Causeway Coast and Glens Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP) in partnership with NSPCC, Western Health and Social Care Trust, Northern Heath and Social Care Trust and the Education Authority have developed a Digital Wellbeing and Safeguarding resource pack to help parents keep their children and themselves safer online.
Digital safety and wellbeing messages along with support services are more important than ever, as people are spending more time online at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Children and families are also accessing apps and sites which they may have never used before which makes them vulnerable to online abuse and scammers.
Speaking about the resource pack, PCSP Chairperson Alderman George Duddy said: “Along with our partners, the PCSP had planned to hold a series of digital safety and wellbeing events at the end March but these were postponed due to the current health crisis. As the pandemic continues we are witnessing the wonderful side of the online world, where grandparents can see and talk to grandchildren whilst in isolation, communities can connect and support one another through volunteering and providing practical help and our children have been able to keep up to date with their education and even take part in PE classes at the same time as their peers.
“However, we also know of the dangers and pitfalls of the online world and we must not forget or be complacent in taking measures to stay safe. This support pack provides practical advice for staying safe online, along with the importance of looking after your mental health and developing resilience skills.
“I appeal to everyone to take some time to read the advice in this pack, use internet privacy settings, never add people you don’t know to your social media network and report any unwanted attention to the police.”
Friends of the festival we hope you’re all well during this chaotic and uncertain time. Sadly, like many other great festivals across the country the Belfast City Blues Festival which was scheduled for the last weekend in June will be postponed.
The wellbeing of our friends, fans, musicians, visitors and Blues family alongside the amazing staff, volunteers, sponsors and festival team who support us every year is our number one priority.
11 years ago I started this journey with nothing but an idea and a passion for music. I wanted to promote this city and the wealth of talent we have both past and present. Little did I think back then when my friends in the business surrounded me with their support that over a decade later I would be celebrating over 22,500 visitors to the festival in 2019.
I am truly touched by the people who set aside time in their diary every single year without fail to attend the various gigs and events during the festival and I love nothing more than welcoming those who have recently discovered us and bringing them into our blues family.
I’m immensely proud of the Belfast City Blues Festival and indebted to every single person who has been part of this wonderful journey over the last 11 years. The great success of this festival is testimony to what we can achieve when we come together as a collective.
We’re currently looking at options for a potentially scaled back festival later in the year but we have to be pragmatic, it may be that we’ll not be back until 2021. But I can assure you, I’ve never let you down before and I won’t start now, we will be back, we’re not going away, we will come back bigger and better than ever and we’ll do everything we can to involve as many of our treasured blues family as we can.
In the meantime watch out for another announcement, we’ll be doing a little bit online to support you all as best we can.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support. Please stay safe everyone, we will see you all very soon!
Autism and Covid-19 – when your child takes in everything
WHILE adults are confused and worried by the unfolding Coronavirus crisis, parents of children on the autistic spectrum are faced with the problem of explaining the new world of social isolation and shielding. For mum of two Meta Auden, owner of Spectra Sensory Clothing, the rolling news cycle produced the statement from her niece Emily that if she ended up in hospital, because of underlying health problems she was one of those who would not be saved – something her 19 year old autistic daughter Kirsty took to heart.
The situation in Northern Ireland has changed so dramatically that children on the autistic spectrum have been left with reliable routines disrupted, no visits to extended family members and little in terms of schooling. Meta is clear that communicating with children on the autistic spectrum is essential given they are seeing so much on the news and online about Covid-19.
“We are bombarded on the news and online with this unfolding crisis,” she said. “But we mustn’t let it overwhelm our children. It is crucial that we take the time to understand it ourselves and communicate appropriately.” “It will be the case that they have questions and we must not try and sugar coat what is a serious matter, especially as it may affect relatives that your child has an attachment to.” And, as Meta explained it can be a challenge in terms of how the information is conveyed.
“The other thing about a child on the spectrum is they take everything very literal,” she explained. “The first time Kirsty heard the expression ‘it‘s raining cats and dogs’ she fully expected to see that.
“When the Prime Minister started an update with the words ‘some of you will die and many die before their time’ I can fully see why those words would impact on a child who looks at the world that way.” Meta and her husband fostered then adopted Kirsty, and whilst they knew she had ADHD, it was later she was diagnosed with being on the autistic spectrum disorder that they began to understand Kirsty behaviour.
But she warns that each child on the spectrum will be different. “When you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism,” Meta said. “It is a very wide spectrum and some children are totally non-verbal. Each one will be on a different part of the spectrum, and how they can be supported is best determined by you, as a parent, knowing better than anyone else how to help.”
Despite having cancer post-natal depression after having her son Matthew, as well as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and nerve pain from having a mastectomy and reconstruction Meta started her own business, as she says at the tender age of “57 and three quarters”. It was Kirsty’s issue with clothing that prompted her to start Spectra Sensory Clothing.
“I would buy her clothes and she would never wear them,” Meta explained. “She never told me why, and we had arguments, when she was told off, she would be smirking.”
As she has developed a range of clothing designed specifically for children on the spectrum it has led her to meet other parents, and that connection is vital during the spread of Covid-19.
“The first thing you need to remember is you are not alone in dealing with this. Other parents and carers are considering how to cope and have the same worries that you may have,” Meta said. “If you have a friends network reach out to it through your phone, the internet or social media. “There is a lot of comfort to hear ‘I know what you mean’ from another parent. “The exchange of tips and ideas are vital, even just to have someone to speak to that understands.”
For Kirsty the change in routine has presented challenges.
“She takes the dog a walk around the block every day, but does not want to go near shops because she doesn’t want to see lines of people waiting.” Meta said. “She usually attends Specialiststerne a couple of times a week and these things have moved online with Zoom.
“She doesn’t like that at all and wouldn’t do it at first.
“She has taken to do doing jigsaws that she has had for years but never looked at them.” and, Kirsty explained to her mum how she was trying to cope in her own way.
Following on from her niece’s comments about the potential if she went into hospital, Meta tried to talk to Kirsty. “I asked her the other night before bed what were her thoughts on the whole crisis. She answered by saying that she was able to just let her mind go blank. “What she said in her own words was ‘I am talking to you, but my mind is blank, I am not thinking about anything’. What do you say to that?”
Despite being frightened in her own way Kirsty is coping, “I have to say that the whole isolation bit does not bother her at all,” Meta said. “I am not surprised as she never wants to go out and doesn’t even need to talk to people.
“When she was at school, people would feel sorry for her as she went to sit in Senco office on her own to have lunch but for Kirsty that was preferable to large canteen with noise and shoving. “She took a packed lunch, but would not take a drink of anything all day, even with lunch as she was frightened she would have to put her hand up to go toilet.”
With everything that is going, Meta, like any parent would, wishes Kirsty could talk about her own fears.
“There is no way I can get Kirsty to open up about what is going on at the minute, I am sure she is frightened because everybody has said, because of underlying health conditions I am at risk, she even went as far as telling me that if I ended up in hospital I was one of those who would not be saved. “It does mean that I have to hide any fear I have.”
With the daily news cycle and daily updates Meta hopes that parents will avoid situations that will increase stress.
“We all want to know the latest information as it emerges, but the round the clock media coverage can be overwhelming for adults let alone for children with autism,” said Meta. “You need to limit their exposure to it, as well as what you watch. When you watch or listen to the news be prepared to explain, discuss, chat or ease worries. “It might be an idea to check online the latest updates from the likes of BBC News and give yourself some thinking time.”
Meta said that comfort is not always easy to give.
“We all know as parents and carers that there are things that your child reaches out for. Sitting in their favourite chair, wearing one item of clothing that is special, a toy they love, or their pet need to be on hand when stress triggers a response.”
For more information about Meta’s company Spectra Sensory Clothing which sources, manufactures and retails clothing, accessories and other products aimed at people on the autism spectrum go tospectrasensoryclothing.co.uk
With so much emphasis now being put on digital marketing it’s essential that businesses know how to best take advantage of advertising platforms online.
Gil David, the Founder of Run DMG, has spent over 13 years in sales, marketing, and business management, as well as over 5 years running Facebook adverts for a wide range of clients, including beauty chains and e-commerce stores, online coaches, and nationwide fitness franchises.
Having worked with social media advertising budgets from a few hundred pounds to 150k+, Gil was the perfect guest speaker to deliver a Lunchtime Learning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District), sharing six key insights for social media advertising:
A Facebook Pixel is a piece of code that is generated within your Facebook advert account that can be installed in your website. It tracks user behaviour offering key insights and allowing you to target and re-target potential customers more specifically. To ensure GDPR compliance, make sure you refer to your pixel in your Privacy Notice.
“Pixel is a great tool that allows you to build custom audiences, re-target, and build lookalike audiences on Facebook – you provide a database or current audience and Facebook will find people with similar interests and purchasing behaviour based on a wide range of data points” said Gil.
When it comes to social media and social media advertising, the majority of small business owners greatly underestimate its value, as well as the strategy and planning required for successful campaigns.
Gil explained: “People are not likely to buy your product or service based on one advert. They’ll purchase further down the sales journey. You should be planning the buyer’s journey with multiple campaigns along the way.”
Putting up adverts that are too broad and generic to appeal to the masses is unlikely to work. Gil recommends honing the definition of your perfect customer so that you can focus on targeting specific groups of people.
Gil asked the delegates: “Who are you targeting? This will influence the images and copy that you use. Where are you targeting? Set your Facebook adverts to target specific geographical areas. Where are they in the buying journey, and why should they care about your product or service?”
Today, we are all bombarded with information, content, imagery, videos, sounds, and advertising. How are you going to draw your customer’s attention to you? Gil recommends the ‘Heresay’ approach: “Here’s what I’ve got. Here’s what it’ll do for you. Here’s what I want you to do next. Here’s why you should do it now. Here’s why it’s safe.”
Social media adverts aren’t a dark art, nor is there any one-style-fits-all approach that works for every business. There are some top tips that apply to all businesses – such as strong imagery and good copy – after that it’s a case of trial by error.
Gil said: “Don’t set adverts and leave them to run for weeks at a time. Check in on performance regularly, even daily. Test multiple images with different copy to see which ones work best for your target audience. Pause or stop those that aren’t getting a great response, and invest more into those that are.”
“7 out of 10 social media adverts will fail. Most people think it’s the other way around” said Gil.
Make small changes to your adverts each time, so you can see which changes are having the biggest impact.
Our theatres, museums and attractions may be closed right now but that won’t stop us bringing you the best of Arts and Culture to enjoy online from the safety of your home.
Our Cultural Life programme transforms into Cultural Lounge by going online from Monday 6 April as we present a diverse digital programme of arts, heritage, craft and more, all of which can be enjoyed live and online from your home! Stay at home with us and enjoy the many qualities and benefits of culture, so vital for our wellbeing during this challenging time.
During this uncertain period we want to keep in touch with you and help you stay entertained. Starting on Monday 6 April, we will deliver a weekly programme offering something for all ages to enjoy, all available from our Facebook pages and YouTube channels. Young and old can access a variety of activity, art forms and cultural offerings which will inform, entertain and educate bringing light relief into our lives.
As our programme develops we want to hear from you about what we can include in this offer. So watch this space as Cultural Lounge comes to you in the coming days.
To get in touch send us a message on our Facebook page @theatreatthemillandthecourtyardtheatre
Belfast Zoo is helping to spread some positivity and coming to you through the world of social media while it is temporarily closed to the public due to Covid19.
The dedicated zoo team are providing regular updates so you don’t miss out on the animal antics, and posting them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #BelfastZooComesToYou.
Home to more than 120 different species, Belfast Zoo hopes that by providing positive news during this challenging period, it will help to lift the community spirt and keep everyone informed.
Alyn Cairns, Zoo manager said: “Belfast Zoo is very popular with families, particularly at this time of year as we head towards the Easter holidays. But because we are closed at the moment, we thought it would be nice to capture some footage behind the scenes and share it with all of our followers on social media.
“I also want to take this opportunity to personally thank all of our keepers and staff for everything they are doing to help us continue to provide the highest level of care at this difficult time.”
Alyn added: “We also want to remind everyone that Easter celebrations are still taking place and you can virtually check in on the animals as they get treated to brightly coloured paper mache eggs filled with their favourite delicacy of meal worms and crickets! A special Easter themed competition will be taking place on our Facebook page from Good Friday until Easter Sunday, so keep an eye out for the chance to win some prizes!”
When it comes to marketing your small business it’s not always easy to find the time to dedicate to a sustained campaign.
However, making a few small changes and setting aside some regular time can help businesses to start seeing a difference sooner rather than later.
Andi Jarvis, the Founder of Eximo Marketing, holds an MSc in Marketing and has extensive experience delivering both digital and traditional marketing campaigns for a wide range of clients.
A regular conference speaker and guest lecturer, Andi delivered a LunchtimeLearning session facilitated by the Cathedral Quarter BID (Business Improvement District), sharing seven practical and easy-to-implement digital marketing tips for small business owners:
1. Focus on your customers
It might seem like an obvious tip, but many people can get distracted from their main goal with vanity metrics and chasing after the next “big thing” in marketing. Andi is a firm believer in making sure your marketing efforts are focused on the most important thing to your business – your customer: “Marketing is about getting the message to your customer in a way that they understand, through a channel that has their attention, to get them to take the action that you want them to take” said Andi.
2. Spend what you can afford
The marketing channels and methods available to you to help you reach your customer are always evolving. From print to radio, and from social media to video, there are many tools available to help you share your marketing message. For small businesses especially, this means maximising your marketing opportunities while spending what you can afford.
Andi explained: “Lots of companies ask me how much they should be spending on Facebook adverts, on creating a video for their brand, the simple answer is spending what you can afford. If you can afford to hire a videographer to create a professional video, then go for it. If you can’t, use the tools available to you to make your own.”
3. Use the tools available to you
There are so many tools and resources available now that you don’t need to be an expert to use. One of Andi’s favourites is Canva: “For good quality images and graphics, it helps to use a graphic designer” he said, adding: “If you have a flair for design, that’s great, and tools like Canva can help you create images for social media, your website, etc. If you can use it, make the most of it. If you have the budget for a designer, spend it.”
4. Make your content F.A.B.
People make purchase decisions based on the Features you tell them about, but this information is usually incomplete or too technical. Explain the Advantages and Benefits as well to engage customers and aid their purchasing decision. Andi’s top tip? Tell the story backwards:
Andi said: “Talk about the Benefits first, then the Advantages for the customer, before listing the Features that make the Benefits and Advantages possible. Humans engage with narrative, so tell your customers the story of how your product with benefit them. There will be fewer benefits in comparison to advantages and features, but they are important to identify.”
5. Don’t forget about the dinosaurs
A typical Facebook post has organic reach of around 7% of the page’s total likes. Email has an average open rate of 15-25%. Direct mail can be more expensive but also very effective. Not sure which to use? Go back to asking a key marketing question – where are your customers?
Andi’s advice is: “If you are considering direct mail, target current customers first and spend what you can afford. Useful mail sits around the house for a week or two and gets undivided attention when it is being read. Why not try a blended approach? Stats show social and email campaigns improve following a direct mail campaign.”
6. Always have a plan
Andi explained: “If it’s important for your business to drive new customers and increase sales, why do you only give it a couple of minutes attention, or post sporadically on social media?”
Some form of planning is better than no planning at all. Get a 12-month wall calendar and plan out your marketing campaigns in advance.
7. Customer reviews and testimonials are key
Make it your mission to collect customer feedback and use it in your marketing. Facebook and Google offer user-friendly review options, and for those in restaurants, travel, or tourism, TripAdvisor is still top.
“91% of customers trust a review more than a sales person” said Andi.
“Got a bad review? Think of it as invaluable feedback that you otherwise wouldn’t know about your business, and use it to make your business better. Taking proactive action and responding positively to a negative review is an opportunity to gain a loyal customer.”