One Bad Message Can Spoil the Campaign — Teachers’ Union Undermines Cause with Poor Message Choice

"After 14 Months, South Orange-Maplewood School Staff Are Still Working Without a Contract."

That’s the giant-sized headline of the ad placed by the district teachers union in the local paper. Pretty good, right? In most cases, and there’s no exception here in Maplewood, public sentiment is all for getting teachers back in school and under contract. So there’s no better message to get out there than this one — showing that the teachers’ priority is the students, even if that means working without a contract.

"For the first time in our history, school staff are going back to school for the 2nd year with no resolution," reads the ad copy. Even better, the union reiterates this message in its new tagline, "No contract – still working – always caring."

Could the teachers be any more noble? Good move, South Orange-Maplewood Education Association. But then you lost me with your punchline: "Why can’t the Board of Education settle the contract?"

Come now. We all now it takes two to tango, and two to settle a contract. Thr tagline made me pause, and doubt. And, while processing this jarring message, I realized that the association had lost  credibility in my eyes, seriously undermining the impact of its campaign.

Word to the wise — make sure you have objective readers (not your spouse or colleagues) review messages before you release them. Nothing is more important than audience feedback, even at this late stage in the process.

Had the union deleted or revised its excessive claim, the ad would have motivated community support.  Every citizen would have respected the teachers. Instead, it has generated nothing but skepticism for this citizen.

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Nancy Schwartz on September 14, 2006 in Advertising, Branding and Messages, Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Taglines | 0 comments
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