Outreach Resources and Tools
Using the Media
The local media is a wonderful resource for community awareness. Use of the media greatly improves the visibility of your agency to the public. It also builds credibility and informs people about your programs and services. According to CLO’s 2003 program survey, Ontario’s community literacy agencies use the media extensively. For example, 84% wrote articles in their local newspaper and submitted press releases.
Examples of using the media include writing a monthly column, preparing special-interest stories, submitting public service announcements to the local radio station and submitting 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” (www.thewordonthestreet.ca/wots/toronto) and Barrie’s “Road to Reading Festival” (Barrie Literacy Council Road to Reading) are two examples of effective promotional events that tend to get good media coverage.
Effective use of the media is a complex discussion that is far beyond the parameters of this training module. Luckily, there are many excellent resources available online, including Community Literacy of Ontario’s “Marketing Ourselves: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Community Literacy Agencies”. This resource covers the following topics: the marketing cycle, branding, and community engagement. You can access this resource at:
Creating a catchy slogan that will help people in your community to remember your organization in a positive way can be a very useful promotional tool. And once you’ve got a good slogan, use it! Put it on everything … on your brochure, on your signage, on your letterhead, on promotional materials and in your annual report. It could greatly help with community recognition of your literacy agency.
Consider these organizational slogans and think about their positive motivational appeal:
- “Little Moments; Big Magic ” (Big Brothers, Big Sisters)
- “A Single Dream. A World of Hope ” (Terry Fox Foundation)
- “Change a Life. Change Your Own” (World Vision Canada)
- “Bring on the Adventure!” (Scouts Canada)
Or, closer to home, consider these literacy slogans:
- “A Place to Grow!” (Organization for Literacy Sarnia-Lambton)
- “Hamilton Reads!” (Hamilton Literacy Council)
- “Building a literate community one person at a time” (Peel Literacy Guild)
- “Literacy. Learning for Life” (Frontier College)
- “Putting the pieces together” (Literacy Council of South Temiskaming)
- “Learning for a better future” (Literacy Plus-Renfrew County)
Creating diverse promotional material with compelling messages is very important. Promotional material can include pamphlets, brochures, newsletters, press releases, bookmarks, posters, business cards and calendars. This material should provide basic, clear, eye-catching information that speaks to potential participants.
The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has written an excellent fact sheet called “Newsletters – Design and Production”. This fact sheet covers building content, principles of good writing, newsletter design, graphics, page layout and copyright. You can access this resource at:
Promotional efforts work! In ABC Life Literacy’s “Who Wants to Learn?” report, almost three-quarters of callers remember having seen promotional information about adults going back to school and more than half of these say the information influenced them to call a literacy agency. Literacy agencies should take heart. The time, money and effort they spend on promotions does pay off.
Usually, you do have to invest a bit of money in your promotional material, although it’s getting easier to produce effective material in-house with today’s software. To ensure you have some resources available, a distinct line for promotions should be in your budget. You should try to track the benefit of your promotional efforts by asking people where they heard of you … if no one noticed the ad you took out in the local paper, don’t take one out next year, try something else instead. Also consider local services. For example, does your 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; often they have multiple skills, talents and access to resources and connections that you may not be aware of.
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, Literacy Networks of Ontario have created a webpage that outlines Clear Writing and offers courses for certification as a Clear Writing provider: www.learningnetworks.ca/ClearWriting.php. The Ontario Literacy Coalition published a resource on Clear Writing and how to use it and is available for free at: www.en.copian.ca/library/research/olc/clear/clearite.pdf
Websites and Program Promotion
In today’s world more and more people use websites to find out needed information. Websites are undoubtedly a powerful promotional tool for literacy agencies!
Creating and maintaining a website doesn’t have to be expensive. The National Adult Literacy Database (NALD) is available to help Canadian literacy agencies set up websites. In fact, NALD currently hosts over 220 sites for Canadian literacy programs! The literacy community has benefited enormously from NALD’s support for website development. Literacy Basics itself and many other websites listed in this training module were set-up and are maintained by NALD.
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? Would learners, their friends and family and community stakeholders be able to find out what they needed easily from your website? What kind of impression would they get about your organization from your website? If you are not sure, ask a few people from outside of your organization to give you some honest feedback. As well, ask current students to review and comment on your website.
There are many online guides that give sound advice on website design. Here is a good sample:
“How to Design a Webpage”:
Here are some excellent examples of effective promotional websites in the Ontario literacy community.
Kingston Literacy and Skills’s website is a great example of effective promotions. You can easily find information for learners, volunteers and supporters on programs and services offered. Please visit: klandskills.ca
The website of Literacy Nipissing does a great job of promoting its programs and services. It is cleanly and attractively laid-out and it is very easy to find information on who they are, what they do and what services students can receive. You can also easily obtain volunteer information, their newsletter and current news and events. Check out: literacynipissing.ca/
Thunder Bay Literacy Group has an excellent promotional website. They clearly state their slogan, who they are, what services they offer and how learners, tutors and donors could get involved. Their website also offers interactive information such as learner stories, their newsletter and advice from tutors. It further shares important dates such as fundraisers, open houses and tutor training events. Please visit: tblg.org
The website of the Hamilton Literacy Council is another great example of a well-designed promotional website. It contains easy-to-find and plain language program information for students, volunteers and community members, as well as literacy facts, current events and even quotes from students. Note the appealing lay-out and pictures as well. Five stars! Click on: www.hamiltonreads.ca.
Linking with Regional, Provincial and National Literacy Promotions
In addition to local promotions, it is valuable to consider the promotional campaigns and resources of regional, provincial and national literacy organizations. Organizations such as ABC Life Literacy, the Ontario Literacy Coalition and others have a wide variety of useful promotional materials and campaigns. As well, Ontario’s regional literacy networks can be a wonderful source for regional promotional activities and information sharing. Be sure to contact them for information. You can find your closest regional literacy network by clicking here: www.learningnetworks.ca/ContactLocalNetwork
CLO’s Literacy: Why It Matters
Community Literacy of Ontario has produced a wonderful promotional document called Literacy: Why It Matters! This brochure briefly summarizes Ontario literacy statistics and shows how literacy skills impact so many parts of Ontario’s society such as justice, health, work and poverty. You can also view the Conference Board of Canada’s article Adult Literacy Rate-Low Level Skills by clicking here: www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/education/adult-literacy-rate-low-skills
ABC Life Literacy’s Family Literacy Day
Family Literacy Day is held every year on January 27th. This is a wonderful promotional opportunity for both family literacy and adult literacy programs. It is a national initiative created by ABC Life Literacy that promotes the importance of reading and learning together as a family. You can find out more by visiting ABC Life Literacy’s website at: abclifeliteracy.ca/family-literacy
International Literacy Day
International Literacy Day (ILD) is held on September 8th of each year. Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) has an excellent summary of the goals of ILD and links to provincial events. As noted by HRSDC: “International Literacy Day is a grassroots event involving Canadians of all ages and backgrounds right across the country. At the community level, special activities are being
planned to promote literacy and life-long learning and to celebrate local literacy achievements. Activities include learning centre open houses, community reading festivals, celebrity read-ins, literacy displays and fund raisers, and literacy awareness initiatives aimed at local media”.
You can read more about International Literacy Day by visiting this website: en.unesco.org/themes/literacy-all/literacy-day Or, contact your provincial literacy coalition for more information.
Government of Canada Assessment Tools
A series of tools and resources has been developed to help individuals and organizations address workplace essential skills challenges. The webpage can be viewed here: www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/programs/essential-skills/tools
Available in a variety of formats, the tools target different learning styles and skills levels, and can be adapted to meet the needs of:
For a complete listing of all tools, see the essential skills tools catalogue.
AlphaPlus Centre is a provincial organization that provides access to online information and resources for the Ontario Literacy Community. You can find them at www.alphaplus.ca.
Questions and Activities for Reflection
- What words or phrases would you like adult students or your community to associate with your literacy agency?
- When was the last time your recruitment and promotional materials were reviewed and updated? Should this happen more regularly and who should be involved?
- Is your website user-friendly for adults with low literacy skills and their friends and families? Is it user-friendly for community organizations, volunteers and other stakeholders? Would all of these groups easily understand what your organization can offer them?
- Are there better or different ways you could engage the local media?
- There are a lot of external resources out there that can provide support for your promotional activities. What could you do differently to better take advantage of these external resources?
This brings us to the end of CLO’s training module on learner recruitment. Community Literacy of Ontario hopes this module has been useful to you. We hope we have provided you with some insights on why potential learners may not be enrolling in your literacy agency. As well, CLO hopes it has shared useful strategies and promotional activities to attract those reluctant learners.
In closing, we will leave the last word to an adult learner in an Ontario community literacy agency:
“I read everyday now just for the enjoyment of it.”