Communicating with ‘Hard to Reach’ Groups

From July 2021, N8 PRP funded 2x12 month internships at West Yorkshire Police to evaluate and develop the force’s communications with ‘hard-to-reach’ groups.

The internship resulted in several significant changes in the Force’s approach to VAWG communications, including the role of consultations, visual language, and a commitment to becoming an ‘anti-victim blaming Force’.

West Yorkshire Police (WYP) are funding 2 further internships beginning in autumn 2022, and have offered one of the interns, Maisie Watling, a permanent post in WYP’s communications department. Olivia Wooley has returned to full-time study at the University of Leeds.

A summary of the interns’ work and main findings is shared below. A webinar about the internship was held on 26 July 2022; the presentation is linked below and a report is available on the News page.





This report highlights the result of West Yorkshire Police’s pilot project to engage the services of media interns to drive greater engagement with young and ethnic minority audiences, which broadened during the work to include a wider female audience, in the context of public outrage over violence against women and girls (VAWG). The objective was to identify communications gaps, suggest and implement new ways of working, and build a foundation for future activity.

Key findings

Focus on what you can achieve at a communications level – becoming an anti-victim blaming organisation 
Language and imagery were as much a potential barrier to communicating with some groups as the communications mechanisms themselves, in particular victim-blaming terminology in relation to female victims of crime.

Effective consultation is early and open
Consultation is fundamental to producing successful content and direct engagement with non-police groups was hugely beneficial and gave messages credibility.

To be engaging, you need to be relatable
Modern, less formal messaging generated a positive public reaction on social media.

Internships can effectively challenge established practices
The Corporate Communications Team were to an extent, locked into a set way of working and the interns’ challenging approach helped changed perceptions and working practices.

Increase/redirect resource to social media and non-traditional messaging
Resourcing levels within the Corporate Communications Team continue to be an inhibiting factor in terms of developing and expanding our reach.


The internship was undertaken by Maisie Watling and Olivia Wooley and managed by Nigel Swift (West Yorkshire Police), with academic oversight from Dr Kate Watkins (University of Leeds).  

Report date: July 2022.