Foster Care Fortnight is just around the corner (1st-14th of June), aiming to encourage a diverse range of people with the right skills and qualities to foster, to come forward to meet the needs of children in care. Here are our top tips on how fostering agencies can make the most of this spike in national awareness.
Net Natives’ Fostering and Adoption marketing specialist, Jo Birch has run hundreds of digital and social-media campaigns for local authorities and fostering agencies, helping them to raise awareness of fostering across the country and get more children out of care. Here are her top tips of how best to approach your marketing campaigns for Foster Care Fortnight.
1. Be in the right places
Some of next year’s foster carers will see a fostering post on Facebook during Foster Care Fortnight. They may not have thought about it before, but it’s the right kind of inspiring message and they’ve worked with young people before, so it feels right to make an enquiry. Some of next year’s foster carers are a bit further along, and are already searching online right now to find out how and with whom they should start the fostering journey. So wherever your next foster carer is about to make that crucial decision to make an enquiry, make sure you’re there with your brand, your message and your team to talk them through it.
Find out how Warrington Borough Council launched a new year’s revolution in foster care.
2. Stand out
The fostering space is incredibly different now from even a year ago. Your message can no longer be just about fostering, but about fostering with you. Draw on your strengths and acknowledge your competition – you yourself have chosen to work at your organisation above the others, so foster carers will choose to join your organisation, too. Just show them what it really means to be a part of your team.
3. Involve your best ambassadors
The words of your current foster carers can speak much louder than yours. Real stories are what resonate, especially when others can see themselves in them. Film your carers talking about their own journey into fostering and use their quotes to help others see that they could do it too. These stories – especially if they focus on what it’s like to foster with you – will also help you stand out from the rest.
4. Dispel the myths
If somebody already thinks they are too old to foster, they’re not even going to search online to find the answer. So put the myth-busting message in front of them – and in front of your single, renting, LGBT, disabled or full-time employed audiences too – everyone can bring something to fostering, so make sure you’re the one to show them this. You’ll hugely increase your pool of potential carers and diversify the skills and home environments available to your children and young people.
See how West Sussex increased LGBT enquiries
5. Match your audiences to the children you need to place
At a time of the year where there’ll be an increased focus on fostering, with broad messages shown to everyone, make sure your activity is as targeted as possible. Certain demographics are better suited to caring for sibling groups, older children and those with challenging behaviours, so target your audiences based on their skill sets and who they could best provide a loving home for.
6. Focus on your support
Practicalities and a perceived lack of support often prevent those initial enquiries. Your potential carers need to know how they’ll be supported out of office hours, or with school exclusions, or with the extra medications or additional needs of their child in placement. Shout about your support networks and specialist training available – we know no one is ever left to go it alone, so make sure the people who most need to know this, do.
7. Spend your money wisely
This Foster Care Fortnight, advertising spend across different platforms will rise dramatically. Rather than compete across all of them, if funds won’t stretch, focus on the audience most important to you at this time. Work out your key objectives – whether that’s focusing on your hardest-to-place children, dispelling myths to grow your pool, or converting warm leads – and focus on the platforms that match with these goals.
8. Use new technologies
With new ad formats coming out from Facebook that allow for multiple messages to be promoted at once, and video content beating most other forms of advertising for hitting both engagement and enquiry objectives, why not find out from us the latest and most useful new ways you could engage your audience.
We call it agile marketing and this is how we do it.
9. Nurture your enquiries
Over the next few weeks, many hundreds of people across the country will be making their first contact with a fostering organisation. Lots may not have discussed their thoughts with a family member yet, or are still hesitant due to fears about the support available, or their financial situation. Others will be contacting multiple organisations at once, weighing them up against each other and continuing the journey with the one who responds the most quickly, with the right information and the warmest tone. Each of your enquirers has the potential to become one of your 2016 foster carers, but not each one will; we’d love to help with your conversion strategies so you can spend the right amount of time on each lead.
See how we helped Hertfordshire increased enquiries by 73% in just 2 two months.
10. Say thank you
Taking that first step to contact an organisation about fostering is just that – the first step. Thank each enquirer for wanting to find out more about the amazing world of fostering, and find out what they need to know to help them take the next step. Your follow-up email or call is very likely to be the first contact they’ve ever had with a fostering agency, and this first conversation with you could be the reason they’re fostering with you next year.