Monday, May 26, 2014

Local Red Maple Event - Worth the Effort?

On Wednesday May 21, months of planning came to fruition and the second annual ER19-ER20 (formerly known as NE4) local Red Maple Marketing Campaign and Celebration was held. I've written about the inaugural event on this blog before. This year, the numbers were a lot smaller: 3 schools instead of 6, 60 students instead  of 118. I attribute this to recovering from last year's "pause", a busy time of year, new local boundaries, and many new teacher-librarians in the schools who were unaware of the event. In fact, we actually had 7 schools express interest, but more than half had to drop out for various reasons. I know at one point a few weeks ago, as I was juggling withdrawal emails and coordinating permission forms and funds, I asked myself if all this effort was worth it. Wouldn't it be better just to focus on the Festival of Trees as our culminating celebration and leave it at that?

Based on how the students conducted themselves and the projects shared, the answer would be that it IS worth the effort. Here are three reasons why.

1) The Partnership

Our local Red Maple PR Event and Party was held at the Malvern Branch of the Toronto Public Library. School libraries and public libraries working together make twice the impact. The facilities were beautiful and during the lull times, the students could wander the library and borrow books from their large collection. Big thanks to our liaison, Analisa Zabella.

L-R: Analisa, Diana, Ted, Jennifer, Allison

Partnering between schools is also beneficial. I worked with Rita McCann from Emily Carr P.S. and even though she was not a teacher-librarian this year, she was so passionate about this event that she agreed to co-plan it and introduce it to her school. (A family crisis prevented her from attending, unfortunately.) It was also wonderful to work with Jennifer Tovitch from Milliken P.S. (who became the official photographer when my fancy camera ran out of batteries) and Allison Seaborn from Brookside P.S. (who could barely stand the day before but made a miraculous recovery and brought three teams to compete).

We were also fortunate to partner with two communications companies. Our judges were:

  • Adrian Kailan from Pumped (
  • Logan Broger from Manifest (
  • Paul Abrams from Manifest (

These gentlemen traveled all the way to northern Scarborough to examine the student projects, watch marketing promotional spiels, and decide on the best campaign.

L-R: Paul, Logan, Adrian

2) The Cost

Ted Staunton, author extraordinaire
Ted addresses students from 3 TDSB schools

This trip was economically feasible. The Toronto Public Library paid for our marvelous author, Ted Staunton, so it was essentially free for the schools. It was a local library, so most of us just took the TTC to arrive. We decided on a small entry fee of $10 per school (not per team) to help cover the costs of certificates and prizes (a pizza party for the winning team). We arranged to have an ice cream truck come at lunch for students to feast if they chose - and teachers were allowed to eat for free. (We also received 10%  of the proceeds from the sales - an unexpected bonus.) For an entire day of fun, it was affordable.

3) The Student Leadership and Authentic Purpose

When it came to the actual marketing campaigns, most of my work as a teacher came at the beginning. I found out how many schools and how many teams would be involved. I conducted a random draw to determine which book titles would be represented by which schools - you can see the video embedded here - and then I let the teams loose.

Other than providing them with space and/or materials upon request, I didn't have much to do with creating their campaigns. I shared the feedback from the advertising executives we had judge the first time - their biggest suggestion was to use social media much more.

I'm pleased and proud to report that one of the teams from my school, Team Loki's Wolves, won the grand prize this year. They really took the prior suggestions to heart and used many social media platforms (Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter) as well as a wider target audience (e.g. they put up posters in the library for public library users and had young readers outside the involved schools like their Facebook page or follow their Twitter account) and gave permanent, unique giveaways (e.g. cardboard Viking helmets signed by the authors themselves). The group even told me that they want to continue marketing the book after this competition is done. Isn't that remarkable?

The judges gave wonderful descriptive feedback to every group and to the entire assembly. The piece of advice I'll remember from this year is: technology is great but don't rely just on that alone - ensure that your public speaking skills are up to par, and practice, because the power of an in-person speech is vital. Hearing that from real-life ad executives, rather than teacher-librarians, is so important and authentic.

Everyone involved, from the judges to the public library to the other teacher-librarians to the ice cream vendor, said that they want to be back next year. Looks like it was worth the effort after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment