Cities page had 47 new users during the campaign. It also achieved 23 new page likes. In total, it is estimated that the campaign content reached people a minimum of 58,206 times, engaging people 1,566 times. These figures represent a huge success for MiFC. They are much higher than that of - previous campaigns, such as the project’s International Women’s Day content which reached people 5,265 times, of which people engaged 65 times.
Outcomes of #SymbolsOfHome include:
- Bigger social media following
- Partner solidarity and a renewed confidence to try more coordinated campaigns
- Increased engagement of participants, reaching across project boundaries and engaging with project staff and general public
- Important learning around social media activity
- Opportunity to challenge stereotypes of migrant communities
- Recognition of different cultures
- Amplification of migrant voices
Communications staff attribute the success of ‘Symbols of Home’ to several factors. These include:
- Planning in advance
- Buy-in and input from Partners as part of the process
- Early and persistent internal communications
- Focus group feedback
- Strategically linking with external events
- Multi-channel approach
- Content strategy that uses universal truths – all can share in it