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Community Relations Week

On behalf of the Community Relations Council, we have been running Community Relations Week each year since 2003. We have won numerous awards at a UK, island of Ireland, and Northern Ireland level for our work on the project, including CIPR Best Not for Profit Campiagn in the UK in 2012. Below is a short summary of our work on Community Relations Week 2014.

Community Relations Week

Community Relations Week

 

Objectives

  • Achieve 100 events in the programme from a wide range of organisations, particularly local councils
  • Engage Northern Ireland politicians in the week and gain their support for it and their commitment to community relations issues
  • Achieve widespread media coverage about the week – one piece in each of the three main daily newspapers, three prominent pieces of broadcast coverage, and 30 regional newspaper articles across Northern Ireland
  • Change the media narrative from ‘racist attacks’ and ‘sectarian squabbling’ to one of positivity towards improving community relations

Strategy

  • Hold the week just after the Council elections to capitalise on a sense of rejuvenation and positivity as the new councillors get ready for their time in office
  • Seek to involve the Belfast City Hall building, which had been in some respects a symbol of division in recent years, in a very positive way, turning it into a symbol of hope and unity
  • Reward the politicians for the good work they have done, in order to highlight progress and to encourage more
  • Involve the main politicians in the key events of the week to buy them in and to provide them with a platform to be positive and constructive
  • Involve a wide spectrum of organisations right across Northern Ireland to achieve impact in a range of sectors and locales
  • Use the base of community relations practitioners and groups, and their channels, as advocates and ambassadors, particularly on social media
  • Use colourful cogs as a visual theme to demonstrate in a striking way the diversity of society in NI and the role everyone has to play in working together for the good of society as a whole

Tactics included

  • Engaging with Belfast City Council to encourage them to light up Belfast City Hall in the colours of our theme on the first day of Community Relations Week to highlight the diversity of the city and to show the council’s support for building a united community
  • Engaging with the NI Assembly and the Irish Football Association to organise a football match between a team of MLAs from across the main political parties and an inter-cultural team in Belfast to take place as part of the programme of events
  • Introducing a new award for outstanding civic leadership to recognise the outstanding efforts of prominent politicians to helping build a united community – therefore shining a light on positive things being done
  • Dozens of regionalised press releases about events happening in every area of Northern Ireland
  • Printed programme of events carrying the strap-line, hashtag and catchy, colourful design, plus an continually updated online version
  • A Twibbon for event organisers, practitioners, supporters and others
  • A PR and social media tool kit for all event organisers to support them to maximise the potential of their own events
  • Targeted media features – e.g. a feature for the Belfast Telegraph’s influential features pages on the role of dynamic women in quietly working behind the scenes to build bridges between communities, a profile feature in the Belfast Telegraph on CRC’s policy officer who plays a highly positive role in improving community relations, and a full-page feature in the Irish News about the economic importance of building a united community
  • Two launch events – one in Belfast and one in the North West of NI to which councils, community relations practitioners, politicians and others were invited
  • We hand-picked a punchy event for every day of week to highlight to media to help ensure coverage wasn’t just front-loaded on first day (which is a media tendency for this kind of initiative)
  • We produced CR Week TV bulletins featuring events during the week and interviewing politicians and others voicing their support for the week and community relations generally
  • We produced a podcast audio discussion featuring influencers in the faith communities, brought together around CRC’s boardroom table, chaired by CRC’s chairman – this focused on the topical issue of ‘The Language of Peace’

Outputs

  • Over 200 events in the programme – the most ever, and double the objective of 100
  • Well over 200 quality media hits, all positive, including:
  • More than 25 broadcast interviews/features, including the main news and current affairs programmes on radio and TV. BBC Radio Ulster and Radio Foyle also covered the CR Week newspaper coverage in its newspaper review, such was its prominence
  • Extensive coverage in all of the daily papers, including two main front page stories, two double-page interviews, 11 further news stories, three double-page features, a series of photos, the Leader column of the largest selling paper, and a series of ‘specialist’ stories e.g. around church events
  • Over 100 articles in regional newspapers
  • Extensive online coverage
  • Key messages were widely communicated, including about the positive role of community relations work and the achievements of community relations practitioners.
  • #CRWeek14 was trending in Northern Ireland on Twitter following the launch events and during the week
  • The Twibbon was widely used, including by many politicians
  • All 26 district council areas represented in the programme for the first time
  • Many politicians, covering all of the main political parties, were involved in the week – we are aware of at least 70.
  • The launch events were absolutely packed out, including representatives from all of the main political parties, representatives from a cross section of community organisations, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mayors from a range of other councils, the Minister with responsibility for community relations, the Speaker of the NI Assembly
  • Belfast City Council agreed to light up Belfast City Hall multi-coloured on the first day of CR Week and this went viral, with Northern Ireland’s most influential bloggers and social media influencers posting and tweeting about it
  • The MLA football match ended up being a tournament, with several teams of MLAs from across the political parties involved. They all embraced it, tweeting about their involvement, sharing the video we produced and other content about CR Week. The match also generated positive and prominent media coverage in daily newspapers and main broadcast outlets.
  • Welcoming statements from:
  • The Lord Mayor of Belfast
  • A joint statement from the leading Protestant and Catholic Bishops welcoming Community Relations Week and committing to building a more united community
  • Minister Jennifer McCann who has responsibility for community relations, welcoming the week, highlighting the importance of community relations work and outlining a commitment from the Northern Ireland Executive to community relations and building a united community

Outcomes

  • Media got behind the week and their narrative was one of positivity towards community relations. Headlines included: “The unsung heroines inspiring change at our flashpoints”, “Churches backing for good relations”, “Remember, together we are better”, “Ballymoney backs Community Relations Week”, “Coleraine supports community relations”, “Newtownabbey supports Community Relations Week 2014”, etc
  • All of the local councils and senior representatives of all of the five main political parties embraced Community Relations Week and publicly expressed their support for the week and its objective of building a united community
  • A very significant symbol was Belfast City Council agreeing to light up Belfast City Hall in rainbow colours to support Community Relations Week and to show the council’s support for building a united community. This came a matter of months after there had been sectarian fighting in the building and very high profile sectarian arguing amongst the councillors. It was a real symbol of hope. Analysis of the reaction on social media strongly backs this up.
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