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Although communicating with hard-to-reach communities might seem
a daunting task, the key is to make sure you ask yourself questions to see
whether the method you propose will be appropriate – the same as you
would do before tackling any communication initiative.

The following checklists are designed so that you can pick and mix what’s most useful for the
project you are planning. The checklists are:

1. What are you trying to achieve?

2. Understanding your target audience: consultation
3. Choosing the right medium

In addition, you may find the FRANK Tips – Barriers to Communication and FRANK Facts – The
Legal Framework (included in this pack) useful in helping to inform your communication with
diverse audiences.

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO ACHIEVE? Do you need a tailored approach?
It’s worth checking first. For example, many
What issue are you addressing? young people from ethnic minority communities
• What is the problem? see themselves more in terms of mainstream
• Who does it affect - everybody in the youth culture and can be reached effectively
community or a particular group within it? through mainstream media. As do others in
• Do you know the relevant facts and figures communities that are well established such
about this target audience? as Black Caribbean people. However some
older people, women and non-English speakers
What is your message? may need a more tailored approach. There
• What is your message in relation to this is a helpful analysis of this issue in the COI
specific audience? Common Good research. (see page 17).
• Do any generic messages need adapting?
• How can you make your message as Where does your audience live?
relevant as possible? Could case studies • Are they found primarily in one particular
help? part of town or everywhere?
• What actions do you wish people to take • Would estate-based initiatives be an option?
as a result of your campaign? • Do you know where the local Traveller sites are?

Who are you trying to reach? Are there supporting spokespeople?

• Which communities are you trying to reach • Is your message stronger or weaker
– and why? if it comes from an official source?
• Within your target community, who needs • Do you need to build trust through
to know what? Are there different messages alternative spokespeople? (See the tip
for young people, women, elders etc? box on checklist 2 for useful information)
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How is information actually passed on? Word
Community organisations of mouth may be the most powerful way. Many
• Check out any community organisations that communities are in areas with a small range of
can help you reach a particular population local facilities. Tap into these networks by going
• Consult community organisations at the where people hang out and chat - for example
outset, as they can give you invaluable local corner shops, hairdressers, clubs, record
advice. The COI Common Good research shops or betting shops.
shows that they are keen to work in
partnership providing their involvement isn’t Which organisations are actively engaged
tokenistic. Think of them as an audience in with this population?
their own right not just a distribution channel • Can you work with community organisations,
• Find out how they work with clients and how self-help groups, local residents’ associations,
to support that work. For example, producing ethnic minority media, youth projects, faith
summaries of the key information points for groups?
their staff to use with their clients may be • Are there opportunities around religious
more useful than producing a leaflet festivals such as Diwahli, Eid or Chinese New
• Ask how they think you should go about Year? Check
achieving relevance and impact, and what for details of the dates – note that they may
are the best ways to present information change each year
to a diverse client base
Consulting on disability
What community workers want As with ethnic minority communities, it is
• Face to face contact, outreach and important to consult relevant voluntary
advice sessions for clients organisations and patient groups from the
• Bilingual rather than monolingual translations beginning. They will be able to advise you
• Summaries rather than long documents on content, media and presentation and
• Videos and audio cassettes in English may also endorse your message and offer
and mother tongue valuable distribution channels.

Community Leaders
It’s worth finding the people who have COMMUNITY INTERMEDIARIES
influence and respect in local communities. Many voluntary sector organisations who
Local councillors, chairs of community service hard-to-reach communities also
organisations, professionals and religious deal with the needs of non-English speakers.
leaders may be powerful ambassadors They often give advice on issues such as
for your message. But be aware that such housing, health and benefits and often
people are not always perceived as leaders provide a social focus for communities and
by all members of that community. Some a venue for cultural events. Community
may be viewed as privileged or out-of-touch. organisations form an important part of any
communications plan, as they offer a valuable
distribution network and also a source of
advice and expertise on the best ways to
inform people about particular issues.
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Development and outreach have been found
Audio and video tapes 
• A good option as they fit into everyday
to have important roles when communicating life. Many communities, regardless of
with hard-to-reach communities. Communities background, watch TV or videos and
may be residentially segregated and served listen to music tapes
by a small range of local facilities, so word • Useful for English speakers who may
of mouth is often an important form of be unable to read or write
communication. For example, within Asian • Particularly effective for reaching out
communities, news of the latest Hindi film to families, a great way to channel your
releases or news from Bollywood spreads message
throughout the community with minimal
organised publicity or advertising.

Telephone helplines
• South Asian and Somali people are among
CHECKLIST 3 the groups least likely to use a telephone
helpline. They may lack confidence in
FINDING THE RIGHT MEDIUM English but also use the telephone less
than mainstream society. Talking face-to
Finding the right medium face is usually preferred even to minority
It is very important that you choose the right language helplines.
communications medium, both for your

message and for your audience. With some
groups, verbal and visual media can be
more effective than written; you may need The media
to translate materials or you may find that • Depending on the campaign, it may be
producing your written literature for a worker most effective to combine mainstream
or community representative to discuss in and specialist media
a face-to-face meeting is more appropriate. • People from ethnic minority communities
For any written or visual materials you will want to be included in mainstream
also need to look at type size, colour contrast, programming and advertising but do not
simple, jargon-free language, diagrams and want to see stereotyping. Be sensitive but
pictures. This checklist gives some pointers on pragmatic.

issues you should consider when developing
your communication tools.

Tapping into the culture

• Some communities are unlikely to use leaflets
• Consider other ways to reach people
through their lifestyles and pastimes. Music
is important to young people and crosses
at all. It may be more useful to produce a ethnic boundaries. Tap into urban music
leaflet for community advisors to reinforce such as R+B, rap, hip hop etc through music
their face-to-face contact festivals and radio stations
• Your material must be easy to display with • Look at working with local football teams,
immediate impact and relevance leisure clubs and youth projects
• Successful leaflets contain simple, actionable • Electronic media such as the web, text
advice (‘if you need this, do this…’) messaging, email are also important part
of youth culture without ethnic boundaries
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Statutory responsibility
You may have a legal duty to produce WHEN TRANSLATIONS ARE NOT
materials in a certain language.

Equal opportunities
Recent research shows that some Black and
People from ethnic minorities have a right to
Asian communities have difficulty reading in
see the same information as everybody else. This
their mother tongue, so translated leaflets may
might be seen as a right, regardless of whether
be less helpful than oral communications but
a translation is the most effective medium.
it is best not to make assumptions. For example,
Somalis are the group most likely to need
Political concerns
translations, however some - particularly Somali
Organisations or local councillors may feel
women - may not be able to read and will
that translations prove they are addressing
need a verbal approach.
the needs of minority populations.

Leaflets may be too complex, the style
To signal to non-English speakers that
too official looking or too youth-oriented.
their culture and language are valued.

Language barriers
It may be that the particular form of
It can just be a knee-jerk response. For example,
the language is not right for the target
there are now few Hindi speakers in the UK who
audience, or that some communities
cannot speak English so instead of translating
speak one language but read another.
into Hindi, other communities, maybe Afghans,
Iraqis and Iranians need more help.
Direct translations from English may not
Low English literacy/fluency
build-in appropriate material for minority
For some communities for whom English is not
the principal language of communication,
translated materials can be a highly effective tool.


• Summarise complex information into
You could use simple English that an simplified fact sheets
audience including those from ethnic minority • Make them bi-lingual in English and another
communities and people with poor reading language. They can be more useful for
skills can understand. It can be useful to enlist community advisers and for families with
the services of an editor who can help make different generations
sure the English is clear, both for people for • Put them on the web as PDFs so that copies
whom English is not their first language and for can be downloaded and printed
those with low literacy levels.