If you’re working with a shoestring communications budget, how can you possibly compete in such a rapidly changing media landscape? Especially when even a million dollar budget barely scratches the surface? Welcome to the challenge many nonprofits face…
With a tight budget, here’s what we did with the Library of Congress for our “Lifelong Literacy” campaign. We leveraged partnerships, existing resources and made the most of online engagement.
First, some background–the goal of the campaign is to inspire kids (between the ages of eight and 12) to develop a lifelong love of reading. The impetus behind the campaign is simple. Children who are avid readers early in life are better learners. And the most avid readers develop a passion for reading at an early age, often because they found a book that appealed especially to them — that excited or moved them in a deeply personal way. Luckily today, kids can access literature through e-books, blogs, websites, magazines, and comic books, not to mention traditional bound books. The format doesn’t matter – what matters is that the child is engaged in reading.
So, we decided to go where the kids are and formed some innovative partnerships. The Lifelong Literacy campaign was able to stretch its dollars because of relationships with larger media companies like Disney and NBC Universal who lent their iconic brands and incredible reach. Through these relationships, we were able to feature characters like Tangled’s Princess Rapunzel and Curious George and books like the Chronicles of Narnia in our campaign materials, which are instantly recognizable to our target audience. And they’re also popular with our friends in the media—who doesn’t have a soft spot for Curious George? In fact, the Curious George PSAs were such a hit that the New York Times featured a story for their In Advertising column highlighting the campaign. Sure, not every nonprofit has access to these kinds of relationships, but it isn’t necessarily the size or name of a partner that matters most. Most important is determining what catches the attention of your target audience and how to turn that into fun and engaging campaign elements in a space where the audience will be most likely to find them.
We took advantage of the 7 ½ hours per day the average kid is spending online (Kaiser Family Foundation) by encouraging reading via online newspapers, magazines, blogs, and mobile resources. In order to spread our message, we reached out to the very sources we were trying to draw traffic towards. We pitched online content about inspiring children to be lifelong readers to youth and parenting publications and sent out a prepackaged newspaper story to spread the message via community publications. In addition, with the help of the Library of Congress, we were able to leverage the story to key press like the Huffington Post even after multiple attempts at earned media coverage had fallen short.
We also leveraged the Library of Congress’ brilliant Exquisite Corps Adventure, an interactive online story written by several well-known children’s authors. Each tells a part of the story and then hands it off to another writer, who develops a new episode. Our strategy was to build on this very popular online storytelling resource and amplify it. For very little money, we created an online game–The Exquisite Corpse Brain Game—that bridged the time between chapters by keeping kids engaged, which not only helped maintain interest, but also helped maintain the budget.
So far, the campaign is chugging along with great success. We continue to have increasing website visits, our donated media is consistently among the top for Ad Council campaigns, and there is a constant flow of interest in supporting the campaign.