When you hear the words ‘foster care’, what image springs to mind? Is the picture a positive one? Given all of the media-generated stereotypes surrounding foster care, I’m guessing it’s probably not.
Foster care has suffered a negative image in the public eye for a while. Whilst the media has a part to play in this this, foster care advertising campaigns have also been known to devalue and perhaps even trivialise the vital role that foster carers play in our society.
Every day, around 100 children and young people enter the foster care system in the UK. That’s almost 40,000 a year. On the flip side, there’s a major shortage of foster carers in the UK. And so foster care recruitment has a significant responsibility to step up to the job in meeting this need.
Last year, Wiltshire Council came to us with this very problem. They were facing a shortage of foster carers and needed a foster carer recruitment campaign that would help them to see their recruitment numbers rise. We created a new identity for their fostering service and planned, delivered and managed their foster carer recruitment campaign, from beginning to end.
With organisations now planning foster carer recruitment campaigns, we wanted to share some of our top tips and advice for planning an effective foster carer recruitment strategy once you’ve outlined your objectives, guaranteed to get you great results.
The most important place to start with a foster carer recruitment campaign is to make sure that you really know your audience. It’s very difficult to know how to speak to a group of people without really understanding their motivations and needs, and a great way to do this is to conduct audience focus groups. For example, we developed a further understanding of Wiltshire Council’s audience by conducting focus groups with existing foster carers to understand their motivations for fostering. This was invaluable in helping us to understand what messages we should be using to effectively engage our audience.
Research can also play a crucial role when it comes to identifying your audience. Looking at your current data and also wider external data can help you to get a good overall picture of who you’re targeting. You can use this data to create a set of customer personas - a highly effective tool for establishing that human relationship element in your campaign. Some organisations have even gone one step further by putting cardboard cut-outs of their personas in their board room to make sure that the customers always stay front of mind.
Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your audience, you can start to create a clear identity for your campaign. Your campaign creative does the important job of giving you a defined personality, so make sure that it’s both engaging and memorable.
For Wiltshire Council, we were able to create a clear campaign concept called ‘everyday matters’. This campaign was all about the positive impact fostering can have on foster carers, their families and the children and young people who are cared for, every day.
We brought this idea to life by identifying ‘everyday’ family scenarios like eating together, that the target audience could relate to. They represented both the practical implications and emotional benefits of fostering.
Equally important to understanding your audience is knowing when and where to target them. With so many different online and offline marketing tools to choose from, it can feel a little overwhelming knowing which ones are right for your campaign.
A key thing to remember here is that you don’t have to use all the channels at your disposal. In fact, you’ll likely fail if you spread yourself and your resources too thin. What you’ll need to do is weigh up which channels are the most suitable for targeting your particular audience. And then determining when are the most likely times that they’ll want to engage. For example, running a social media ad campaign through the early hours of the morning isn’t likely to benefit your brand. Unless you’re Deliveroo.
When considering our best targeting strategy for Wiltshire Council, we made sure that we knew the needs of the stakeholders from the offset. They were looking for a suite containing a mixture of digital and printed assets to support their campaign, both through online targeting and exhibitions. This was adjusted to focus specifically on the digital elements as the campaign was activated during lockdown. Throughout our targeting strategy, we made sure that the needs of the organisation were being met, whilst also making sure that we were satisfying our audience.
Reaching your audience on a human and emotional level is particularly important with a campaign of this nature. The most important message to get across is just how much of a difference fostering can make to a young person’s life. Having this child-centred approach reminds your audience of the true purpose for your campaign.
Sadly, there are some pretty damaging stereotypes surrounding foster care. You know the ones - the kids are out of control, the biological parents are hopeless, and the foster carers are only in it for the money. But anyone in the foster care system will know this is far from the case.
For this reason, foster carer recruitment has a huge responsibility in dispelling these myths and reminding people of the true benefits of fostering - the life-changing impact on a child’s life, and the incredibly rewarding experience that goes with it.
A common mistake that marketeers can make with campaign data is to simply report it at the end of a project and leave it at that. Just providing swathes of data with no explanation can be quite jarring for many organisations, especially if no explanation or recommendations are given. The most important thing to do with this data is to analyse it and use these finding to influence continuous improvement, for both your current and any future strategies.
With a foster carer recruitment strategy, this data collection and analysis plays a crucial role. Not only in attracting new foster carers, but in helping to place the right child with the right carer. So use it to your very best advantage.
All in all, preparation is the key to your success. And as they say, if you fail to prepare, then you must prepare to fail…
Like all good things, an effective recruitment strategy takes time and careful planning. So if you’re looking for some help creating an effective foster carer recruitment strategy or would like to discuss working with us, get in touch with a member of our team today and we’ll be more than happy to help.