Yesterday in Athens, INSP delegates shared inspirational stories about campaigns that have successfully challenged public perceptions of vendors and homelessness, raised funds – and even saved a street paper.
The campaigns from Denmark, Sweden and America were all INSP Awards finalists for Best Campaign. While they differ widely in terms of strategy and mediums used, a clear theme quickly became apparent:
For maximum impact, place vendors at the very heart of campaigns.
It’s a lesson Sarah Britz Lundstrom, Chief Editor of Swedish street paper Faktum, learned while producing her paper’s annual calendar.
Sarah explained that previous editions featuring well-known people struggled to sell. Yet calendars showing an insight into what vendors’ lives were really like were the complete opposite.
For 2016’s hugely successful Thank God It’s Friday campaign, Faktum invited top Swedish photographers to capture what vendors do when their work week ends. It enjoyed extensive media coverage and brought in more sales for vendors, while also challenging misconceptions of homelessness.
“It opened the public eye to the reality of our vendors’ lives after their own work days and captured a lot of attention on social media, which helped us continue that conversation,” she said
“Trust and time was key. It takes a lot of trust to get vendors to invite a photographer into their home. We also had to make sure the photographers understood what homeless people really looks like. We wanted to show our vendors’ homelessness.”
Rasmus Christensen, Director of Danish paper Hus Forbi, agreed about the need to focus on vendors as ambassadors for the paper. Hus Forbi celebrated its 20th anniversary this year with a series of promotions including the viral campaign The Invisible Man.
Rasmus explained that the video starring a Hus Forbi vendor was inspired by vendors’ experiences of feeling invisible on the streets. Styled on a trailer for the next superhero blockbuster, the short video could only be viewed once shared on social media – making the invisible man visible.
He also pointed out that a street paper is itself a long-term campaign, and that engaging with and educating readers about the core concept of how street papers work to support vendors is vital.
“The work that has to be done is to make people aware that being a vendor has value that they are part of community,” he added.
For Brady Banks, Executive Director of Nashville street paper The Contributor, communicating the fact that selling a street paper is an actual job was essential to the success of an intense political lobbying campaign that effectively saved the paper last year.
When a city ordinance threatened to stop vendors selling to people in cars on Nashville’s medians (their main source of sales), the paper’s staff and vendors jumped into action. In just three weeks they lobbied city officials and raised public awareness through letters, public meetings and a vendor-focused video, until the ordinance was finally withdrawn.
He added that building and cultivating relationships with influential people external to the paper, such as local media and government, was vital. They managed to get more city officials on their side after raising awareness of the damaging effect losing the paper would have on vendors.
“Our legacy is that we try to make it very clear that we are creating economic opportunity with dignity so we can transform lives that were otherwise abandoned,” said Brady.
“We continually refer to our vendors as ‘micro entrepreneurs’ so people understand what they do is an important job, not glorified panhandling. Once people understand that they generally get behind it.
“We really managed to turn this reactive campaign into something that raised awareness, money, educated and introduced our vendors to the public. I’m squarely in the camp of ‘do everything you can with every campaign you can’. Use it to your advantage by telling the story of your vendors.”
INSP Communications and Editorial Manager Laura Dunlop also highlighted INSP’S own core campaign #VendorWeek. The annual event unites the 112 papers across our network in a worldwide celebration of vendors.
— INSP (@_INSP) February 8, 2016
The panelists agreed that the clout of our international network can provide support.
Rasmus said it can help when collecting resources for campaigning and approaching collaborators, as the campaign materials could end up being used across the global street paper network.
Brady added that highlighting the scale and history of our movement always impresses their supporters.
“A lot of Nashville folk think we are the only street paper in the world but when we say there are so many others it blows their minds. I think it’s important for people to realise that we’re not just fighting this ourselves there are others out here and that this is something that truly works,” he said.
“We like being a part of this network and I think the more we identify ourselves as a global movement the more important and impactful our work will become.”