MyTime groups & social media

Social media can be a great way to talk to lots of people at once, and with so many options you can communicate in any way you like. Just look at our official Facebook page to see how much we love reaching a whole new audience, and tell them all about how great MyTime groups are. You might think giving your group its own online presence would be great, but there are a few things you need to consider before you start.

The risks of social media in MyTime

If you’ve ever said something on Facebook that’s been taken the wrong way, you have an idea of the dangers of social media. When things are on a screen there’s no context, which means jokes or comments can be interpreted in very different ways to how we meant them. People also behave differently online, saying things they would never say offline. Over time, we’ve received quite a few complaints about postings made on Facebook, by members and by facilitators.

Another important thing to consider is the way MyTime is meant to be delivered. MyTime groups are face to face – this is how we’ve designed the program, and this is what our funding is for. Groups are also funded to be facilitated, but it’s hard to facilitate online groups, and takes a lot of planning and skill (just think of trying to manage a discussion where some people speak in the morning, some at night, some giving all their focus to the topic, and some busy multitasking).

Finally – did you know more than two out of five Australians never use any form of social media? As a MyTime partner, it’s your role to make sure groups are open and inclusive to everyone, so you need to think about whether your social media could exclude members (not just your current members, but also future ones). If you’re using social media for things like offering peer support or updating members on changes to sessions, what happens to those who don’t have social media?

 

Restrictions

No MyTime partner (facilitator, coordinator, play helper or provider) can start, run, or be a member of a private or closed social media groupfor their group’s members.. This includes Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn groups, Google Hangouts or Communities, YouTube channel, or any other group that hides content or membership from other users.

This is because an important aspect of having facilitated peer support is that facilitators have a clear role in the group, that isn’t the same as being a group member. Even if you have a child with a disability, or were once a member of MyTime, it’s important that your group’s members see you having a set role. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be a member of an open group, or a member of a closed group you attend as a parent instead of a facilitator.

 

What we suggest instead

There are lots of ways to have a social media presence for your group, and how you do it really depends on why you want it. If your members want more peer support outside the sessions, they can set up and manage their own group without you – you might want to remind them of your group rules, and how they might apply to online groups – for example, confidentiality and respect for the opinions and choices others make. Also remind them that activities or content posted on the internet are in the public domain and are effectively permanent.

The best way to use social media for MyTime is for promotion and communication. Partners can be a part of and manage social media designed for these purposes, but you might need some help managing it from interested members, since we can’t fund your time spent on managing this.

Facebook

Facebook is a great place to start for a social media presence, since 93% of social media users are active on it. Facebook pages are the easiest to manage – similar to your Facebook profile, a page is a place to post comments or photos, share links or posts from other people, or organise events. The difference is Facebook pages are public, and so can be seen and liked by everyone. You can also set up a page so that anyone can make posts, and moderate it to avoid spam or inappropriate comments.

Google

Google+ lets you create a page, with a bio of your group (remember to check the acknowledgements section for what to include), and pictures. You can create to share content publicly, and users can “+1” (similar to Like on other platforms). Like Facebook, Google+ also supports posts events, and let you put your group’s details (eg. address or regular session details).

Instagram

Instagram is the second most popular public social media platform (after Facebook). You can create an account for your group to share photos and videos, and it works well if you’re quite creative. Instagram is mainly a picture and video sharing service, so it doesn’t support things like events or link sharing. Remember, because Instagram is all about photos and videos, you will need to check with everyone about consent before you start posting (more on that below).

YouTube

Everybody’s favourite place to find cat videos, YouTube is where you can find millions and millions of videos on just about everything. It’s designed for sharing videos, so most people won’t see your profile, just your videos. YouTube is part of Google, which means if you are thinking of having a YouTube channel it’s a good idea to think about having a Google+ presence so you can make the most of it. Like Instagram, you will need to get consent to put up anything.

Twitter

If you want to push lots of information out, Twitter is a great option. Twitter lets you send short messages (called “tweets”) out, which your followers will see. Like Instagram and YouTube, Twitter doesn’t let you put much on your profile, it’s mainly used to share things.

Something to think about when you post

It’s really, really important to remember that you must have permission to post anything about members. Before you post anything about members on social media, even if it’s from your own account, you need to check and make sure they’re ok with it. Members might be uncomfortable having their (or their child’s) picture or name in a public space, or being associated with a MyTime group. Sometimes members might be ok with you using their information in general, but might not want to be associated with a specific thing (we all have photos of ourselves we wish weren’t on Facebook, don’t we?). Remember your group’s rules (especially any rules you have about not sharing things discussed outside a group), and if you’re at all unsure it’s better to double check.

There are a few levels of permission members can give for social media:

  • No consent – when a member says they don’t want anything with them in it being shared. This means being able to see their face in pictures or video, having their name (even just their first name) in text, or tagging them in a post.
  • De-identified – when a member says they’re ok with things they’re in being shared, but they don’t want to be identifiable. This means taking their name out of or changing their name in text and quotes. Just remember, if you change their name it needs to be in a way that makes them unidentifiable, so think about the name origins (for example, it’s pretty identifiable if there is one Vietnamese person in the group, and you change their name from one Vietnamese name to another), gender (if there is only one male in the group, changing the name to another male name isn’t really de-identified either), and similarity (Christina to Chrissy or Elizabeth to Liz are still very identifiable).
  • Partial – when a member says they’re ok with some content but not others (eg. they’re ok with you putting something on Instagram but not Facebook). If this is the case, you should be careful never to make assumptions (eg. if someone is happy to have their name shared, they might not be ok with being tagged).
  • Pre-approved – some members might say they’re happy to be included in content in principle, but want a chance to agree to what you’re planning to use before it goes out.
  • Full approval – when members say you can use any of their details for anything. Even if someone says this, you should still check with them before you do something new (eg. if you’re thinking of using another site, or you’ve never used pictures or tagging before).

You will need to keep a record of member’s consent to protect yourself. The easiest way to do this is to have members sign a consent form before you take any photos or videos, and keep it somewhere safe. This means that if someone changes their mind, or thinks they haven’t given permission, you have a way of proving they gave consent. Without this, you may leave yourself open to serious consequences, including legal action.

Finally

Social media is a very fast moving technology, and it’s difficult to keep up. There are lots of resources online for using the various social media platforms, and the different platforms often have guides that can be useful (Facebook has some great information about getting the most out of your page).

We’re here to help you with any question or ideas you might have. Let us know via the suggestion box if you would like some help or advice with promoting through social media, consent, closed groups, or any other issues.

So you want to have a launch

Organising a launch can be a great way to kick start your group, but it requires a bit of work ahead of time. Use this guide to plan ahead for smooth sailing.

12 weeks before

  • Book the launch
    Choose a date and venue for your launch. If the launch is at the regular session venue, consider - is it big enough? Do you have access to it before the planned time (to set everything up) and after the end (to pack up)? Choose a date, 
  • Develop a plan
    What do you want to accomplish from the launch? Media attention, lots of new members, support from local services? Once you decide what you would like, start to think of ways you can work towards meeting these objectives. Now is also the time to sort out the budget, what you would like to do (eg. events, activities), and how many people you would like to attend.
  • Talk with your organisation and coordinator
    Discuss your plans with your organisation and your coordinator, including your objectives and plans. They may have some advice, be able to offer support, or have conditions on your plans.

8 weeks before

  • Invite key speakers to attend
    Think about who you could invite to the launch. You may like to invite a mayor, local representative, a speaker from a local service, or even a local personality. Make sure you run these ideas by your organisation and coordinator before you invite anyone, as there may be procedures for inviting certain people (especially politicians).
  • Design & distribute invitations
    See the article 'Creating your own promotional material' for help creating invitations. Think about who they are going to, how you will distribute them, and what will make people want to attend. Once they're ready (and your organisation and the coordinator is happy with them), send them out. Don't forget to invite your coordinator and the PRC!

6 weeks before

  • Finalise the details
    Organise catering - book with a caterer, or if you are catering yourself, start planning and purchasing what you will be serving. Start creating a 'run sheet' - a timeline of the day. Confirm the details with any guest speakers or VIPs.
  • Think about any issues you might encounter
    Start thinking about how you might handle some issues - do you have a wet weather alternative? Do you have enough promotional materials? Does your plan take into consideration children who might be frail or have mobility issues? Talk with your coordinator about any risks they can see, and how you can minimise them.

4 weeks before

  • Contact the media
    Invite local journalists (and larger publications if they are interested) to attend the launch. 
  • Promote
    Keep promoting the event to as many people as you can. Let the PRC know so they can promote it through their networks, and do a brochure drop to local cafes, schools, services and community centres.

1 week before

  • Confirm details
    Confirm catering, making sure you have considered possible food intolerences or dietary preferences. Check in with the venue to ensure they are still on track. Provide guest speakers and VIPs a copy of the run sheet with your contact details in case they have any problems on the day.

1 day before - the morning of the launch

  • Drop by the venue
    Drop off any food, set up a promotions table with brochures and registration forms, and put up any decorations. Set up chairs and a play area for the kids.

Launch - have fun, you've earned it

Promoting in your community

By building relationships with local businesses and services in your community, they can do the promoting for you. You can help them promote your group by:

  • writing an introduction letter, telling them about MyTime, your group, and how it makes a difference.
  • offering to place a poster on their notice board, and/or regularly dropping in brochures.
  • giving them a newsletter insert with your groups details.
TIP: People are more likely to refer people to your group if it helps them in their work. Let local services know how having a client join MyTime can help them, remind them MyTime is a good place to refer people to when they first get a diagnosis or are going through the diagnosis process, and let them know that MyTime members are more likely to use local services they hear about through the group. Even local businesses, like cafes or child care centres, will be more likely to promote your group if they know you are promoting them through your group.

Places to target

These businesses are often happy to promote MyTime groups within the community.

  • Kindergartens
  • Local council
  • Childcare centres
  • Preschools
  • Maternal child health centres
  • Family support groups
  • GPs
  • Federal or state initiatives like Best Start (VIC)
  • Play groups

Creating your own promotional materials

MyTime Partners are free to make their own promotional materials, and some of the best and most effective promotional materials are ones created with a local area in mind.

Promotional material ideas

  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • FAQs sheet
  • Term plan poster
  • Invitations
  • Business cards

Including group specific information

You might like to put information on your own materials that isn't listed on the MyTime website, which is fine. However, there are some things to be mindful of when adding these details.

Including the group address, day and time

  • You may have one or several new people attend a session without any forewarning, even if you specify they must contact you before. Be aware that for every session, you could have multiple potential members, so you should always be prepared. Arrive early, always have copies of the registration form with you, and don't schedule guests or activities to start until 15 minutes after the start of the session so you can welcome new members and give them an overview.
  • If your group changes times, days, or venues more than once a quarter, we strongly recommend you don't list the address, day and time. It can take a lot for some people to walk through the door of their first MyTime session, and it can be very disheartening if there is nobody there.
  • If you ever do excursions (eg. sessions at a cafe), you will need to make sure you meet at the regular venue for about 15 minutes before you leave.

Listing the facilitators contact details - particularly mobile numbers

On the MyTime website, we only list a central contact number for each partner agency. This way, if the coordinator is busy, someone is able to answer queries and respond to calls within one business day.

  • You will need to be prepared for people to contact you at all times - before, during, and after work hours. You will need to have voicemail activated, and a special message specifying you are a facilitator, and which MyTime group/s you facilitate.
  • You will still need to be available to answer queries during MyTime breaks (like school holidays), whenever you are away (such as when you are sick or on holidays), and if you leave the group.
  • Can you call people back within one working day? This means calling back people who enquire on days you might not work as a MyTime facilitator. People enquiring about MyTime may be feeling a little overwhelmed, and MyTime is often the first service they access. If they don't hear from you for a few days it may cause undue distress.
  • If you would like to list personal contact details, it is at your own cost - MyTime cannot subsidise phone bills.

Acknowledgements & branding

All MyTime promotional mateirals must display the official MyTime logo, and may also be required to include acknowledgement information. Details on what to include, as well as copies of the logo, can be found on the logos and acknowledgement page.

Suggestions for key messages

These can be adapted to suit your needs, they are simply included to give you a place to start.

MyTime groups are for parents and carers for a child disability, developmental delay and chronic medical condition. It’s a FREE service, and a place where you can socialise and share ideas with others who understand the rewards and intensity of caring for a child with additional needs in a relaxed setting. Play helpers keep your children busy and active. Siblings also welcome.

Bring your child and come meet the MyTime Facilitator and Play Helper.


MyTime is a FREE service just for you! Come along and join others in similar circumstances to socialise over coffee/ tea and cake in a relaxed setting, while your child and their siblings are engaged in activities with a Play helper.

Parents and carers who have a child with a disability, developmental delay or chronic medical condition are welcome to participate in the nationwide initiative, MyTime.

Our groups are open and inclusive to all families with diverse backgrounds and offer thoroughly researched material and community support.

What are you waiting for? Come along to your nearest MyTime Group!


Do you have a child with a disability, a developmental delay or chronic medical condition? Would you like to meet other parents or carers in similar circumstances? Would you like to socialise, have fun and relax while your child and their siblings are engaged in activities with a play helper? Do you want to find out about available community support services that you can access? If your answer is YES to these questions then MyTime is just for you!

MyTime is a FREE service that is open and inclusive to all parents and carers that fit the above criteria.

Come along and meet the staff at (MyTime Group Name or Hosting Organisation Name) and join a MyTime session near you.

Parent quotes

You might prefer to use quotes from your members, these are simply suggestions.

 

I’m new to MyTime but it is fast becoming a highlight and priority in my week. It’s great to meet up with other mums who are coping and dealing with children who have physical, medical or intellectual challenges. MyTime is great company, great coffee and a great supportive, caring environment.

I’ve been coming to MyTime since the first meeting and have not missed a meeting since. I love MyTime and look forward to coming every week. I’ve met some excellent and caring friends at the group too.

I really look forward to it…. It’s the only thing that is just for me.

I love coming and hearing how other parents manage behaviour issues.

We have been attending several disability playgroups since our baby was born, but none of them gave us the chance to talk and share experiences between parents. It is so great to have time to share stories and information.

I have found the MyTime group very beneficial for my son. He is nearly 3 years old and his ability to interact with other children has brought him out of his shell. As a first time parent I have found it beneficial to talk and ‘bounce’ off other parents. To get ideas from other parents and to exchange notes with them is a very interesting exercise.

MyTime gives parents a chance to have some time with parents in similar situations. It gives us a chance to speak, listen, learn and relax once a week while our children are safe and making friends in a positive and stimulating environment. It is a great group to be part of.

MyTime has been excellent to motivate me and to help me focus on my needs and wants. It has given me the confidence and skills to initiate and follow through with my ‘to do’ list.

Our group facilitator is so caring and helpful, I can’t thank her enough. It’s the best thing that has happened to me and the girls. I am committed to MyTime and helping other families. My daughters love MyTime, and the other families we have met do too.

I really enjoy coming to MyTime every week to relax and talk to other parents in the group. I like MyTime because I can bring my child with me.

It’s nice to have a group that looks after the parents’ needs as well as the children’s.

Preparing for media interviews

Having media spokespersons - both parents and people from your organisation - who can speak enthusiastically about MyTime can be a great way to promote MyTime to the community.

What is a media spokesperson?

Someone who can talk knowledgably about MyTime when being interviewed by media. They need to make themselves available at short notice, speak positively about MyTime, your organisation and be able to find parents to speak to the media.

Having media spokesperson ready to go means that you can set-up media interviews, photo shoots or television appearances in advance and respond quickly when a journalist expresses interest in the story. The more interviews the media spokesperson does, the more comfortable they will become on camera or 'on the record'. When the same person does the interviews, it helps keep the MyTime messages consistent and gives the spokesperson the chance to build up relationships with media.

Key messages

  • MyTime is a national initiative for parents and carers of children with a disability or a chronic medical condition. The program is run by the Parenting Research Centre as the national coordinator in partnership with local childhood and parenting services.
  • MyTime is an opportunity for members to socialise and share ideas with other parents and carers. The program helps parents find out about available community support and meet others who understand the rewards and intensity of the caring role.
  • Research indicates that peer support is an important social and practical aspect of helping families feel less isolated and disconnected from the community.
  • Groups are parent led; that is, parents choose what to do and what to talk about. Each group has a facilitator to coordinate the group, including providing resources and helping discussions between parents. Groups also have a play helper to engage children in activities, while parents are able to catch up.
  • MyTime began in 2007, and today around 3,000 members attend groups run in every state and territory of Australia. 

What should I include in a media interview?

Media are most interested in parent stories, particularly if the parent is from a town where the newspaper, radio or television is produced. Journalists like to hear about parents' experiences with MyTime and photograph parents with kids. Photos increase the chances of the story being printed, make it look much nicer and help get the message across.

Even if you do not have a parent media spokesperson, you can still refer to parent stories when being interviewed. For example, "MyTime helps parents in Townsville to catch up with other local parents while children play in a supportive environment. Two months on, and one of our dads has had real success, he's now getting respite care which he didn't even know about before."

To ensure confidentiality of MyTime families, give more generalised examples of success stories. Eg. "One father says his child is much more sociable since coming to MyTime and he really feels the benefits of talking to others in his family situation."

Interview tips

  • Describe MyTime in simple terms
  • Localise the story for media so they are aware of the appeal MyTime has for the local community. Know the suburbs where your organisation runs groups and who is involved in these groups
  • Study the MyTime factsheet and key messages before your interview so you are prepared
  • Speak clearly and confidently
  • Have fun! 

Local community basics

One of the most effective forms of promotion is referral through local services. With a little effort, you can set up pathways for eligible families to find MyTime themselves.

You should do your best to make sure these local services know all about MyTime:

  • Local Council
  • Kindergartens
  • Childcare centres
  • Preschools
  • Maternal child health centres
  • Family support groups
  • GPs
  • Federal/state initiatives eg. Best start (VIC)
  • Disability services eg. your state's Autism Association

Increase their awareness of MyTime and your group in particular by:

  • Writing a letter telling them about MyTime
  • Offering to stock them with posters and borchures for their waiting rooms, notice boards, or common areas
  • Give them a newsletter insert, with some information about your group, the benefits, and how to get involved.

Step by step local media

  1. Identify local media outlets
    Do some research around what local media there is in your area, and which ones might be suitable. Consider newspapers, radio, and TV, both English and community language.
  2. Find out when their publishing deadline is
    Some may list this information on their website, or you can call and ask. If calling, morning is generally a better time as the afternoons can be busy with breaking news.
  3. Write down the key points
    What is the point of interest (do you have something new or different to highlight?), what is the impact (eg. making a difference for families), and how can you support the story (such as providing a parent for an interview).
  4. When you call
    Be to the point and entheusiastic - you only have a short amount of time to get their attention.
    eg. "Hi, I'm Sarah calling from Townsville. I wanted to let you know about a great story idea for a new local initiative to help parents with children who have a disability or chronic medical condition, for example autism or HIV. MyTime helps parents in the Townsville to catch up with other local parents while children play in a supportive environment."
  5. Send a media release
    If they are interested, take their email address and send them an email including the MyTime flyer and repeating the information you gave over the phone.
  6. Call again
    Follow up about a week later and offer to set up a parent interview. Use this as a chance to build an ongoing relationship.

Media cheat sheet

Contacting the media can be intimidating if you've not done it before. Start small, and focus on making some contacts and raising awareness. Local radio and newspapers are always looking for stories, so they are the best place to start.

  • Find the contact person or editor (usually available through a quick search online). Send them a short email outlining MyTime, your group, and letting them know you think your group would make a great story. 
  • Do some research on which journalists cover family, health and local community stories, as they will be most likely to cover a MyTime story. Call them and introduce yourself and your group.
    • Before you call, write down three things that you really want to get across. Try to think about what's new in the group, what impact the group has, and what you can give them (a parent or expert to speak to).

If you're stuck for content in an interview or story, try talking about:

  • MyTime provides a place members can share ideas and experiences and socialise with others in similar circumstances.
  • Many people caring for a child report feeling isolated or disconnected from family, friends and community. Research indicates that peer support groups can help families find out more about the support and services in their local community.
  • Refer to member's stories as much as you can. Share the progress of a member, or any positive feedback that has made an impact on you.

Information sessions

Why not try an information session, open day, or event booth to raise awareness of your group in the community. Give a presentation, invite members, and share promotional materials with a larger audience.

Information sessions

Information sessions can be held with a collection of local services, or as part of a bigger event. Contact your local council, health centres, or any specialist services, and ask them to let you know if they have any informational sessions planned, and whether you can make a short presentation.

You could also create your own information session - just contact a few local services who have a similar audience to MyTime. Invite them to join in on a session, where they can invite all their clients to find out about other services in the area. Ask your group venue or the other organisations whether you can hold the session outside open hours for free. Encourage your members to attend and invite others in their circle.

Open day

Hold a special session for anyone interested in finding out more about MyTime. Put up posters around your local area, enlist members to help you promote, and contact local services to invite them. Organise a special presentation or activity, or invite a guest speaker. Let your Partner Agency know you're organising, and any groups around your area - they all might like to join in.

Event booth

Set up a table at a local school fete, neighbourhood festival, or any other event. Bring handouts, pictures, brochures and business cards to hand out to anyone interested.

New group basics

Start by letting local services know that you have a new MyTime group:

  • Your local council local
  • Kindergartens, childcare centres, pre-schools, primary schools, and special schools
  • Maternal & child health centres
  • GPs
  • Family support groups any other groups that you know will be interested
  • Federal or state initiatives such as Best Start (Vic).

Write a letter or drop brochures at the organisation's reception. Ask if they have a newsletter you can put a note in or a noticeboard where you can pin some posters. Ask your local council if they know of any extra places to promote the group. 

An easy way to promote your new group is on your organisation's website. Depending on how much space you have to promote it, you can let people know what MyTime is about, who it's for, contact details for interested parents/carers and professionals, and a link to the MyTime website for more information.