One year before its 40th anniversary, the UK’s only Black newspaper is looking to the future. The Voice has partnered with M&C Saatchi for the ‘Tick It to Change It’ campaign, which seeks to encourage its readers and Black people in the UK to share their views on the modern experience of being Black in Britain.
The campaign is in support of the Black British Voices Project (BBVP), which is the first ever comprehensive national inquiry into the Black British experience, developed in partnership with the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge and consultancy group I-Cubed.
While thousands have taken to the streets across the UK as part of the Black Lives Matter movement, The Voice and Cambridge University have recognized that we still lack the relevant government policies to create meaningful change for Black communities. The BBVP, then, is both a research and advocacy project designed to gauge what is most important to Black people across the UK.
Paula Dyke, The Voice’s senior manager, corporate affairs and communications, says that while the campaign is important in its own right, it also aids The Voice in discovering what matters to the young people the newspaper is seeking to reach.
She says: “We wanted to focus on the areas where [respondents] said that change was needed. [The Voice’s] focus is on that younger audience ... my generation has been through this before so we want to make sure we’re still focusing on the issues that affect young Black people.”
Amplifying young Black voices
To that end the research is the first time that people as young as 16 have been asked this question, with the University of Cambridge receiving special dispensation to ask school-age people what matters to them.
As an example, Dyke notes that younger Black readers have a focus on career progression, particularly within industries where Black voices have historically been underserved: “Career progression is so important for [younger readers]. They’re thinking about their own career progression, opportunities, sectors ... we want to provide them with that platform.”
The campaign features images of members of the public alongside rhetorical questions such as: ‘Can we get Black history into schools?’
Dyke believes that the campaign will allow the newspaper to reappraise what its younger audiences prioritize, and can therefore realign its editorial coverage to better serve them. She argues that the research will also allow The Voice to discover its audience – not just across social, but across the geographic UK. She says The Voice wants to know what Black people in Scotland and Wales feel are their priorities to create a total picture, rather than just cater to London-based readers.
Over the past few years The Voice has been launching new editorial products to cater to that audience, from a suite of podcasts to coincide with Black History Month to a dedicated Instagram channel. It’s a recognition that, as with all newspapers, the key to future success is to engage younger audiences where they currently choose to spend time.
As the newspaper approaches its 40th anniversary, its focus on supporting the community it serves through advocacy as well as news provision means it has a strong foundation of engagement on which to build.