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Association launches public relations campaign

October 6, 2015 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor
More than just a union: Association aims to raise awareness of its research, advocacy and professional endeavours.

A new public relations campaign is aiming at raising awareness of the Alberta Teachers’ Association as a professional, respected organization that focuses on the best interests of children and learning.

The $1 million campaign will feature ads on television, radio, movie theatre screens and grocery store divider bars, as well as online and in newspapers. The campaign is built around a ­storybook theme and will roll out in two parts over the course of the next year. The first part, which launched Oct. 5, ­focuses on the Association’s research ­efforts and advocacy for public education. Another series, focused on professional development and standards, will roll out in January.

"What we know from our public opinion polling is that the general public has a really good idea of teachers. They hold teachers in high regard, but they don’t have quite the same regard for the Association or they don’t know who we are. If they have heard of us, when asked what it is that we do, they don’t really know," said Shelley Magnusson, an ATA executive staff officer who spearheaded the campaign’s development.

The taglines for the first round of ads include: "Cutting-edge research on education issues improves the story of education" and "Advocating for classroom conditions improves the story of education."

The campaign is a departure for the Association in a couple of ways. For one, it’s a proactive attempt to build understanding and goodwill rather than reacting to a perceived threat created by a government decision or initiative.

"We’re not under imminent threat from anybody, but we don’t want people to be complacent either," Magnusson said.

Another first is the use of animated characters, an attempt to differentiate it from other ads that people hear and see.

"It’s very difficult in advertising to catch the eyes of the public nowadays because people are so distracted," Magnusson said. "You don’t want to do an ad that looks like all the other ads that are out there."

The target audience is not just parents, but also people who don’t have children in the school system, since this group constitutes a large proportion of the adult population (about 70 per cent) and isn’t attuned to the education system through other avenues, Magnusson said.

"The majority of our money is going to be spent online: YouTube, Google ads, those types of things," she said. "We know from the research that we’ve done that our target audience spends a great deal of their time online, so that’s a really good place for us to advertise."

While a lot of people question the effectiveness of television advertising, the campaign will air during the evening news on Global and CTV, programs that are heavily viewed in real time, rather than recorded for later viewing (and the commercials skipped), Magnusson said.

The proposal for the media campaign generated considerable debate at the last Annual Representative Assembly, with some attendees arguing that there was no reason to spend money on a campaign when there isn’t an imminent threat. However, the majority saw value in a proactive campaign and approved the proposal.

"I think it’s very important for us to spread the positive message about the role teachers play in the continued development of our public education system and the profession," said Association President Mark Ramsankar.

"All Albertans can be proud of our education system. I hope our ad campaign will allow teachers to see themselves as key players."

He added that the campaign’s design and messaging came about as a result of a great deal of research, along with thorough discussions at Provincial ­Executive Council.

"The product of all that work is a campaign that I hope all teachers can be proud of."

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