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Communicating about refugees in a culture of misinformation/prejudice

Nana and Freya British Red Cross

British Red Cross spoke at our latest Relay event, Mass Participation: Inspiration, Innovation, and Content, on Communicating about refugees in a culture of misinformation and prejudice.

Freya Carr, Senior Media Officer, and Nana Crawford, Social Media Manager, at British Red Cross talked us through their learnings.

A divisive topic

The team had previously seen in the comments sections of their social media posts that there were widespread misconceptions about refugees, their situation, and the difficulties of integrating into a new community. Even the term was misunderstood, with people struggling to tell the difference between refugees and people seeking asylum.

After realising this, educating people on who refugees are, on refugee policy in the UK, and what some of the main issues are for refugees trying to rebuild their lives in a different country became focal points for the team.

They set out to run a campaign that had an impact in these areas and was still in keeping with the Red Cross brand, in the understanding that some of their audiences might not be so open to the ideas they would be faced with.

Authentic creative

They felt it was vital to use the real, lived experiences of refugees to ensure that the campaign was authentic, without actually putting them in the spotlight too much by making them feature in creative. At this point they decided to work with RAW London to make a film on the challenges of integrating as a refugee, which you can watch below.

To ensure that they stuck to their plan for authenticity, a group of refugees fed into all of the scripts and the edits to make sure that their experience was genuinely mirrored in the film.

The campaign

The team then distributed the film as part of a social media campaign that aimed to highlight the positive ways that real refugees are affecting their communities. It was centred around real life case studies to showcase some of the work that British Red Cross are involved in with local refugees.

The social campaign was varied and innovative, including a Facebook profile picture filter for people who wanted to show their support, and a bespoke new page specifically for refugee content to cultivate a supportive and engaged audience. The hashtag for the campaign and the name of the new page were #EveryRefugeeMatters. The team felt that it was important to have a specific space for this content, as their main audience on the British Red Cross social pages weren’t always supportive of their work with refugees.

A wide-spread issue

British Red Cross put together a low-cost survey of teachers and schoolchildren with some shocking results. Almost 1 in 4 children didn’t know what a refugee was, and, of surveyed teachers who had refugees in their classroom, almost all of them had seen bullying or some prejudice.

The team could see that misunderstanding about and attitudes toward refugees were a major issue, and that the campaign needed to be far-reaching. To ensure visibility they launched out of home advertising, a newsletter, put together an MP event, and partnered with the London musical Come From Away for a night, who asked their audience for the evening to donate – raising over £20,000 from one show!

The results

The MP event was really positively attended, with 40 MPs turning up.

The film launched as part of the social campaign was British Red Cross’s most shared content ever on Instagram and Twitter. They won best video campaign at The Drum social awards and gained over 250,000 views and 100,000 engagements on social at a cost of 1p per engagement, thanks in part to some really refined targeting from their marketing team.

The campaign gathered a lot of positive comments on social but also a lot of negatives, as was to be expected with a topic so profoundly misunderstood. Heart-warmingly though, the British Red Cross social community became ambassadors on their behalf and policed the comment sections themselves to prevent trolls from taking over.

Since the end of the campaign, the team have retargeted everyone who was engaged during refugee week and started experimenting with virtual gifting so that people can continue to get involved and contribute easily online!

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