As we do more and more work supporting children-focused organisations, we recently asked ourselves: what are the five things we have learned about communicating around children’s health?
- It’s the communicators’ dream combination of joyful yet deadly serious
Let’s face it when you are managing communications for a child-centric programme you get to have a lot of fun. We’ve spent quite a lot of time feeling like we are in a never-ending, hilarious episode of ‘Kids say the funniest things’ when filming for our healthy eating work, and it’s a tall order not to enjoy the frivolities of social media campaigns when we get to put together bouncing bunny gifs. But the biggest task for any health and wellbeing communicator working in this area will always be to establish the need, to make sure that the audience understands why the subject matters, and changes their behaviour accordingly. After all we are talking about the future health of a generation. That’s a pretty serious message and a pretty serious responsibility as a communicator, and we relish the light and shade that this work brings.
- The old adage is true: it takes a village
Any campaign designed to improve the health and wellbeing of children has to be sophisticated in its approach to audiences. You’ve not only got to communicate with parents, but also whoever provides childcare and education. There is now plenty of evidence that shows that influences outside the home have a significant impact so for us as communicators we have to look at all the audiences that matter whether that’s stakeholders, policy makers, parliamentarians, we have to think about all pieces of the puzzle.
- Kids love a celeb as much as the next person
We have never seen a room light up in quite the same way as when we took Ben Faulks (better known as Mr Bloom from CBeebies) on the road with the Early Years Nutrition Partnership to meet a whole load of pre-schoolers. Perhaps hard to understand if you’re not a parent, but this talented actor, writer, musician is basically an A-lister in the pre-school world! He worked with us to write and record a song, fully embraced the project and had the children completely engaged. You have to choose the right person though, it’s not enough that they are beamed into their front rooms on a daily basis, they have to want to be there, and they have to be able to genuinely relate to the children. Finding somebody who ticks all the boxes isn’t always easy but when you strike gold you know you are going to make their day (that’s the children and the celebrity too).
- The neuroscience behind the scenes in kids’ brains is seriously fascinating
When we created The Healthy Eating Song for the Early Years Nutrition Partnership it wasn’t just for the fun of it, we had a serious purpose in mind. Music engages, and young children love rhythm, and actions and joining in, everyone knows that. But when we dug into it a bit more we found the evidence-base we were looking for. Did you know that learning music in the early years can actually change a child’s brain structure for the better, maybe even help raise their IQ? Amazing stuff. So a song about healthy eating wouldn’t just get the kids excited about broccoli but would also do them general good, that’s the territory we like to be in! Join the dots and you’ve got a great idea, which becomes a great song, which becomes a great campaign. Of course it helps if you create something so damn catchy that everyone who hears it has it implanted on their memory forever more….
- Do work with children!
We can’t definitively rubbish the statement ‘don’t work with children or animals’ (as we frankly don’t have a lot of experience working with animals), but we can tell you for a fact that the first part is a nonsense. Our stage and sport showcase for Eat Like A Champ had an audience of 100 Year 5 children who all behaved impeccably and had great fun helping us to capture the event on camera. Of course it helps if you inspire them with a great host and guests, a Stormzy inspired stage play and a bit of Parkour! A roomful of excited children poses different challenges to a roomful of journalists or parliamentarians, but it sure is fun and the enthusiasm is infectious!
So there you have it, our top learnings from a fun packed year. Our afternote would be a massive hats off to all the teachers we have worked with, from pre-school to headteachers, heroes all (we couldnt do it)!