Using the Media
Using the media can greatly improve your agency’s visibility to the public. According to a CLO program survey, 84% of Ontario’s community literacy agencies use the media extensively. Examples include writing a column, preparing special interest stories, public service announcements on the local radio station and learner testimonials. The media will often promote fundraising and promotional events such as spelling bees, scrabble tournaments and open houses. Toronto’s “Word on the Street” is an excellent example of a promotional event that tends to get good media coverage.
Printed Promotional Material
Creating a variety of printed material with compelling messages is very important. You can choose from a wide range of options, including pamphlets, brochures, newsletters, bookmarks, posters, business cards and calendars. Your printed material should provide basic, clear, eye-catching information that speaks to potential participants, because the time, money and effort pays off. In ABC Life Literacy’s “Who Wants to Learn?” report, almost three-quarters of callers remembered seeing promotional information about adults going back to school. More than half of these say the information influenced them to call a literacy agency.
Although many programs have the capability to produce effective material in-house with today’s software and printers, it can still be costly. To ensure you have some resources available, a distinct line for promotions should be in your budget. Sometimes, you can save money by using local services. For example, does your local college have a graphics design program? Perhaps college students could develop some promotional material for you free of charge as part of their studies. And be sure to ask your volunteers; they may have skills, talents and access to resources and connections that you don’t.
By promotional products, we mean useful articles imprinted with a business name, logo or message that are intended as give-aways. These can be used to market a brand, product, event or service or to communicate a message. Some examples are shirts, caps, pens, calendars, notepads, bags, mugs, refrigerator magnets, keychains and water bottles. The cost of these products can add up, particularly the imprinting costs, so, are they worth it? According to a 2017 study, conducted by Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), the answer is yes. View PPAI’s infographic, The Modern Consumer in the Driver’s Seat for some interesting facts and figures from the study.
For ideas on how to use promotional materials, read How Non-Profit Organizations Can Use Promotional Products by Tina Rinaudo.
Websites and Social Media
In today’s world, the Internet is where most people go to find information. If used correctly, the Internet can be a powerful promotional tool for literacy agencies. Two main areas for outreach and communication involving the Internet are websites and social networking.
A review of CLO’s member agencies backin 2013 found that 95% had a website. So, it probably isn’t necessary to talk you into a website. Instead, we are going to ask you some questions:
- Is your website a good outreach and communication tool?
- How would you rate your website in terms of design, user-friendliness, overall appeal and ease of access to information? Do you update it regularly?
- Can learners, their friends and family and community stakeholders easily find out what they need from your website?
- What kind of impression of your organization do visitors get from your website?
- If you ask a few people from outside your organization to give you some honest feedback or ask current students to review and comment on your website, what will they say?
If you aren’t sure about the answers to these questions or how to make the answers positive, there are some excellent blogs, articles and webinars on the Learning section of TechSoup Canada. We also recommend coyotecommunications.com’s Basic Web Development & Maintenance for Nonprofits, NGOs, Government Offices & Other Mission-Based Organizations.
Social networking (also known as social media) is an economical way for non-profit organizations, including LBS programs, to market themselves. However, it does take some dedicated staff time to “watch-over” and “feed”.
It seems that similarly to how social networking gives individuals the chance to keep in touch with relatives and friends, LBS agencies can form and support relationships with their stakeholders. And, as the “networking” name implies, those who are already linked, “liking” or “following” can share with others, thus increasing awareness and involvement.
Community Literacy of Ontario (CLO) was funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation to research and develop social media marketing materials and resources. These resources will enable Ontario’s adult literacy agencies to create effective marketing strategies and tools using media such as Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and more. Agencies will be able to personalize the downloadable tools and templates to address social media marketing to the individual communities that they serve. Check CLO’s website for more information.
For some tips on successful social networking, check out the article, Social Media Marketing Benefits for Nonprofit Organizations by Laura Lake.
Clear Writing in Your Promotions
For all promotional tools, it is important to use the principles of clear language and design. Be sure to produce clear, well-written materials that are effectively desktop published. More graphics, fonts and features aren’t necessarily better; simple is usually the best.
If you would like more information on clear writing, try these options:
- Visit Literacy Link South Central’s Clear Writing webpage. From there you can get information about clear writing, review some examples, get assistance with clear writing your documents and find out about their clear writing course.
Making Our Outreach and Communication Accessible
Under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Ontario organizations have to make their information accessible for people with disabilities. According to the Making Ontario Accessible website, organizations have to:
- make their websites and web content accessible according to the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. (Note: Organizations with less than 50 employees are exempt from this requirement.)
- provide accessible formats and communications supports as quickly as possible and at no additional cost when a person with a disability asks for them
- make feedback processes accessible by providing accessible formats and communications supports when requested
- make public emergency information accessible when requested
MTCU expects us to make our sites and materials accessible to Persons with Disabilities.
To find out more, the Ontario government’s How to Make Information Accessible webpage offers:
- A summary of the law
- How organization can comply
- Types of accessible formats
- Types of communication supports
- Tools to make information accessible
- Links to other resources, such as, free training resources on accessibility requirements including the Information and Communications Standard, offered by Access Forward.