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Fox Pop: how a Sheffield creative agency is promoting key Covid-19 messages

Nifty Fox Creative’s visual storytelling has connected people to important public health issues since the pandemic began. Director Laura Evans told us more about their work, including the new #COVIDsmart campaign.

V2 COVID Smart Twitter POSTS KM1 01

Nifty Fox Creative is a Sheffield-based creative agency specialising in visual storytelling and working primarily with the academic and public sectors.

During the pandemic, the agency has played a key role in communicating clear, accessible messages about staying safe and healthy, with a particular emphasis on some of the harder-to-reach groups in Sheffield, including young people and communities of colour. Nifty Fox’s latest project is the #COVIDsmart social media campaign targeting younger people, which is launching on 28 April.

Now Then talked to Laura Evans, Director of Nifty Fox Creative, about the agency’s approach to storytelling, and how they have approached some of the Covid-19 projects they have worked on over the last year.

To begin with, tell us a bit about Nifty Fox and its approach.

One of the unusual things about Nifty Fox is that my background is in social research and public health messaging, rather than design or art.

Our focus is very much on our client’s strategy and executing this for a specific audience. We emphasise visual storytelling, rather than pages of text, and we use a simple, friendly, hand-drawn style, as this seems a very effective way of reaching the broadest range of audiences.

You are about to launch a social media campaign focusing on reaching younger people with key Covid-19 messages. Who have you been working with on this?

It started with us talking to Debbie Mathews from the Manor and Castle Development Trust and David Bussue from Sheffield African Caribbean Mental Health Association (SACMHA).

Both Debbie and David had been talking to young people in their communities about Covid-19 safety, but had found it hard to find relevant, accessible resources. It quickly became apparent that this was an issue across the city, and as a result Sheffield Council and the SOAR Community charity have commissioned us to develop the #COVIDsmart social media campaign, specifically targeting younger people (14-22).

Who was involved in the #COVIDsmart discovery session and what were the key themes that came out of this?

We were really helped by the number of community organisations from across the city that gave their time to attend the discovery session, so a big thank you to SOAR Community, SACMHA, Darnell Wellbeing, Manor and Castle Development Trust, ACT Sheffield, Burngreave Library, Flower Estate Family Action, Longley 4G, Firvale Community Hub and Shadow Community Forum.

Some of the individuals present were community health champions, including some younger people, which was particularly helpful.

Nifty Fox COVID Smart Mock Up Insta 1

#COVIDsmart campaign imagery.

The key themes that came out of the discovery session were:

  • The campaign shouldn’t look too polished or corporate.
  • Messages should be positive. Some of the language in the national debate has sounded quite negative about, for example, multi-generational households. Ethnic minority communities in Sheffield saw it as a real positive that different generations lived together and supported each other, and we wanted to reflect this in the messaging.
  • Messaging should focus on keeping yourself and others safe, not on just following rules.

These discussions were really helpful in guiding our work when we began designing the materials. So, for example, we decided to go with a yellow, black and white theme as this was deliberately very different to the official, national C19 campaigns.

What are the particular challenges for this sort of project?

A lot of the official Covid-19 information isn’t necessarily relatable to younger people and doesn’t reflect their day-to-day experience. The task for us has been to find the right channels and the right language, and to present concise message in a way that is relevant and accessible.

There is always a temptation to say more and go into more detail, but working through social media, you have only got a few seconds before people switch off.

One of our biggest challenges was the timeline. Normally, for a project like this, we would have a lead-in time of three months. In this case it was three weeks!

How will the campaign be rolled out?

#COVIDsmart will go out through Instagram, Snapchat, Tiktok, Facebook and Twitter.

There are going to be three weekly phases, with the first launching on 28 April.

  • Week 1 will focus on hands/face/space, why you should take the vaccine and how it works.
  • Week 2 gives more information about vaccine safety and staying safe as the country opens up after lockdown.
  • Week 3 focuses on ethnic minority communities and keeping everyone safe in multigenerational communities.

We hope that by repeating key, relevant messages that young people will start recognising and engaging with the campaign.

Can anyone share these resources on their social media feeds?

Yes, absolutely. We want to encourage as many organisations and individuals to share these. All the resources can be downloaded from our website.

If you can, please tag us – but the most important thing is to get the message out there.

#COVIDsmart isn’t your only C19 related work. Amongst other projects, you have also designed the Active At Home booklet, which started off as a Sheffield initiative, but has now been distributed across the country. How did this come about?

When the pandemic started I was sitting around feeling a bit helpless and wondering what I could do. I then got a Twitter message from Dr Anna Lowe, Programme Manager at the National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine at Sheffield Hallam University. One of Anna’s projects was Move More and Anna’s issue was how she could encourage people to continue to exercise during lockdown.

We always start any project with a ‘discovery session’, bringing together all the key stakeholders and making sure that everyone is agreed on the strategy, the key messages and the audiences we are wanting to reach. In our discovery session with Anna and other relevant groups, it was agreed that the target audience was particularly older people and those who were digitally excluded, and Anna also wanted to reach communities where English wasn’t necessarily the first language.

It was important that the tone was encouraging and fun, not telling people that they ‘should’ do more exercise. We also wanted the images to carry a lot of the story and messages, so that proficiency in English wasn’t essential.

We used hand-drawn figures and we wanted to ensure that we reflected Sheffield’s varied communities. One of the images I particularly like is a women in a hajib dancing. We did consult on this and the feedback was this was a really positive image to include.

How did this scale up from a Sheffield initiative to a national resource?

Public Health England had been involved at the outset to ensure that consistent Covid-19 messages were being disseminated across the country. They really liked the booklet and saw it had been very well received in Sheffield, so within five weeks they had adopted this as a national resource. It has now reached two million people. Not bad for something that started with a quick tweet!

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