Every campaign initiative should begin with a clear plan with clearly defined objectives. The objectives should also be differentiated for each stage of the campaign – covering both short-term and long-term objectives. This ensures that there is an initial realistic goal established and each promotional activity can be developed in a well-paced manner that works towards the achievement of the objectives.
Align goals with wider agendas
While setting up campaign objectives and goals, if possible, they should be linked with goals common to other European or national stakeholders. This ensures that the messages would resonate more broadly, and the campaign would be more impactful across a wider area.
Develop a corporate identity
A campaign plan should be used to build a specific identity for the promoted programme (e.g. using a slogan or logo) and thus ensure consistency of dissemination activities and easy recognition on the part of the target group.
b) Identify target groups
Thoroughly research specific target groups
Target groups are differentiated in their attitudes, disposition and approach towards adult learning. It is therefore important to thoroughly research the specific target group that would be participating in the activity, and ensure that the approach to each group is varied to reflect their needs and to encourage their participation.
Do not only target learners
Whilst developing a campaign, ensure that target groups include disseminators/multipliers, influencers (third party endorsers) as well as potential learners. These groups (such as the media) should be treated as a separate target group, and activities and messages should be customised for them. Their inclusion will ensure that the campaign reaches a wider audience.
Develop activities for marginalised groups
Remember that the education needs of groups that are at risk of social exclusion have to be addressed in a different manner than others.
Involve policy makers
Involving policy makers through the design and development of a programme ensures that they become active stakeholders, rather than passive listeners.
c) Identify tools and channels to use
Use accessible activities
As seen in the case study examples, the use of activities that are normally not associated with adult learning have proven to be successful. Similarly, there are other activities that encourage adult learners to acquire new skills, such as dance and cooking. These activities can be used as a learning experience itself, or as a means to ‘hook’ learners into future activities.
Show real learning situations
While promoting an activity, it is useful to show potential learners an actual learning situation, so they can understand the type of experience they would have should they return to learning. This can be very important to ‘sell’ formal education; often, potential learners are disinclined to re-enter education due to the negative associations they have with education in a classroom setting.
Use intergenerational learning
Learning situations which encourage parents to interact with their children can be successful, as parents are more likely to be engaged when they are helping their children to learn. This brings them into the fold of learning and could act as a catalyst to future education activities. Intergenerational learning can also be extrapolated to adults (who are not necessarily parents) getting involved in learning to help children, if there is sufficient motivation for them.
Use online media
The use of online tools is important as the Internet is a primary information source for today’s society. Online tools increase the geographical scope of an activity and thereby raise participant numbers. They also demonstrate the versatility of an activity and facilitate interaction between learners, which ultimately supports the sustainability of the activity.
d) Identify partners and networks
Pick suitable partners
While selecting partners, ensure that they have established sectoral networks within their field of competence, to allow them to act as efficient multipliers. It is also important that the agenda of their organisation is aligned with all other partners, and that the final selected partners all have complimentary roles in the execution of the campaign. Moreover, activities should be initiated where partners are complementary to each other.
Engage educational professionals
Whilst developing activities and promotional campaigns, aim to involve education professionals from the field of adult education. They have already worked with the target audiences and are familiar with their needs and requirements, and therefore more likely to develop activities that would best suit them.
Use role models
In the publicity of adult education, it is important to use role models who are appealing to learners. Similarly, by using actual learners as role models, the campaign becomes more accessibly and real for potential learners. This is specifically pertinent if the potential learners are from varied backgrounds: listening to those similar to themselves share their positive experience, they could be encouraged to follow the path of the role models.
Use teachers to promote adult education in libraries, community centres, etc.
Local level communication campaigns should leverage the potential influence played by teachers in promoting learning opportunities. Empowering teachers to directly reach out to learners and act as ambassadors in community organisations, libraries and cultural centres gives credibility to learning programmes and offers a first-hand opportunity for them to understand how the educational offer should be tailored to the real needs of learners.
e) Identify sources of funding
Identify multiple sources of funding
In addition to traditional sources of funding such as the European Commission and national governments, organisations should try to solicit sponsorships from other sector specific organisations with a vested interest in educating adults in their particular fields. If the sponsor is convinced of the value in investing, they are also likely to highlight their participation, thereby assuring more promotion for the activity.
Pool resources to reduce costs
The pooling of resources by partner organisations optimises campaign and programme outcomes, not only in terms of promotion and awareness raising of each other, but also in terms of reduced costs, avoiding the repetition of efforts, and reducing the proliferation of disjointed initiatives with limited potential of impact.
f) Develop campaign messages
Aim to build the confidence of learners
By developing campaigns that aim to build the target group’s confidence in their ability to learn, it sends the message that society cares about including them in all social aspects, and therefore increases their self worth and confidence.
Highlight the variety of literacy learning opportunities
Literacy learning is multifaceted and can take place in different forms, in terms of course content, structure, and format. Emphasis should be placed on communicating to potential learners the variety of options available to them. For example, they should be made aware that adult education opportunities are available in different formats and options, depending on lifestyle and time.
Aim to promote social change
As seen in case study examples the efforts of some organisations to promote adult learning go beyond increasing the number of adults enrolled in educational programmes. These efforts try to positively change the general perception and attitude towards education. This allows for investments (both financial and human resources) to be directed towards tackling challenges at their roots posed by low school achievement. A preventative strategy raising awareness on the importance of earlier studies is more desirable than a late-intervention programme compensating for missed opportunities.
g) Other planning considerations
Integrate your campaign within broader initiatives
A campaign’s success can be furthered by ensuring that it is not a stand-alone initiative.
Aim to build capacity
In order for a campaign to be both successful and sustainable, it should include an aspect of capacity building. Participants and disseminators need to have a thorough grasp of the aims and objectives of the campaign, and should also feel a sense of ownership regarding the outcomes of the campaign. This ownership can be fostered through provision of in-depth training and support during the life of the campaign.
Build a common understanding
Before beginning development of a campaign or programme, it is important to ensure that all organisations use the same definition and have the same understanding of what they are working towards. With an agreement on basic definitions and principles, stakeholders can develop policy and engage in debate in line with common goals.
Allow sufficient time to create impact
While designing programmes and campaigns, it is important to take a long-term view, and ensure that the programme runs for sufficient time to support learners through their education advancement, chart their programme, and customise the programme to support the target group’s learning path.
h) Develop campaign
Create evidence-based strategies
Any campaign, strategy or programme should be based on evidence, and should address a specific need of the target audiences. This requires upfront research and proper understanding (using both qualitative and quantitative metrics) of the environment and its target groups. Furthermore, during the course of the campaign, measurements should be collected, so that the development of future strategies is based on evidence.
Provide support during and after activity
It is important to provide an immediate call to action within a programme or campaign that has a tangible benefit to the potential participant. This call to action should be supported by advice on the benefits available to the participant, including if possible after the programme has closed. Potential learners could get discouraged if they do not have an easy way to see what their options are.
i) Promote campaign
Leverage internal promotional channels
During the promotion of an activity of campaign, using internal networks, contacts and informal channels of communication can prove fruitful in promoting debate or attention on specific issues.
Involve learners themselves in promotional activities
Campaigns that involve existing learners in promotional activities would allow potential learners to get an idea directly as to what the learning experience is like. In addition, when potential learners share firsthand what their learning experience is, the activity becomes more accessible for potential learners.
Build lasting relationships with the media
Cultivating lasting relationships with local and regional media would benefit successful advocacy on adult learning issues. This would require learning what the journalist covers, communicating to them the value of the pitch, and providing relevant materials when appropriate, over an extended period of time. Media coverage is one of the best ways to gain the attention of decision makers, and can also be used to publicise local level activities. Each of these events could be used to contact local reporters, editorial boards and radio and television talk show hosts, that may want to cover the activities, or use the organisers as a resource when they write about these issues in the future.
j) Monitor and evaluate campaign
Monitor national research
Monitoring existing national research enables two activities: First, it helps organisations identify existing needs of the population and develop activities to target them, without having to spend any resources itself in conducting primary research; and secondly, it allows organisations to identify gaps and commission further research as required.
Pilot programmes and use pre-testing
Before launching a campaign, strategy or programme, it is important to identify the right tools, channels and messaging. In order to ensure that they are optimal for the target audience, it is necessary to pre-test and adapt them according to feedback. Moreover, if permissible by logistical and budgetary constraints, before the full roll-out of an activity, it should be piloted amongst a smaller group of the target audience. The use of consultations with relevant stakeholders can ensure that divergences in expectations are minimised, the programme answers the needs and preferences of target groups, and any aspects of the programme that do not work can be amended before it is launched.
Collect best practice examples
During the process of the activity or programme, it is important to collect best practice examples for other organisations to reference when they are developing or implementing their own activities. Best practices create a community of learning exchange, especially if the examples have tangible elements that can be of value and assistance to others.
What not to do
Do not promote literacy as an abstract concept
While promoting literacy, it is important to link it to a specific activity. There is a need to move away from the classical arguments promoting the broad benefits of literacy and communicate specifically what is appealing for the campaign’s target groups. For example, potential adult learners are not called to action by the concept of ‘adult learning’, and moreover, they often have negative associations with it. Instead, by promoting specific activities, potential learners are more likely to see the tangible benefits of participating.
Do not implement isolated activities
Implementing wider-scale campaigns or activities without consulting, involving or engaging with other stakeholders will not be efficient. It is important to mobilise in sufficient numbers national, regional and local stakeholders to create efficient working structures. These stakeholders are better positioned to reach out to regional and civil society actors and customise activities for the local needs.
Moreover, finding high-capacity partners who can provide access to a network of contact points and valuable endorsers of the activity is important.
Do not develop patronising activities
Whilst developing activities for adult learners, it cannot be assumed that they have a basic level of skills in the specific area. Care should be taken that activities teaching basic skills do not make assumptions such as ‘a learner does not have a particular skill because he does not have the ability. This pitfall can be avoided by testing potential activities with the target group desired to measure their reaction, and adapting the activity as necessary.
Do not assume you know what adult learners need
Although there may be a noticeable lack in skills in groups of adults, it does not always follow that these skills are essential to the learners. It is important to match activities developed to specifically what learners need. In order to do this, it is important to engage learners in dialogue, and conduct research as to what their desired learning outcomes and expectations are.
Do not always start from scratch
If an activity already exists that appealed to the target group, it is better to re-launch this activity, and scale it up, both in terms of reach and variety of tools and channels. This approach is generally more successful than re-developing and launching new activities, as the existing activity already includes a core participant group, enjoys brand recognition, and has implementation structures in place.
Do not replicate activities from other countries without carrying out research
Whilst some flagship awareness raising activities are developed based upon existing activities in other countries, it is first essential to conduct in-depth research to see whether the activity would be feasible locally. Simple replication can lead to wasted resources and efforts: it can be seen that the Adult Learner’s Week was replicated in numerous countries worldwide, only a few of which proved to be sustainable.