Getting the message right
Module 5: Libraries on the agenda
Topic 3: Developing an advocacy plan
An advocacy campaign, whether addressing local issues or trying to shift attitudes and change behaviour nationally, will always require a good communications plan. Attention needs to be given to the messages to be conveyed, the communications tools that can be used, the messengers who will garner support, and the role to be played by the media. This case study builds on Case Study no 10, Factors in developing an advocacy role, to present the elements of a communications plan currently being developed for a national reading campaign in Australia. It also makes reference to communications strategies that were effective for a campaign run in the United Kingdom.
As you read the case study, think about the following issues:
- The role of library associations
- The purpose of advocacy
- The importance of a communications plan
- The different communications media that can be utilised
- The value of badging or branding a campaign
- The value of working across sectors
In Australia, work has begun on a major advocacy campaign for the National Year of Reading 2012, involving the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA), the main state and territory public library associations and a number of community agencies. Another case study (no 10) looks at the critical success factors for an effective advocacy plan, presenting examples of national reading campaigns such as the one run in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2008 and the one planned for Australia in 2012. A well developed communications plan is an essential component of any advocacy activities, be it nationwide or local in focus.
In developing the Love2Read National Year of Reading 2012 campaign, the Australian team has played close attention to effective communication (McKerracher & McDowell, 2010). By beginning early and gradually, the planning period for the campaign is a generous 24 months, meaning that there is time for the library associations and libraries to develop partnerships with the key stakeholders, including the public sector, social and community agencies, businesses, charities and voluntary groups. The team has acknowledged that it will build on the successful 2008 program in the UK, while acknowledging the specific differences of the Australian context. As one of the key partners for the campaign will be the Indigenous Literacy Project, it will be important to ensure the reach of the program extends to regional and remote communities and that the focus goes beyond reading text in English to include other languages, while respecting the oral tradition of storytelling.
There are four key aspects to the communications plan:
- The messages
- The communications tools
- The messengers
- Interaction with the media
1. The messages
The UK program developed a spectrum of messages which fell into four categories: Vision, Fundamentals, Strategy and Evidence (National Literacy Trust, 2009). Some of the key messages included:
A population that knows what reading can do for it and understands how reading equips us for life in the 21st century.
The National Year of Reading is about issuing a challenge to people to make a difference to someone’s ability to read or to their enjoyment of reading, and hence their quality of life – it’s urgent, it’s now or never.
Reading has never been more important.
Without reading you are excluded from society in a way that generations have never been before. There is less and less you can do without reading.
The National Year of Reading has a key role to play in:
- Reinforcing and strengthening the hundreds of projects that are already happening the length and breadth of the country – making sure people know about them, and want to participate in them
- Calling on everyone, from grandparents to teens, to make reading a part of their everyday life… and to do it today.
By addressing reading you can move the needle on employment, health, citizenship… every area of life.
Reading can be tabloid newspapers and magazines, novels to blogs, off the page or on screen.
Bedtime reading – the best investment you can make in your child’s education – and it’s free.
The different stakeholder groups will represent quite different audiences – and hence will require different messages. The messages need to be clear, simple and topical, and directly relevant to the specific audience. The four key topics that the Australian campaign hopes to make encompass:
- Belief in the positive power of reading
- Accessibility and inspiration for struggling and reluctant readers
- The opportunity to showcase good government policy and practice
- The opportunity to join up all the good things that are happening already
2. The communications tools
There is an immense range of communications tools to choose from, but importantly the right tool must be chosen to suit both the audience and the message to be conveyed, and can include face-to-face (meetings and forums), print (letters, posters, brochures, instructional materials) and electronic media (eg websites, Facebook or Twitter), as well as artefacts (eg t-shirts, pens, highlighters etc). As libraries are the driving force behind the campaign, there is a wonderful opportunity to have literally thousands of ‘shop fronts’ in public libraries, school libraries, university and college libraries – right across Australia.
The Love2Read campaign is, as already noted, in its early stages. Nevertheless, there is already a public-facing identity which can be used in all communication. The Love2Read flower can be used on its own or with the National Year of Reading 2012 text.
The logo is available in a variety of colour combinations and comes with a clear set of guidelines for ensure appropriate use in badging or branding Love2Read activities and events at the local level.
A number of national sub-campaigns have been identified as a starting point for conveying the key messages to the target audiences:
- Love2Read marketing and promotional materials that can be conveyed in the different media, and can be used by campaign partners for co-branding.
- Love2Read website, with a front end for consumers and a backend for professionals. It will include a moderated community of readers and link to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and other emerging social media platforms.
- Library membership drive to attract people in to libraries and to support early years literacy initiatives.
- One Book One Country, potentially a popular Australian children’s book, which will be a starting point for the community to develop their own anthology of short stories that can join the nation through a sense of place. Formats will be developed for specific groups of people, for example those with poor literacy skills or who are vision impaired.
- Love2Read magazine, made available through libraries, cafés, bookshops etc, featuring stories on the National Year of Reading events.
- A story-based multimedia, interactive quest for teenagers, linked to library borrowing
- Workplace literacy, to enable employers to create a writer-in-residence program, with writing workshops for employees and literacy initiatives for those who struggle with reading and writing.
- A national conference for professionals in the fields (late 2011 and late 2012) to share research and present achievement and excellence awards.
Many of these communication tools will be two-way, with participants creating content for the magazine, website and other resources.
3. The messengers
Who can be a ‘messenger’? Perhaps the question should be re-phrased as who cannot be a ‘messenger’? The Australian campaign will emulate the UK achievements, which saw the ‘messengers’ including library staff (of course!), parents, grandparents, teachers, teenagers, employers, workers, writers, journalists, celebrities, politicians, the Prime Minister… While the program will undoubtedly need its strategic champions, reading is such a common part of everyday life, everyone can be a messenger. ‘Everyone’ does not mean ‘generic’. The Love2Read campaign differentiates between the founding partners (key organisations), the constituents (libraries), associates (other library associations), partners (agencies in other sectors) and funders (government departments, philanthropists etc) (McKerracher, 2010). It is therefore important to formulate and articulate clear messages for all the different audiences. In a devolved campaign where activities are encouraged at the local level, it is particularly important for the different groups to feel they have ownership, so the Love2Read program deliberately has a grassroots feel to it – the Facebook site was launched in May 2010 – rather than a top-down government ordained structure. It is hoped that this approach will encourage everyone to play to their strengths and develop the confidence to be an advocate.
4. Working with the media
In a major campaign such as Love2Read, the national and local media will play an important role. In the UK, there was generous support from the various media players, including popular women’s magazines, newspapers, cinemas, radio and the public, commercial and satellite TV channels. In Australia, the Love2Read governing body has already entered into negotiations with several broadcasters to explore the natural linkages with their programs and advertising campaigns. Don’t forget that involving decision makers and influencers in the events will be a natural draw-card for the media (ALIA, 2010). Summary
The National Year of Reading 2012 promises to make a big impact on Australian society. Effective planning will be a key determinant of success and the project team is already paying attention to the details of the communications plan. The four components of the communications plan are all important, ie the message(s), the communications tools, the messengers and the strategies for working with the media. The skeleton of the communications plan is already in place, with a year and half still to go, but the project team will be able to work confidently with the different stakeholder groups to flesh out more detailed communications strategies that are appropriate to the message and the medium in the various contexts.
- Have you undertaken any advocacy work for your library association? If so, did you put together a communications plan? What elements did you include – or if you didn’t have a communications, what do you think you could have included?
- Do you believe that your library association should consider literacy development as a topic for an advocacy program? What key messages would work well, and who would you target to invite to be the principal messengers? What barriers do you feel you might encounter?
- The Australian project team is open to new ideas! What suggestions do you have for just one of the sub-campaigns listed in the case study? What would work well in your own country?
- Do you think that there are the dangers inherent in the idea that ‘everyone is a messenger’?
Resource: Case study
Country: United Kingdom, Australia
Region: Europe, Oceania
Agency: National Literacy Trust, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)
Topic: Factors in developing an advocacy role
Keywords: advocacy, literacy, reading, campaign, communications plan
Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA). (2010). ALIA Guide to advocacy and lobbying for libraries: A guide for library managers in public, school, university, business, health, legal, government and special libraries. In press.
McKerracher, S. (Personal communication, June 9, 2010).
McKerracher, S. & McDowell, D. (2010). Love2Read: National Year of Reading 2012. Scoping document: Produced on behalf of Australian public libraries and library associations. Unpublished. Love2Read (2010). Facebook site. Available online: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Love2read/122105507810855
National Literacy Trust (2007). National Year of Reading: Policy context. Available online: http://wikireadia.org.uk/index.php?title=NationalYearofReading-Policycontext
National Literacy Trust (2009). Reading the future: National Year of Reading 2008. Available online: http://www.readingforlife.org.uk/finalreport/
Last update: 21 October 2012