Planning a successful advocacy campaign

Case study

Module

Module 5: Libraries on the agenda

Topic

Topic 2: Developing an advocacy role

Abstract

Advocacy has been defined as a planned, deliberate, sustained effort to raise awareness of an issue or issues; it is an ongoing process where support and understanding are built incrementally in order to change attitudes, policies or practices. The issue of literacy in contemporary society represents one of the key topics for an advocacy program. This case study explores the idea of a national reading campaign. Using the United Kingdom and Australia as examples, the critical success factors of a successful program are identified.

Key Ideas

As you read the case study, think about the following issues:

  1. The role of library associations
  2. The significance of literacy in contemporary society
  3. The purpose of advocacy
  4. The value of strategic partnerships
  5. The importance of understanding the success factors for effective advocacy

Profile

Advocacy is something library and information professionals do every day, almost without thinking. Advocacy is spreading the word about the fantastic things that happen in libraries and encouraging people to come and take a look (ALIA, 2010).The purpose of advocacy is to ensure that library services are front of mind for decision makers, management, staff, users and potential users, communicating their value to create a backdrop of goodwill, interest and enthusiasm about libraries. As this case study is being prepared, an advocacy program is being developed in Australia to celebrate the National Year of Reading in 2012. The case study captures the planning process to identify the critical success factors for a major campaign.

Discussion

Australian library associations are working directly with libraries across the country to develop a campaign which will see 2012 become the National Year of Reading. Effective advocacy should draw on and build upon initiatives and programs that are already in place, so the National Year of Reading will not actually be about creating something completely new, but will link together lots of different activities that are already happening around books, reading and literacy.

Even the idea of a national reading campaign is not new. In Europe, a number of national activities have taken place over the past few years: the Netherlands has celebrated Nederland leest! (Netherlands reads!) since 2006, Austria introduced a program Öesterreich liest, Treffpunkt Bibliothek (Austria reads: Meeting place at the library) in 2007, followed by Germany with Deutschland liest, Treffpunkt Bibliothek in 2008 (Koren & Leitner, 2008). A National Year of Reading also ran in the United Kingdom (UK) in 2008. The strong cultural ties between the UK and Australia have meant that this program is being used as a model for the Australian campaign: the same… but different (McKerracher & McDowell, 2010).

The Australian campaign is being directed by Sue McKerracher, principal of The Library Agency. Sue is working directly with a governing body of founding partners and an advisory panel. The founding partners include the Australian Library and Information Association and the state and territory public library networks. The program will also actively involve regional councils and local authorities to drive activities at the local level.

A review of the UK program has led to the identification of five critical success factors (CSF) (McKerracher & McDowell, 2010, pp8-9):

  1. A strong identity
  2. Insightful messages
  3. Effective partnerships
  4. Strong evidence
  5. Good public relations

Strategies for the National Year of Reading 2012 in Australia are presented for each of the five CSFs.

1. A strong identity

A national campaign needs to be easily identifiable and highly visible. While much of the activity will happen at the local level, there needs to be a strong national presence. The Love2Read identity has been developed and will appear on books, posters, advertisements, partner websites and all kinds of marketing collateral.

2. Insightful messages

Key messages need to convey the focus of the campaign, with the goal of changing current resistant mindsets. The fact that people don’t necessarily want to read for pleasure can be challenged with different messages for different audiences, as for example through the UK program:

Reading with your children is easy, rewarding and can be life-changing
You may not think you are a reader, but you love song lyrics – and they’re reading too!
Reading is about what you love

The Australian campaign team is currently identifying key target groups to produce a series of messages for these different audiences. Target groups are likely to include areas of interest such as early literacy, youth literature, indigenous literacy, print disabilities, health and ageing, and social inclusion.

3. Effective partnerships

A network of partnerships takes the campaign to unexpected places. It is important to reach out to potential readers and enter their space, not wait for them to come to us. This needs a wealth of creativity, with stimulating community-based reading activities, as well as a few high profile national programs.

The process of building partnerships has commenced, to include library associations (national, public, school), state and territory libraries, universities, societies for authors and writing, publishers and booksellers, community associations, and the national media.

4. Strong evidence

If stakeholders are to be persuaded that reading is an important activity and skill for individuals, families and society, there need to be convincing arguments, build on a strong evidence-base. The project requires clear evidence, based on comprehensive and rigorous research. The first step has been to conduct a literature review on reading and literacy issues. It is anticipated that a significant legacy from the campaign will be the body of research that will inform future literacy programs.

5. Good public relations

National media partnerships and headline-making campaigns are needed to keep the program front-of-mind throughout the year.

It has been essential to establish good connections with all the potential partner organisations during the developmental stage of the project to encourage a groundswell of interest and supportive goodwill. Australia is a big country – this process has seen lots of travel, meetings and discussions. The formal launch(es) of the National Year of Reading 2012 will take place at a national public library conference, a parliamentary librarians’ conference and the Australian Booksellers Conference – all in the same week. A website will go live at the same time, the ALIA professional magazine will have a full page advertisement and libraries across Australia will also send out their own invitations to be involved to potential partners at the local level. Before all this excitement, however, there has been a ‘soft launch’ through a new Facebook site which has quickly attracted a lot of followers. Work will continue through media partnerships with major broadcasters, newspapers and magazines throughout 2011, culminating in the official launch of the National Year of Reading on Library Lovers Day, 14 February 2012.

Summary

The importance of reading for pleasure, the development of competent reading skills and the need to improve literacy rates is widely recognised across the world. With the National Year of Reading 2012, Australia plans to follow in the footsteps of a number of other countries that have run successful national reading campaigns. The program will focus on the five critical success factors to help Australians increase their reading confidence, literacy, IT literacy, vocabulary and general knowledge, in order to connect the value of reading with the benefits of success in life and work.

Questions

  1. What do you think are the strengths of the evolving campaign for the National Year of Reading 2012?
  2. Has your library association coordinated an advocacy program at the national or provincial level? If so, what were the key steps that were followed?
  3. How important do you think it is to develop partnerships with other agencies to progress an advocacy program?
  4. Do you believe that there are other factors that are equally or even more important than the five presented in the case study?
  5. Can you think of an advocacy issue that would be relevant for your own community? Try to draft some ideas for a campaign by considering the five critical success factors.

Case Notes

Resource: Case study
Country: United Kingdom, Australia
Region: Europe, Asia and Oceania
Agency: National Literacy Trust, Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA)
Topic: Factors in developing an advocacy role
Keywords: advocacy, literacy, reading, campaign, success factors

Source

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.

Koren, M. & Leitner, G. (2008). The potential of national reading campaigns: Experiences from Austria and the Netherlands in international perspective. Paper presented at Libraries without borders: Navigating towards global understanding. 74th IFLA General Conference and Council, Quebec, Canada, 10-14 August 2008. Available online: http://archive.ifla.org/IV/ifla74/papers/085-Koren_Leitner-en.pdf

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/

Associations, Building Strong Library Associations

Last update: 21 October 2012