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Here are some surprising new places to get your message across to residents (29 Nov 08)

Try bookmakers and nail bars – the results could delight you

You may remember that I recently sent you an email about how hairdressers and beauticians are often perfectly suited for resident involvement work.

This is largely because they are so good with people, and I am sure you would be the first to agree that people are at the heart of everything you do as well. If you missed the article you can see it here.

Yet how many people would naturally think of hairdressers as making good resident involvement officers? Sadly, far too many people working in the community still have false preconceptions. They see people who work in the beauty industry as slightly frivolous and unnecessary.

Anyway it obviously struck a chord with some of you as I have since heard from a number of you with stories of how the unexpected and the out of the ordinary approach can often bring big rewards.

I thought that I would share two of them with you as they are both so interesting.

Andy Cave, Community Initiatives Officer at Helena Partnerships emailed me to say:

“Our team had been asked to get involved in promoting men's heath checks in some of the most deprived parts of our housing estates.

Our first attempt had used the usual approaches of putting up posters, placing articles in the local paper and getting community volunteers to spread the word about how people could have a health check.

This was a complete flop and produced a less than enthusiastic response. In fact one day not one soul appeared and we spent the day weighing ourselves!

Rod’s article about hairdressers reminded me that hairdressers had indirectly helped solve our problem as well.

The idea first came to me after reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book the Tipping Point.

It had a fascinating story about a project in San Diego which was attempting to get women to attend breast cancer awareness sessions. They struggled until they hit upon the idea of using hairdressers to help spread the message. It was a huge success and the sessions were soon oversubscribed.

It gave us the idea that what we needed was to find the right people or place in the community to promote our message. We went away and had a good think and then relaunched our project involving health checks in bookmakers, which were attached to pubs on four estates.

Guess what? It was a massive success, so much so that we got Saints our local rugby league team to donate tickets and started running them as well in the bars next door to the bookmakers.

It worked because the sorts of people that most need health checks are most likely to have time to go to the bookies on a weekday. This is not stereotyping but a statement of fact because we got each person to fill in a profile of themselves. The profile was based around questions on their health and their personal circumstances.

This year we are using those profiles to launch a campaign around getting those same people back into work.

The point is that with a little bit of thinking about who your target audience is and thinking laterally about where and how you can reach them, it’s easy to organise your involvement campaigns.”

Talking about lateral thinking, I also thought you might be interested in this idea that nail bars could be a useful place to promote and capture people’s views sent in by Christiana Bennett, Housing Policy Manager at the Guinness Trust

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