Arkansas Department of Career Education - Adult Education
Our work with the Arkansas Department of Career Education (ACE) started with a statewide assessment of the awareness and utilization of Adult Education programs and services. Through a series of intercept interviews in key communities across the state, Advantage Communications determined that utilization of adult education programs and services were lower than they should be. Most Arkansans were not aware of the range of services offered by Adult Education and most importantly – they did not understand these services are free! We also assessed that our target audience should begin with those most likely to utilize Adult Education programs and services – adults 18-34. Other key metrics and attitudes were obtained from this study – and these findings became the foundation of our work with the ACE.
The ultimate objective of the marketing initiative is to create more foot-traffic to the adult education centers across the state.
From this baseline of information, Advantage Communications began its work by enhancing the brand presentation for the Arkansas Department of Career Education. Such enhancement included redefining the logo and adding a new tagline, “Learn More. Earn More.” We then developed a marketing and public relations plan that focused first on increasing awareness of Adult Education. Our work immediately began in the largest DMA in Arkansas, the Little Rock DMA, and it has branched out to reach smaller markets and communities across the state. To introduce the state to Adult Education, we initiated a public awareness campaign incorporating key community figures such as Miss Arkansas 2009 Sarah Slocum (whose platform was education) and Jermain Taylor, world middle-weight boxing champion.
Understanding our clients’ business has become a key attribute of Advantage Communications. In learning the intricacies of Adult Education and resource allocation to local adult education programs, we knew it would be “mission critical” to provide as many resources as possible directly to local centers. Upon the development of each television and radio unit, poster, collateral item, and printed material, Advantage Communications has provided master copies to each center administrator for utilization in their local markets. Moreover, Advantage Communications has also provided each center with a marketing kit including an exhibition grade standing retractable banner, table cloth, and brochures. For several centers, these materials have made the difference in being able to participate in local information fairs and events and being accepted as a viable, reliable community service.
With nearly two years of successful planning and execution behind us, we are proud to say we have increased utilization of these centers and their services by fifteen percent (15%), and our work is still in progress. We continue to work aggressively with the state agency to increase utilization.
Advantage Communications, Inc. also received national recognition via the W3 Awards for the development of the student portal of the Arkansas Adult Education Website (visit now at www.aalrc.org). Cited by the International Academy of Visual Arts, this site was recognized for its ease in navigation and design. It was also recognized by the Academy in the category of education for its sensitivity to those with educational deficits.
Arkansas Department of Workforce Services
Advantage Communications, Inc. partners with the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services to enhance customer service, professional development, and communicating value to customers. Beginning in 2011, we have traveled the state to various local DWS offices to train staff members. As of 2012, training is ongoing.
The Arkansas Department of Workforce Services serves thousands of people each year and their interactions with their clients affect Arkansas’ economy. Customer relationships are critical and DWS charged their leadership, employees, and Advantage Communications, Inc. to come together to improve customer service both internally and externally.
Exceptional Customer Service
Providing exceptional customer service is a key pillar of success in any business. Advantage Communications, Inc. has provided customer service training to help businesses, institutions and nonprofits successfully build/maintain their customer service bases. DWS staff members have been trained in the following philosophies:
- View your employees and staff as customers first: Colleagues must treat EACH OTHER as customers and engage in appropriate customer service behaviors to make all business operations accountable and efficient.
- Understand your customers: Advantage Communications, Inc. stresses the importance of understanding your market as a whole and engaging in market segmentation. Do your research and know exactly who your customers are, how they spend their day, and how your product or service can be integrated into their lives.
- Understand the Millennial generation: The Millennial generation (born 1980 – 2000) is 80 million strong in the United States and is the most diverse generation the country has ever seen. As such a large market share, business owners will have customers in this generation. Advantage Communications, Inc. provides training for businesses and entrepreneurs in the most effective ways to communicate with Millennials and make products and services relevant to them.
- Engage in behaviors that portray credibility. Most of us believe that we behave in certain ways because of how we feel. Experts, however, believe the reverse is true – we actually feel the way we do because of our behavior. As others “read” confidence from our behavior, they treat us with greater respect and boost our self-esteem even further. Advantage Communications, Inc. trains businesses and entrepreneurs in the types of behavior that are most engaging and effective (handshakes, eye contact, posture, body language, just to name a few) to build partnerships, serve their customers and gain new clients.
- Practice good business etiquette. Appropriate, professional communications can win a new account or customer. Advantage Communications trains businesses and entrepreneurs on the standards for business etiquette including telephone and email communications, face-to-face conversations, and many others.
Leadership and Professional Development Component
A business or agency is only as good as its leaders and employees. Staff members must be “servant leaders” by recognizing that in any institution employees must treat their colleagues as customers and engage in effective customer service behaviors to ensure that the business runs efficiently and successfully. Advantage Communications, Inc. provides training to help leaders and employees become more competitive and serve their clients better.
All training sessions include participant evaluations. All DWS trainings executed thus far were well-received by participants who responded with 95% satisfaction with overall performance and content. To see links to videos of some of these trainings, visit www.advantageci.com/specialpresentations.html.
Arkansas Department of Health – Stamp Out Smoking
When we specifically discuss programming in Arkansas, Advantage Communications offers a critical case study with our work with the Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff via their tobacco prevention and cessation communications campaign (Stamp Out Smoking).
Our work with Stamp Out Smoking began in 2002 directly with the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) wherein we lead the charge of leading the African American and Hispanic tobacco prevention and cessation public education programs.
The ultimate goal for our Stamp Out Smoking campaign was to decrease the use of tobacco in African American and Hispanic markets and to also provide awareness for cessation tactics.
Our outreach programs included the Stamp Out Smoking School Tours wherein Advantage Communications partnered with local radio personalities to activate a “road show” at middle schools across the state, encouraging students to stop smoking or make the decision to never start. The school tour initiative took the Stamp Out Smoking message to over 50 school districts across the Delta region and southwest Arkansas. Another highly successful outreach program included the National Basketball Association (NBA) exhibition game half-time sponsorships. These sponsorships allowed Advantage Communications to activate a five-minute half time show at Alltel Arena when NBA exhibition games were played. Each show incorporated a youth element and an adult male component. The goal of this sponsorship was to take the Stamp Out Smoking message to every community in the state. The sponsorships allowed the Stamp Out Smoking brand to be connected with the power and impact of the NBA. Each sponsorship was a resounding success.
In 2009, Advantage Communications transitioned and entered into partnership with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) to manage all of the minority-themed tobacco prevention and cessation programs. These programs had been transferred by the Department of Health directly to UAPB. Through our partnership with UAPB, we continued our work in decreasing minority consumption of tobacco products. We also extended our relationship to include support of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Master of Science in Addiction Studies Degree Program and the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office. Our two most recently launched cessation-based advertising initiatives have been internationally recognized for stellar health communications. One of these initiatives was entitled “I Can’t Imagine”, which featured former Arkansas Razorback and now Oklahoma City Thunder player, Ronnie Brewer. For the Hispanic consumer market, we launched an initiative entitled “My Mommy” that leveraged the importance of family-centric messaging as a platform to encourage Hispanic males to quit smoking.
Click the graph to the right to enlarge.
At the inception of our work in tobacco prevention and cessation in 2002, utilization rates ranged as high as 28% against minority males in Arkansas. Today, these rates are at 14% for African American females, 2% for Hispanic females and approximately 22% for African American males. Additionally, we have proudly witnessed an increase and sustaining presence from both African Americans and Hispanics through the Arkansas Tobacco Quit Line – our primary metrics for campaign success. Below is a depiction of the trend of minority calls in comparison to their non-minority counterparts. As you’ll see calls to the Quit Line have increased across all markets and for the African American and Hispanic audiences have sustained themselves from FY12 to current year – FY13.
Central Arkansas Water
Since 2008, Advantage Communications has worked with Central Arkansas Water (CAW), one of the state’s largest water utilities.
While Central Arkansas Water became the first utility client of Advantage Communications, our agency commitment to learn our client’s business allowed us to adapt to the imperative nature of the utility’s communications. Our first initiative with Central Arkansas Water was the development of a communications plan – many elements of which still remain strong recommendations for the utility’s public communications and brand development strategy.
The ultimate objective of the marketing initiative with Central Arkansas Water is to communicate that Central Arkansas drinking water and Central Arkansas Water’s customer service are “essential and exceptional” and to promote a positive image of the company.
Our daily work with Central Arkansas Water is comprised of creating consumer-friendly communications for the Communications Department and other CAW divisions. Since the initiation of our client/agency relationship with Central Arkansas Water, Advantage Communications has worked aggressively to create a tone for CAW messaging that focuses on the essential and exceptional nature of the drinking water and associates of our water utility. This has included a reimaging initiative and an enhancing of the brand presentation for Central Arkansas Water. Such enhancement included redefining the logo and adding a new tagline, “Essential and Exceptional.” We then developed a marketing and public relations plan that focused first on increasing awareness of the “essential and exceptional” value of Central Arkansas Water and the country’s second cleaning drinking water and initiating public education initiatives to give Central Arkansans the knowledge to conserve water and save money.
In 2012, we assessed the success of the campaign through a survey of a random sampling of 800+ Central Arkansas Water customers. Ninety-two percent (92%) reported satisfaction with the overall performance of Central Arkansas Water. Twenty-two percent of these respondents were strongly satisfied while only five percent (5%) reported a negative impression.
Another key success of our work with Central Arkansas Water is the development of the annual Drinking Water Quality Report – a federally mandated report. While CAW has released this report in keeping with federal standards, it was Advantage Communications who worked with the utility to upgrade the design and presentation of the report and established the annual Drinking Water Report as a nationally competitive document. Last year, Advantage Communications received an International Davey Awards in consumer communications for the 2011 Drinking Water Quality Report.
Since January 2012, Advantage Communications, Inc. has served as a strategic partner to General Motors in assisting with the advancement of the General Motors Minority Dealer Development (MDD) program. Since 1972, General Motors has provided industry leading training opportunities to minorities in helping them prepare for future opportunities once they become dealers. General Motors has created an arena through which potential minority dealers can be nurtured to success and current minority dealers can obtain the necessary counseling and assistance to grow their businesses.
The mission of the General Motors Minority Dealer Development Program is to develop, increase and retain the number of successful minority dealers in the United States and to improve minority dealer profitability, demonstrating GM's ongoing commitment to diversity of its dealer network as a business imperative.
Through the current partnership, Advantage Communications, Inc. has assisted the MDD program in the re-designing of the MDD program’s quarterly corporate correspondence to dealers: Inform. In August 2012, Inform was re-designed and two editions of the newsletter have been released to date. The purpose of the General Motors Inform is to keep dealers informed of announcements and updates, introduce new dealers to the General Motors family, recognize premier performers, and connect General Motors officials and dealer viewpoints.
Advantage Communications, Inc.’s long-term vision of this partnership is to enhance the General Motors MDD program’s overall communications platform and provide community support for the growing General Motors Minority Dealer Development Program and its respective dealers.