The first so-called transition centres opened their doors in Belgium in September 2019 and January 2020. Their purpose? To rehabilitate and return ex-prisoners to society. We were informed by the private security company G4S Care that no fewer than five different stakeholders were involved in this unique project, each with their own visions and expectations. They were operating the transition centres and provided us with information about the concept and the relevant organisations. Thanks to a strong communication plan, we presented an unambiguous core message to the outside world.
The first step was to conduct comprehensive media research and have a series of conversations. Our PR consultants assessed the sensitivities we picked up on. What style had been used in previous communication about the concept? Who were the supporters and opponents? What were their arguments? This provided crucial insights for the further development of our communication strategy.
We then united the five project partners around the table: operators G4S Care and Exodus Nederland, representatives from the prison system, the Justice Department and local authorities. This was the perfect opportunity to air any concerns and set out communication preferences for the project. We summarised everything in a comprehensive communication plan which clearly set out each role, the corresponding areas of expertise and the core messages. This provided the required structure. The communication plan served as a reference manual that could be consulted by every organisation.
We then organised a press conference in a transition centre. After all, this concept was “visually” new as well. Journalists were given the possibility of getting an overview of the project. We carefully crafted our core messages but also gave each party the opportunity to explain its area of expertise during the press moment.
Our weeks of preparation were rewarded with fantastic results in terms of television, newspaper and radio coverage. National and regional media published in-depth articles on the transition centre, each from their own perspective but based on the core message that we’d envisaged.