The Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association is employing a unique combination of strategies to increase the reach of its proactive public awareness campaign, Faith in Our Future.
Mid-way through the campaign, which culminates in May, Faith in Our Future is proving popular and receiving positive feedback. But it’s the way in which the campaign is being carried out that is distinctive for the association.
Sharon McMillan, co-ordinator of communications and media relations for the OCSTA, said this campaign stems from external issues that are having an impact locally. She noted a growing disconnect of focus ethos between Catholic education, current trends and cultural priorities.
Essentially, the campaign is being enacted to help increase understanding of what Catholic schools are about, reminding the province of the value of Catholic education and reinforcing the strength and vibrancy of the Catholic school community, she said.
The OCSTA surveyed its communities in 2007, finding that its boards would like assistance expressing the value of Catholic education. Acknowledging that feedback, the association developed the Faith in Our Future campaign. “We listened to the information received from the surveys and decided to come up with the campaign to help our communities better articulate the values of the Catholic system,” McMillan said.
Another aspect of the Faith in Our Future campaign is to remind political leaders and elected officials about the importance of Catholic education, she said. In addition, the goal was to strengthen the broad support base already in place in the province, by raising awareness and showcasing that Catholic schools serve a purpose.
While the OCSTA has undertaken other publicity campaigns in past which involved advertising, McMillan said this is the first time the association has created such a broad and far-reaching campaign – using a modern tool. “This campaign is different in that we’re using social media,” McMillan said.
Faith in Our Future does incorporate posters which shed light on the core priority of teaching social justice within Catholic education, as well as traditional brochures. But it is also taking on a new level of reach through the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
“It’s a low-cost, to no-cost way to share our story throughout Ontario,” she said, adding that the campaign message has spread far beyond Ontario’s borders because of social media. “This campaign is really getting the word out there; we can put this information out there ourselves, building a network and connecting to people we may not have reached before,” she said.
Youth are engaged in the campaign as well. One of the Faith in Our Future strategies was to reach out to students by launching a short video competition. The contest, which initially ran in early winter and is now in its second phase, encourages students to create a video explaining how their Catholic school experience has made a positive difference in their lives.
“Using YouTube as a platform allows us to share the work of the students,” said McMillan. “Creating a video is easy to do, it’s an expression of the individual and it’s easy to share with others which makes this a valuable component.”
In addition to the videos, the OCSTA has also asked schools, teachers and students to submit articles about their experiences with Catholic education. They are posted on the website and linked through social media. It gives a unique first-hand account of Catholic education, which McMillan said shares how Ontario’s students, teachers and trustees put faith into action.
To that end, McMillan said the OCSTA has been receiving positive feedback about Faith in Our Future and is keen to share the campaign across the country. “We encourage groups to reciprocate – we’re all in this together,” she said. “When we help to share as a whole, the more voices get in on it, and the message becomes stronger.”
Find the campaign online at www.faithinourfuture.ca or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CatholicEducationInOntario and on www.twitter.com/CatholicEdu.