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Branding campaign seeks to change public perception of labor unions

CSEA | Strong Communities Work

Labor unions have come under a lot of scrutiny in the political realm. In fact, according to a 2012 Pew Research study, labor attitudes are one of the issues dividing Americans—second only to scope of government. Many who oppose labor unions believe members are underworked, overpaid and ungrateful for the opportunities and protections they enjoy as union members. However, there are union workers all over New York, and the country at large, who are meaningfully contributing to society and doing so in big ways. Many union members do the work most people would rather not do, such as maintain our sewers, educate our children and work on our streets. They face these challenging careers so we don’t have to, and make New York a better place to live, work and play for everyone.

New York’s Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) is one such labor union that is the target of negative attitudes and perceptions. Facing these issues, CSEA hired Burst Marketing to help change public perception by relaunching its “Strong Communities Work” initiative.

Our research uncovered that while millennials don’t aspire to union members, they aspire to do jobs that are represented by unions. They want to make a difference in their communities, and make that the focus of their careers. Keeping these insights in mind, we set out to revamp the “Strong Communities Work” initiative and create attitude change from the inside out.

Our strategy was to position Strong Communities Work as a movement that represents ordinary New Yorkers, both union and non-union, who work hard to make their communities a better place. The tagline, “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things” centers the campaign around making a positive example of everyday people. Instead of spotlighting the union, we make “Strong Communities Work” a celebration of individuals who are stepping up to identify the hard challenges and making positive change.

An example of these ordinary people include the pre-school teacher who works tirelessly to help a rambunctious group of three year olds learn to write their names, the cafeteria worker who spends his day prepping and serving lunch to thousands of people or the construction worker who puts himself at risk of injury to build a big-city skyline. The campaign highlights these “ordinary people” and the extraordinary things they accomplish by working hard at what they do.

The initiative’s graphic identity features a patriotic look and feel, with bold images of ordinary people, creating a feeling that the “Strong Communities Work” initiative is one for everyone. Headlines tackle common negative stereotypes of union performance, while the images and stories juxtapose the misconceptions with tales of exemplary dedication, energy and commitment.

Burst delivered “Strong Communities Work” through a microsite, which serves as a hub for the newly refreshed brand, with information about New York labor unions and community involvement. The website contains profile videos for an introduction to New Yorkers who are doing extraordinary things in their communities. It also allows visitors to nominate someone they know to be recognized for their dedication to making New York—and our country—a better place.

We also helped “Strong Communities Work” transform a hotel for the Annual Delegates Conference in early October 2014. The conference united thousands of CSEA leaders from across the state to congregate in New York City. We used the new look and feel to craft conference materials that communicated the new brand message. We brought the “Strong Communities Work” brand to life inside the hotel, drawing attention to the ordinary CSEA members doing extraordinary things for their communities.

The new brand refreshes the “Strong Communities Work” initiative and reminds us of the hard-working and positive attitudes of labor unions past. The messaging unites key decision makers, members and the public around one community-minded, uplifting message.