One Last Note on Delivering the Message
One MTCU requirement for LBS agencies is to “Ensure their contact information and service descriptions are accurate and up to date on the web, social media and in any print materials they provide to customers or other EO service providers.”
It is sometimes hard to remember to update information that is “out there.” Whether it is on the Internet as social media or a webpage, or if it is print material like brochures, it is very important that we keep our information up-to-date. This is not only a part of your contractual obligations – it also ensures that clients are able to find you easily.
On a regular basis throughout the year, as stated in your contracts with MTCU, you need to check and update your information on the Find Employment and Training Services (FEATS) section of the Employment Ontario website. You can follow the 5 easy steps on Employment Ontario’s website.
You should also update your Ontario 211 listing. Ontario 211 is a helpline and website for information and referral to community, social, government and health services. You can edit your listing through the telephone hotline (dial 211) or directly from your listing on their website.
It is a good idea to set yourself up a reminder method to ensure your progam’s information is current and correct. Many programs check their listing on Employment Ontario and some, like Kingston Literacy and Skills, Napanee site, tie this in with reviewing their monthly EOIS-CaMS reports. At the Gateway Centre for Learning, the Executive Director maintains a list of items, websites, etc. that need to be updated whenever changes occur at their centre. While she is making updates, she reviews the whole record and makes corrections as needed.
Successful Outreach and Communication requires spreading the word in the right places and in the right ways to connect with potential learners. However, sending the right message is extremely important. We need to draw attention to how our services can change people’s lives.
For other service providers -> how our program can increase their clients’ success
For transition partners -> how our program can sufficiently prepare learners for that next step along the goal path
For individuals -> how our program focuses on them; what they can get from LBS training; and how it can make a difference in their lives
For the community -> how prevalent literacy issues are; the impact of low-literacy on individuals, society and the economy; and how our LBS program(s) can and have made a difference
People respond to marketing messages about something THEY want – not something WE think they need or want. If the message in our promotional strategies and materials is based on assumptions about what the target audience wants, the message may not be successful. Your message should always answer the “What is in it for me?” question of the intended audience.
For more insight on getting the message right, you might read:
Slogans and Taglines
Creating a catchy tagline or slogan that will help people to remember your organization in a positive way can be a very useful promotional tool. Then, once you’ve got a good tagline, use it! Put it on everything … on your brochure, signage, letterhead, promotional materials and in your annual report. It could make all the difference with community recognition of your literacy agency.
Consider these taglines and think about their positive motivational appeal:
- “Hamilton Reads!” (Hamilton Literacy Council)
- “Literacy. Learning for Life” (Frontier College)
- “Learning for a better future” (Training and Learning Centre of Renfrew County)
Message Content Help
National, provincial and regional literacy networks all have tools, statistics and learner stories to help you with your outreach messages. CLO, for example, has produced several “message” packages about literacy that can be found on its website:
- Literacy: Why it Matters
- Ontario’s Community Literacy Agencies: Great Places to Learn!
- Ten Key Facts About Community Literacy Agencies
Over the years, Community Literacy of Ontario has collected information on effective outreach strategies from a wide variety of sources, including CLO’s provincial Board of Directors, participants in online workshops, Kingston Literacy’s “Reaching Across the Barriers” and CLO’s “Learner Recruitment and Retention Toolkit.” These strategies can be categorized into three groups: Advertising and Promotion, Programming and Networking.
Advertising and Promotion
- When targeting specific groups of learners, use spokespersons from that group. Encourage them to use their own words and lingo for the script. Ensure promotional material that is aimed at people with very low reading skills has few words and uses mostly pictures.
- Put flyers or bookmarks about your program in grocery bags, in library books, etc. Put bookmarks, brochures, business cards, magnets, etc. into as many locations in your community as possible: doctor’s offices, schools, libraries, community centers, playgroups, health units, legal aid offices, bus shelters, and malls. Use tear-off information sheets in laundromats, train and bus stations and fast food places.
- Conduct sidewalk surveys asking the public if they are familiar with your agency and its location, and if they would refer someone to it. Provide information about your program.
- Hold a coffee house, poetry reading, etc. Invite adults from the community to read their poetry or stories or have local musicians, singers or artists display their talents.
- Simplify program information and aim the message directly at the learner. Print up simple, clear and eye-catching messages and post them on community bulletin boards.
- Do seasonal promotions around Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Mother’s Day, etc. Target these to the family and friends of adults with low literacy skills.
- In outreach material, show the programming choices you provide (small group or one-to-one) and that there is flexibility in schedules (both days and evenings are available).
- Set up displays in the window of the local library, etc.
- Offer special interest workshops or hold a drop-in night offering to help people complete forms free of charge, etc. This puts you in contact with people who might also like to improve their literacy skills.
- Use learning materials that are specifically directed at your target group(s). For example, use workforce materials with learners on the Employment goal path.
- Increase your exposure by delivering programming (assessments or training) onsite at Ontario Works, Employment Services, workplaces, etc.
- Direct contact is usually more effective than just sending a notice. When starting a new course, telephone people in the community (Employment Services, Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, social services, employers, etc.) and ask if they might have any referrals. Alternatively, send them an email with a flyer. Ask, “Do you know anyone who would benefit from this training?” or “Would you distribute these brochures to people who come into your business?”
- Contact local temporary placement agencies. People coming to them for work may need to upgrade their skills before they can be employed.
- Approach professionals such as doctors, lawyers and religious leaders, who may meet people needing assistance of some type. Provide pamphlets or business cards that they can pass on to a potential learner.
- Make presentations to service providers so they know just what services LBS can provide.
- Make use of the adage “many heads are better than one” by getting ideas from program staff and from committees set up solely for the purpose of marketing and outreach. And, as we said earlier, don’t forget the learners. They can tell you a lot on the subject of what is inviting about your program and what encouraged them to come to your program. Ask where they heard about your program and track this information to target recruitment efforts in the most effective way.
Reaching Diverse Cultural Groups
Sometimes it can be difficult to reach diverse cultural groups in your community. Programs should incorporate traditional knowledge, languages, stories and customs when designing course content and recruitment materials. Staff and volunteers must be sensitive to cultural differences and be aware of racism issues. It is also important to ensure that your literacy agency establishes links with organizations serving diverse cultural groups and for your staff and volunteers to reflect the diversity of the community you serve. An advisory group made up of representatives from various cultures can provide valuable advice on effective ways to link with their communities.
1. Consider an outreach activity your agency has used in the past that proved to be effective. Which, if any, of the strategy steps (Have a Strategy, Review, Identify Goals and Outcomes, Identify Target, Research, Develop and Carry Out Your Plan and Evaluate) do you think contributed to the effectiveness of the outreach?
2. Consider another outreach activity that your agency has tried in the past that was not effective. Were all the strategy steps taken, and, if not, do you think they might have helped?
3. Choose a group of people you think your agency should be targeting. What research could you do to help you move towards an effective outreach strategy? You may then wish to talk about this to other people at your agency.
4. What checks does your agency have in place to make sure your promotional materials are actually speaking to the needs of your target audience?
5. Think of an example from each of the following groups. For each one, answer the question: How does our program meet their specific needs?
- a service provider that refers clients to your agency
- a transition partner that learners move on to after they complete their LBS plan with your agency
- a present learner
6. Write down one outreach idea your agency could try. You could share this idea with others at your agency.