Working With Young Men in Sexual Health Services 5

It is important to reflect on our practice and offer a service which meets the needs of young men as much as young women. When we have achieved this (or taken steps to do this) we need to promote what we are doing effectively, as well as be very, very patient…

When we successfully deliver projects that meet young men’s needs they become popular through word of mouth – so why spend any time thinking about publicity? The right publicity is part of the cumulative affect of providing a service which meets the needs of young men. I give most of my publicity to my existing clients because I know that they are going to tell their friends and that their friends are going to need convincing.

You can have everything in place, great condoms, perfect opening times, highly trained and motivated staff, amazing promotional material, excellent outreach: but still have to wait months for clients.

The most important factor in creating successful services for young men is to wait and to be patient. Keep doing the same things every week and soon the word of mouth will build.

After around a year you should reach a point where the service will start to see regular numbers of young men.

If the extent of a project worker’s graphic design skills are word art then it is a good idea to get someone else to do a design. A word art poster for a service sends out a message that ‘we don’t really want young men here’ or ‘we have to make it look like we want more young men in but really we don’t want them here’. If you want to have a play around yourself there are some excellent free programs you can use, for example inkscape, gimp and openoffice: you can also get some cool free fonts from dafont. Or you could always pay me to do it.

Printers are often able to provide artwork and in many ways this is the easiest and most cost effective way of getting your images right. You could ask some of your prospective clients ideas for a logo and images but remember that they are not experts either. You may get some good ideas from some young men in a logo design competition but this can be time consuming and can sometimes not get you great results. Speak informally with clients about what images they think work. Their favourite record covers, trainers and adverts can give you an idea.

If you shop around you can get 2000 flyers printed for £300 including artwork. However it is important that you work well with the designer giving them a detailed brief and an understanding of what you are trying to do. Don’t be afraid of asking for changes – it’s probably the most interesting job in their in-tray. UK Flyers are good, tell Jim I sent you: but other printers are available.

Here are a couple of examples of logos and designs from some of my projects

Some services don’t have a catchy name for their service, however most specialist services choose a name and this is not just for specialist young male provision but also for young people’s sexual health services ‘brands’.

I have developed two branded male sexual health services ‘The Space Man’ and ‘BAM’. ‘The Space Man’ was a service firstly held at a young people’s one stop shop (sexual health, drugs, careers, housing, education, benefits etc) called ‘The Space’. This was very popular in Derby so we piggy-backed onto that for our Friday afternoon session. It was catchy, sounded masculine and everyone knew where it was (it was also a popular song in a Levis advert years ago which unaccountably young men still remember).

‘BAM’ stands for Brook and Men. It’s short, catchy and looks cool. It also gives the impression that there is no messing about at the service and that it’s dynamic and manly. Same goes for Bish, but you can’t have that one.

It can take months to get the right name as it has to sound masculine but not aggressive. It needs to have a very broad appeal without being naff and it needs to be timeless. Keep it short and snappy and no rubbish acronyms like ‘TACT’ (try a condom today, sorry Diane) ‘SHAG’ or ‘SHARE’. Perhaps take the number of the building where the clinic is such as the ‘374 Clinic’ by Brook Brixton.

When striving for designs that have a high impact it’s important that the appeal is broad and attractive to all young men. Many young men do not like football and may feel excluded by reference to it for example. It’s also important of course not to produce anything that has any heterosexual connotations.

Even if there are no heterosexual references in publicity sometimes masculine designs can be off-putting and exclusive to young gay men. Traditional masculinity is strongly associated with heterosexuality so it is important to be inclusive. However a leaflet aimed at young men with the word ‘gay’ prominently featured may be off-putting to straight young men. Possible ways around this are by using expressions such as ‘for all young men up to 19’ and or including a small gay pride flag.

When we work in sexual health services we develop our own language to indicate what we offer such as ‘family planning’ or ‘sexual health services’; but these are meaningless terms for young men so we need to be specific about what we offer.

If our services work well with young men then they will tell their friends to come to the service. What would they say to their friends?

“They give you really good condoms for free”

“They don’t want to know your business”

“They don’t keep you hanging around”

“They explain things properly”

“The people there are alright and don’t lecture you”

It’s important to sell our services so instead of just saying ‘free condoms’ how about ‘top quality free condoms’ or ‘accurate information and honest advice from top professionals’. Counselling or offering relationship help is a service that many young men would want if it was called something else – ‘life coaching’, ‘we listen hard’, ‘sort your head out’ or even ‘come and talk to our life coaches’.

Back to part one

all images and text © Bish Training 2010