Advertising Your Services

Once you are fully established as an organization, and have secured office space, you will want to notify the local refugee population that your services are now available. This section will outline the key information you can include in your advertising materials, and provide advice on how to distribute advertising materials effectively.

Important information to include

As a refugee right advocate, you must not assume that refugees will instantly see the value of your organization’s work, especially at the initial stages. This is particularly so where legal aid is not common, and rights-based organizations few. Refugees may assume that any organization claiming to help them will deliver material aid, and in the absence of this, they may assume legal services are irrelevant.

Therefore, clear communications are key in whichever format you choose to publicize your services. You may wish to:

  • Convey the benefits of legal advice, which may include: potential access to regularized migratory status; and the contingent rights to work, healthcare, education.
  • Convey that legal advice will be free. Many may assume that lawyers’ services will be expensive and out of their reach.
  • Clarify what the organization cannot do, such as that it cannot grant refugee status or give humanitarian aid.
  • Convey that the organization is not affiliated to UNHCR or the government. Where UNHCR provides RSD, any assistance with RSD will often be mistaken as a UNHCR service. Therefore, it is very important to stress that you are an independent NGO in all advertising materials.

In addition, be aware of the content and reach of advertisement when operating in non-Convention states or states where refugees have no legal status, so as to not attract unwanted attention from the authorities.

Methods of distribution

Simple messaging is necessary to make sure you appeal to the relevant population. For example, posters and flyers could ask ‘Did you have to leave your country for fear of violence?’ Depending on the context you are working in, refugees may share one common language, or may originate from many different communities. Consider translating your materials.

Many marginalized groups have received sub-standard education and are illiterate. Refugees may be literate in their own language but have limited understanding in the language of their country of refuge. All messaging should use clear and simple language, free of jargon and legal terms. Adverts on the radio may reach illiterate populations, but recording costs and the price of airtime are generally high, though pro-bono arrangements could be proposed.

If opting for flyers and posters, consider where these will be most visible to your target population. Buses may carry adverts, as well as tuk-tuks or other forms of public transportation. Other organizations serving refugees – whether government institutions, UN agencies or other NGOs – should be contacted to display information about your new services. Flyers could be handed out door to door in refugee-hosting neighborhoods. For an example, you may refer to an online advertisement designed by Justice Center, a legal aid NGO for forced migrants in Hong Kong.

You will likely notice a snowball effect. Once you have served clients, some advertising will take place by word of mouth. The first few service users will tell their friends if they have a positive experience, and your client base will grow organically. For more information on how to raise awareness and provide information about your legal services to your target population in the community, you may refer to the Community Outreach page under the Community Legal Empowerment section of the toolkit.