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Developed by

KC Dignan, Personnel Program Coordinator
Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired Outreach

Most special education administrators or VI professionals do not have expertise in recruiting or design.  Yet, administrators and VI professionals can be the most powerful tools for recruiting

Effectiveness can be greatly improved with just a little bit of thought and practice.  Using a candidate-centric approach, this workbook is designed to help you structure your thoughts and provide a place for practice.  As a result, you will have an increased chance to recruit and retain the best candidate for your position.

The goal is to help you build the tools you need to develop an attractive and dynamic flyer.  For our purposes, a “flyer” is a one-page document with no folds.  It is the sort of document that is posted on bulletin boards or disbursed at a conference or job fair.  It can be used for recruiting, but also for other purposes.

This workbook is organized into the following sections:

  • Information about VI professionals and what they care about
  • Understanding timelines, as they relate to recruitment
  • Developing a message to attract the best candidate
  • Design considerations for the non-graphic designer, including a flyer template

Who are VI professionals and what do they care about?

VI professionals are educators first, and specialists second.  As such, there are commonalities that they share with all educators.  There are also unique areas of concern.  The table below illustrates the basics.

All educators care about:

  • Community (home and professional)
  • Salary
  • Program

Important job characteristics for educators:

  • Satisfaction about what they do
  • Opportunity to use skills
  • Opportunity for professional development

Value:

  • Personal satisfaction
  • An interesting community 
  • A sense of a future 
  • Feel “special”

Satisfied educators report:

  • Feeling what they do matters
  • Have an opportunity to use their skills
  • Have access to relevant professional development
  • Reasonable benefits 
  • Recognition for good performance 
  • Friendly coworkers

And value:

  • Location 
  • Money 
  • Working in teams

In addition, VI professionals:

Have had an “encounter” with an individual with a visual impairment or have some knowledge of visual impairments.

Tend to have 7 years of experience when they started work in visual impairments.  Prior experience includes::

  • Education, including special education
  • Disability-related profession

Value:

  • Working with a nontraditional population and/or a nontraditional job
  • Intellectual stimulation
  • Making a difference in the lives of their students
  • Relationships with parents and administrators

New VI professionals report:

  • Feeling “special” when someone they respect asks them to consider becoming a VI professional
  • Needing various type of information, printed and conversational, to help with the decision
  • Often taking between 18–24 months before they commit to the decision and enroll in a program.  Having an administrator talk to them can dramatically shorten this period.

Recruitment, time and timelines

Time is our most precious resource.  Because it is so valued you will want to make the most of whatever eye-time and ear-time you are able to garner.  As a result, make sure that your most important information is instantly communicated.

In the Toolbox, longer-term timelines were discussed.  This workbook will expand on micro- and macro-timelines.

What are micro-timelines?

Micro-timelines refers to the amount of time you can expect your reader or listener to look at your document or listen to your information.  For the purposes of this part of the workbook, we will focus on printed information.  However, the same principles apply when speaking to potential VI professionals.

The purpose of micro-timelines is to

  • Intrigue
  • Inform
  • Inspire to action

How micro is “micro”?

It can help to think of information in 3 levels

  • Enticement
    • 3–7 seconds
    • Entices readers and establishes relevance
    • Includes headlines, photographs, captions, etc.
  • Confirmation
    • 90 seconds
    • Expands information with short bursts of information
    • Includes information found in subtitles, text boxes, graphs, charts, bullet lists, etc.
  • Commitment
    • 3–4 minutes
    • Provides data , details, and/or “proof”
    • Includes standard text information

Think about how you look at the newspaper.  Chances are you first look at the headlines, then the article titles, pictures, and captions, and then select the articles that interest or entice you. 

The same paradigm applies to your flyers and brochures.  Ask yourself, “Do I communicate my most important message in the headings, visual images, and captions?”  Because time is of the essence, it is important that you use it wisely and consider it when you design flyers that you will use for recruitment, workshops, or other activities.

There are endless ways to approach graphic design.  However, as a non-designer, it can be pretty overwhelming.  The following tips are intended to give you some insight into a few of the basics that a busy person can use to increase effectiveness with relatively little effort.

How macro is “macro”?

Education as a whole is an aging profession.  More and more educators are retiring.  For example, in Texas the number of teachers certified in visual impairments (VI teachers or TVIs) tripled between 2010 and 2012. 

With that in mind consider you may want to take a pro-active approach to long-term recruiting.  Is there a paraprofessional or braillist whom you believe may be an excellent VI professional?  What about that science teacher who is showing signs of restiveness?  Perhaps there is a special educator that has a consistent record of success with her students, but seems to need new challenges.

For the purposes of our recruitment discussion, macro-timelines can mean years.  Proactive recruiters think 2 years ahead.

Developing your message

Once you feel you have an understanding about VI professionals, it is time to develop your message.

Exercise: Identifying and valuing uniqueness

Every district, community, program, and profession has something that is unique and that distinguishes it from others of its kind.  Harvesting and communicating that uniqueness is your primary job when creating you message. While it may be tempting just to do this in your head, committing it to writing typically provides more robust results.

  • Reflect on your community, district, program, and/or profession. 
    • Think broadly
    • What’s unique? 
    • How does it compare to the competition?
  • Identify 6–10 features that distinguish your community, district, program, and/or profession.  Think about other communities, districts, and programs.  Think positively.  What makes yours different?

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Exercise: Flipping to the candidate’s perspective

Now that you have identified unique characteristics of your community, district, or program, it is time to frame the information so it is from the candidate’s perspective. 

  • Look at your information. 
  • Think about it from the candidate’s perspective.  Consider your audience:
    • Existing VI professional?  Or a promising reading or science teacher?
    • What do they know about students with visual impairments?
    • What do they know about your community?
    • Are there gender or cultural values you want to capitalize on?

Now take your information to the next level.

Here are some examples:

You wrote:

Flip to: 

Small community 

Imagine real neighborhoods where you and your children can feel safe.

Urban setting

Enjoy the modern vibrant lifestyle of the urban professional.”

Rural setting

Live in a peaceful environment, where streets are safe at night, or, Live in a real neighborhood and get to know your neighbors.

Small district 

Work with employers who are responsive to your needs.

Variety of job responsibilities

Imagine a job where no two days are the same, where the students’ needs guide your work.

Make a difference

Not only will you be a teacher, you will be a life coach.

High test scores

Work with dedicated, motivated educators,  or, Work in a district where administrators team with educators for success.

Training available by distance learning options

Learn without leaving home or family.

Regardless of the issue, the message must be positive.  It should help the candidate see him- or herself in the job or community.  Once you have a clear idea of the population you want to attract, and the types of information you want to deliver, it is time to think about time-related factors.

Now look at the information you wrote and revise it so it can resonate with the candidates.  We are so used to an organization-centric approach that this may take a bit of practice.  Think about how you would like a future employer to talk to you.  As a potential VI professional or community resident, what would you like to know?

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Now you have a listing of candidate-oriented features that you can use to develop your message. 

Expanding your message

The messages you developed above are like a good story.  Using a story-telling framework makes it personal.  It is also a form of advocacy.  You are advocating that someone either move to your district or change their profession—two actions that aren’t taken lightly.  People respond to stories better than they do to statistics.

As you expand your message be sure to pay close attention to the following:

  • Match your message with your audience.
  • Expect to deliver your message 3–6 times before it is acted upon.  It may be quicker, but do not expect it.
  • Be careful of acronyms; they just make people mad.
  • Use short sentences, preferably less than seven words.
  • Build on shared values or beliefs, such as:
    • All children can learn.
    • Children deserve access to information.
    • Educators are valued professionals.

What about talking?

Once you have had a bit of experience around developing and sharing messages around your issues you will find it easier to continue.  For example, practice developing messages around those themes, which are especially valued by VI professionals.  Following are quotes from VI professionals:

Theme:

Examples in conversation:

Nontraditional job or students

  • “I love the fact that I teach about life, not just science.”
  • “As an O&M specialist, you get to be a life coach for your students.”
  • “As a VI teacher, you get to teach individual students, not classrooms.”

Challenge

  • Every day is different.” 
  • “The range of my activities keeps me thinking and learning.”
  • “The school year used to have a predictable list of activities.  Now all I can predict is that this year will be different than last year.  It keeps me fresh.”

Makes a difference

  • “I work with my students and their families for years.  I know what I do matters to them.”
  • “I used to feel like I was ‘renting’ the students for 50 minutes a day.  Now I know I am having an impact on their lives.  And they are having an impact on mine.”
  • “Before I started working with Johnny, he wasn’t able to use silverware.  Now, in only 1 year, he is eating independently, cutting his food, and able to cook his own breakfast and lunch.  I know that what I do is helping him be more independent and in functional ways.”
  • “I KNOW I have an impact on my students, not just hope I do.”
  • “I love being able to teach my students about life and its marvels; about learning how to be a friend, how to make goals, and develop a plan for living.”

Parents and administrators

  • “Parents and administrators appreciate that I have a special type of knowledge, one that isn’t commonly available.”
  • “As a VI professional, I get to make the medical information real and sensible for parents, administrators, and other team members.”
  • “Every parent wants their child to have friends.  I help students develop the skills necessary to have friends.”

 

Don’t get caught by common mistakes

There are many ways to enhance your message and make sure it gets through to your candidate.  Don’t let your success be hampered by these common mistakes:

  • Good experience
    • Don’t let the application or transition process inhibit your success.
    • Connect the candidates with people, not only computers or answering machines.
    • Remember, 50–75% of interested applicants drop out at the application stage.  Don’t be a part of this statistic.  Assign you future VI professional an “application mentor” to help him or her to complete the application… possibly over a cup of coffee or in some other casual and supportive environment.
  • Information and candidate matching
    • Make sure the information you develop is placed where current or future VI professionals will see it.
  • Communicate strengths from the candidate’s perspective
  • Build relationships
    • Recruitment takes time, especially if you are seeking mid-career professionals.
  • Attract passive seekers
    • Twenty percent of new employees were not seeking a change. 
  • Present your strengths to potential candidates
    • Your community will be your biggest strength.  Be sure that information about your home and professional community is prominent.
    • Strengths will include those issues of interest to the candidate, and may not be limited to information about the program, but also include information about the community.
  • Avoid inconsistent information and images
    • While you may deliver information in multiple formats and with various angles, is the core message still clear and consistent?
    • Are the messages/information on various Web pages and display materials, such as those used at job fairs or conferences, and on other printed documents, consistent with each other?
    • Do various parts of the message seem consistent with each other?  For example, are the words that express a commitment to students supported with images of successful students?  Or pictures of buildings?

Designing professional-looking flyers for non-designers

As a rule, educators and administrators are not graphic designers.  However, more and more, how information is being displayed is just as important as the information itself.  It is often the design that draws the reader into the information.

Below are some considerations for designing a flyer for a new VI professional.  The same information is also helpful when advertising a workshop, advocating for a change in locations, or other situations when you want to share critical information to a broad audience in a quick manner.

Pre-design considerations

Before you begin, consider the “landscape” where your document will be displayed. 

  • Will it be posted on a wall or bulletin board?  Or put into people’s hands?
  • What and who is the competition?  Will there be flyers from other districts or professions displayed? Or will this be the only information shared?
  • What is the competition doing to attract your audience?
  • How can you use that information to your benefit?

When you are first starting your flyer, the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible.  Then evaluate them for effectiveness at meeting the needs of the reader and relaying your objective.

Purposeful design for the non-designer

The design flows first from your knowledge of the reader.  By approaching the design reflectively you are more likely to meet your needs and solve the reader’s problems.

Readability

As a highly skilled professional, it will be easy for you to use the type of language that you would use when talking to your peers.  While it isn’t necessary to “talk down” to your audience, it is important that you asses the readability of your document.  Remember, this is a document that you want people to read, even though they are not required to.  Your first task is to entice them into the document.  There are many readability tools available, including one in Microsoft Word and other online tools. This site has one that is easy to use and provides information from various tests. http://sarahktyler.com/code/sample.php.

 An 8th–9th grade level is a good target.

Tips to enhance readability:

  • Use active versus passive voice
  • Talk to the reader
  • Omit “smothered” verbs, or nouns that have been turned into verbs by adding a suffix
  • Omit “extra” words such as “that,” “which,” “whose,” etc.
  • Whenever possible, use a shorter word, such as “use” instead of “utilize”

Design factors

Space:

Open a magazine and look at the ads.  You will quickly see a pattern of how the space is used.

The most important, or valuable, space is the upper left quadrant.  That is the place where companies frequently either put their name or the most critical part of the message.  Use that space wisely. 

The bottom right section is often the “action zone.” This is where organizations tend to put specific information about what they want you to do.  For example, social-change organizations will put the address where you can send support in this spot.

Layout: 

While the layout options are infinite, an easy one to use is the “Z” layout.  In this layout you put the most critical information (logo, goal, etc.) in the upper left, the action statement in the lower right, and use some visual device to ensure that the eye travels through the entire document in a “Z” pattern.  The devices used may be images, print, or non-photographic elements, such as drawings.

USABA flyer
Note: Used with permission of USABA.

Look at the first image, which is a flyer developed by the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes.  Pause and think about how your eye moved around the image.

  • Chances are you first looked at the girl’s face.
  • Then you looked at the words to the right.
  • Your eyes may have then moved to either the gold medals or the “filmstrip” images on the lower part of the page. 
  • Your eyes then followed the images of successful, happy athletes.
  • And finally rested on the action message: support blind athletes. 

Below is a possible diagram of how you probably experienced this image.

Picture showing eye-gaze following bullet list above

While this brochure was professionally produced, it is reasonable for you and your district to complete a flyer following this layout.  To help you get started, a flyer template is included at the end of this workbook.

Visual elements: 

Knowing how to use visual elements can greatly enhance the attractiveness of your document, and therefore the likelihood that it will get read.  Following is a list of short and easy tips to maximize your success.

  • Develop a visual theme, just as you have developed a written theme. 
    • For example, if you live near the water, use images that support the desirability of living near the water.  This could be a background image or part of a collage about life in your community and district.  When using images, make sure they don’t provide too much clutter, and that they don’t distract from your written message.
    • If you have a slogan, use images that illustrate the slogan.
  • People orient to eyes. 
    • When person is looking straight ahead, it is as if she or he is directly talking to the reader.
    • When the photograph is looking to one side, the reader will follow the eyes in the photograph.
    • People treat photographs and drawings differently, but will always orient to eyes.
  • People read captions before they read standard text.
    • If you use a photo or a drawing, be sure to put a caption on it.
    • Make sure that your caption provides a reinforcement of your message, not just an explanation of the image.
  • Balance your use of images (including print) and space.  If it looks less wordy, people will pick it up and read it.  If it looks too cluttered, the document will remain unread.
  • Colors have specific effects on people.  Use them wisely.
  • Using a numeric sequence can encourage people to read to the end of the document. 
    • People tend to respond to odd numbers more than even numbers.
    • Going beyond 10 can seem overwhelming to the reader.
  • Lines or boarders can make a difference.
    • Patterned lines can help set the mood for the document.
    • Lines can imply motion.
    • Lines can bring the eye to the desired parts of the page.   Designs or images with strong linear elements will move the reader around the page.
  • Use fonts wisely. 
    • Don’t use too many different fonts—two, perhaps three, at the most.
    • For variation, try to stay within a font family.  Many programs now make it easy to organize fonts by font families.
  • Consistency is extremely important and cannot be overstated.  Review for consistency:
    • Between your design elements and your message,
    • Within your message, and
    • Across various formats and documents.

Making Flyers Work for YOU!

The next few pages provide some tips and tricks for making the most of your design, and TIME!  Remember: promote the home and professional community. 

1. Using dynamic angles

Putting information on an angle can be a dynamic approach.

Graphic shows a logo in the lower right corner.  Along the left side are miniature reproductions of documents.  Each document is overlapping and set at a different angle.  Small sample text appears on the papers.

2. Linear designs:

Strong vertical or diagonal lines can move the eye to a desired goal or the action section of the page

Help your students

Graphic shows a ladder which extends from the lower left into the sky and clouds, ending in the upper middle of the page.

Climb the ladder to success and independence!

3. Picture-in-a-picture:  Show both the overview and details to provide context. It can help the reader to cue into critical details, without losing the framework.

Graphic is a square, representing a flyer with suggestions for images.  In the lower right corner is a smaller square representing a smaller image which highlights a particular feature.   Text in large square reads: Large image of a community setting, a school campus, or social situation.  This sets the framework.  Text in small square reads: Smaller image of student, school, community feature.  This helps the candidates see themselves in the setting.

4. Boxes and Borders:  Make your boarders part of your message!  The right boarder will emphasize your point, and attract the eye.  Keep it simple, and appropriate to your message and theme. sure it doesn’t overwhelm the page.

Graphic shows examples of various types of boarders.  The boarders are much reduced in size and overlap each other.

5.     Font, color, style, and shape:  These elements draw the eye and enhance the desired effect.

Graphic shows an O&M specialist and a student with a cane preparing to cross the street.  Over the image, and in rainbow colors are the words:  This ISD is the pot of gold at the end of your rainbow.

Exercise: Designing a flyer

Now that we have reviewed the most important parts of developing a flyer or a brochure, it is time to practice designing one.

Don’t worry about developing a final document.  The purpose here is to simply sketch one out, and identify what you would put in the space.  It is not necessary to use a computer or any graphic-design software, but rather a pencil and paper will be sufficient to capture your ideas.  Revision and refinement will happen later. 

The next page has a flyer template that you might find helpful.

Once you have defined your message and mapped out the important elements, there may be others individuals in your district or program who will be able to make it happen.  They may use software available on any computer, or sophisticated graphic-design software. 

As you work, remember the following:

  • Know your reader.
  • Develop your message.
  • Stay focused on the message.
  • Use your space wisely.

This stage is about the process, not the product!

If you feel out of your element or frustrated, working with a partner may help.  Frequently, another person can help the process flow better as you build on each other’s ideas.  Alternately, once the document is finished, let someone read it as if he or she were a “naïve reader” to make sure that the document meets your goal.

The next few pages have information about various design elements and a template you may find helpful as you work.

Flyer Template

Design template

  • top left - Critical Information
    • This is the most powerful part of the flyer. Use this space carefully. Use an image, an organizational logo, or a dynamic statement.
    • If people read nothing else, they will read this.
  • Top Right - Put the “dream” here.
    • It could be the desired outcome, how you want people to see themselves, what they will be doing and/or learning. It could be a continuation or illustration of the message to the left. You may want to consider using a photograph.
  • Middle of page -
    • Details Here
      • Remember, people won’t read it all at once.
      • Use headings, images, captions, and other devices to provide them with the information they need, in a way that they want it.
    • Design Factors
      • Balance text with images. Avoid clutter. Use your white space judiciously.
      • Consider using some technique to draw the eye down to the lower left corner. This could be a photo, image or dynamic statement.
    • The Message Matters
      • Always remember the reader
      • Keep the message compelling and easy to take the first step.
  • Bottom of Page - This is your Action Zone
    • Put your organization, action steps, and how to do it.
    • Make it easy for them to complete the first step towards your (and their) goal!

Why Become a VI Professional? - Examples Flyers

Click on an image below to view the full-size slide or right-click to save to your computer.

something differentteach beyondgrow your ownbraillistwho does whatworkloadsintervener