Vesna Vlašić Jusupović reveals how to persuade people to pay attention to a problem they’re not aware of

In an interview for Media Marketing, the director of McCann Sarajevo reveals how did the project " Dyslexia is a Diversity, Not a Disease" come to life. The project was among the top 25 projects in the region at the last year's BalCannes.

In terms of regulations and status, dyslexia in Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked as a mental disability, and public stigma and maltreatment of children with this learning disability are publicly expressed, which leaves lasting consequences on children. McCann Sarajevo was asked to help develop awareness of what dyslexia really is by the Vjetar association for helping persons with dyslexia. It was necessary to draw the attention of parents, children and government institutions and the agency realized that there are no better communicators than the children themselves. Attention was drawn with intriguing posters set up in schools and leaflets shared with each shopping at bookstores. On the day of marking the awareness of dyslexia, a press conference was held where media and companies were invited to join in raising awareness of dyslexia. That’s how the first Facebook campaign with dyslexic logos was created. Over 70 companies responded to this call and, in sign of support, for one day they replaced their logos with their “dyslexic” versions. This action has caused even greater public attention, and many media have spontaneously continued to inform about dyslexia. In less than four days, the campaign achieved earned PR worth over €32,000. Most importantly, in the first three days of the campaign, more than 100 parents contacted the Association for some form of support or simply to thank for the information provided to them and for helping them discover that their child was not “retarded” as the society is so quick to label them. The survey conducted in primary schools after the campaign showed 100% awareness of the existence and signs of dyslexia. A special handbook for working with children with learning disabilities for elementary school teachers has been published. With €0 invested, this campaign has changed the habits and attitudes of all interested parties and achieved long-term results.

About the campaign Dyslexia is a Diversity, Not a Disease, we talked with Vesna Vlašić Jusupović, director of the agency McCann Sarajevo.

We came up with the idea… when a client approached us and said: we have a very important message that we want to send, this issue is of key interest to countless young people whose lives will go in the wrong direction unless we try to change something. At that, the story included the Ministry of Education, the Pedagogical Institute, the defectologists and a whole range of social prejudices and stigma, and in the very end, you are informed that you actually don’t have a budget for the campaign. The question is then: should you even get involved in the whole story? How do you persuade people to pay attention to a problem they are not even aware of and treat it as something completely different? The answer is: with much heart, energy and perseverance! We have done a thorough research and tried to understand the difficulties encountered by children with learning disabilities, we talked to their parents and teachers, and realized that in our society they were truly condemned to the worst possible start of life. After thorough consideration of the current state of things from all angles – from the angle of the children, parents, the Vjetar Association, the teaching staff and the conditions provided by our education system – and considering the particular issue of public awareness in general, we have pooled all the creative forces of our departments in the agency and created the concept of the small convicts whose success we believed in, as well as the entire campaign which we realized with a hundred percent dedication.

Our guiding thought was … that a well-designed campaign can change a lot of things for the better – break prejudice, raise empathy, send clear messages of what dyslexia is, how to recognize it and how to properly approach dyslexic children during education.

During the realization, the biggest problem we encountered was … just the sheer lack of understanding of the concept of what dyslexia is, as well as insufficient cooperation and connection of the association with the professional and teaching staff.

The biggest contribution of this campaign was… a successfully conveyed message that dyslexia is not a disease, but diversity, and that dyslexics in society, with early detection and proper education, can achieve everything they want. Success was very clearly manifested by the tremendous growth of contacts with parents of dyslexic children, as well as a large number of calls and thanks received by the Association and the Agency.

And it is special because… the fact that schoolchildren, who got an “easier start” in life by sheer coincidence, agreed to help us … Although it was very difficult for them to explain to their peers that they don’t have any problems or difficulties in learning, our little volunteers were part of a great social experiment. Overnight, all schools had posters with child prisoners, and the questions started being asked … The campaign attracted the attention of all, from children to institutions. The conversation was moved to the media, interest in the subject grew, and many came and wanted to help. The infectious energy, the movement that we had created, has brought incredible results and we are grateful to all who were part of this project.

When it comes to our project, we are most proud of… the feedback we received from the parents of dyslexic children, parents who suspected that their children had dyslexia, as well as the honor that our campaign has promoted the work and facilitated publishing of a special manual for a teaching staff with clear guidelines for better and more productive work with dyslexic children. Of course, the exceptional support of the media was crucial for the campaign to gain national character, and the great success was that we have brought together the institutions, the Association and the parents to get the best solutions through mutual co-operation.

If we were to go from scratch now … surely we couldn’t have more enthusiasm, and we couldn’t work with more dedication, but we would certainly work to include a wider circle of institutions and companies that would support us as well as create adequate communication for additional channels along with a potential donor budget.

Throughout the process, we have learned… that thorough research is the best platform for setting a concept and elaborating it, that ideas are the fruit of imagination and creativity, but only when they rely on the knowledge and the information to draw their path to the goal.

What you certainly didn’t know… is that the campaign lasted only during the marking the awareness of dyslexia week, and included communication in print media, via B1 and B2 posters, and the FB site of the Association, a press conference, a series of guest appearances in media outlets, an organized exhibition of written school works of dyslexic children, and a production of thematic series, all with a budget of 0 EUR!

From BalCannes we brought with us… wonderful moments of socializing and exchanging ideas with colleagues from the region who also presented their creative concepts and campaigns, as well as a lot of inspiration for the realization of even better projects.

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