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Representing your beneficiaries when you can’t use their image

Headshot of Jade

19 October 2022

by Jade Staiano

Digital Skills Programme Manager at Media Trust.



We hear it all the time from social media experts, “Faces are engaging. People like to look at other people.” But what about when you can’t show images of the people you work with?

Working with young or vulnerable people often means it’s not appropriate to share their photo or real details of their lives on your social media channels. But you still need to connect with your audience of funders, volunteers, and supporters. Here are some ideas we’ve had… 

1. Be selective about stock images

Stock images often come with a side of cheese! But by being selective about the sites you use and the style, colour and composition of the pictures, no one need suspect the truth.  

There are lots of great sites listed in this resource, especially when you want your imagery to reflect the diversity of the people you support.  

Our top tips for using stock images? Choose images that align with the charity’s brand, style, personality and colour palette. Remember – you can always apply a filter if necessary. Be strict with yourself and choose images of a similar style and tone, so that the images appear as part of a curated set for your brand and are stylistically similar.  

Here are some great examples from Unsplash. 

2. Try words instead

The words of your beneficiaries can be one of your most powerful tools. Take their words and turn them into quote images. This gives room for their story to breathe, and it lets people use their imagination.

Once you have a quote template that is in line with your brand, it’s easy to create a set of images which form part of your ever-green content and can be shared at weekly or monthly intervals. You can use a platform like Canva or Adobe Express to make this really easy.

Just remember, keep it short and go for a large font size and high contrast colours, so that it’s easy to read and people don’t scroll on by.

A great example of easy-to-read quotes from Rape Crisis England and Wales.

Or, you could also take inspiration from this Childhood Trust campaign where these pictures speak a thousand words and convey a huge amount of emotion.

Think of some everyday objects you’ll be able to find on stock sites. Overlay those images with some text that creates a story.

3. Let data tell a story

Along the same lines, share powerful stats and data that will paint a picture of the context or scale of the problem. This post from Muslim Youth Helpline is clear, easy to read and will make your audience stop and think.

You could create an infographic, or perhaps a ‘listicle’ (an article which is actually a list, a bit like the one you’re reading now), on the challenges around identity and privacy that your service users face.

Not everyone lives and breathes the sector that you work in, and sharing useful, educational content will give your socials a boost.

4. Put a call out for volunteer models

Okay, so maybe this will take a little more time and energy. But if you want some specific shots which you can’t find on stock sites then put a call out on your socials for some volunteers to model for you.

You never know who might surprise you!

Be specific about the times and dates when volunteers need to be available. You’ll be able to brief them beforehand and prepare a list of shots you want, and props that you might need. Think carefully about location, lighting and wardrobe etc.

5. Find influencers and those who do talk about their experience, and link it back to your beneficiaries

There are people out there prepared to talk about their experiences. Find those people who want to raise awareness, who are looking for opportunities to tell their story, and work with them to create content for your charity.

This may require some budget to pay them for their time. And you need to think carefully about who aligns well with your brand and who will resonate with your target audience.

Alternatively, search for creators on Instagram and ask them if you can repost some of their content with credit. It might not look as on-brand as your other content, but it could amplify your voice and help you broaden your reach if they tag you back.

This account from Cheer up Luvis a brilliant example of bringing stories together and using inspiration from around the internet…just be sure to ask permission!

6. Focus on your staff

Even with a small team, there is the potential to make an impact. If you’re not using behind-the-scenes content on your Instagram you’re missing out on a whole load of posts that can bring some personality to your feed.

Here’s a brilliant example from Lennox Children’s Cancer Fund, where they’ve recently been getting staff involved in creating content for their new TikTok channel. It doesn’t have to be slick, just make sure it’s easy to follow and fits well with your brand tone. Dancing and pointing aren’t for everyone, but a meet-the-team series can work well with any brand or platform.

Sometimes you might be able to take anonymous images. Have a look at this brilliant article, sharing top tips from a photographer. It contains lots of ideas from silhouettes to group shots.

And finally, dear reader, take heart! There are many studies which show engagement isn’t related to whether you’re showing enough faces on your feed, it’s about what resonates with your audience

So, for every post, make sure it’s informative or entertaining. And concentrate on creating content people want to share, so you can get your message out to a wider audience. 

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