The Louis Riel School Division (LRSD) Communications Team took home three awards for the Manito Ahbee Aki launch campaign in this year's Canadian Public Relations Society Awards of Excellence:
- Canadian Digital Communications Campaign of the Year – Bronze
- Best Use of Media Relations: Small Budget – Bronze
- New Product or Service Launch – Bronze
Established in 1962, the National Awards of Excellence salute outstanding public relations campaigns, internal and external programs and tactics. This year's Awards of Excellence saw a record-number of 215 entries judged by a team of more than 50 public relations professionals.
On Feb. 10, 2021, LRSD, in partnership with Microsoft Canada and Minecraft: Education Edition, launched Manito Ahbee Aki, the first Minecraft teaching resource in the world that honours, celebrates and explores a Manitoba Anishinaabe community. This one-of-a-kind project that took more than 14 months to bring to completion with partners across the globe also took place during the pandemic.
The LRSD Communications Team, at the time led by Brandon Boone, Communications Manager, and supported by Taylor Fenn, Communications Coordinator, developed a virtual launch event and organic marketing campaign.
To create an authentic experience, members of the LRSD Indigenous Council of Grandmothers and Grandfathers (ICGG), along with Frank Deer, LRSD Scholar in Residence, and Knowledge Keepers from the Manitoba Anishinaabe community, guided and informed the development and launch of the project.
The official launch was held virtually to coincide with the game's global release on Microsoft's Minecraft: Education Edition website. It included a multi-faceted communication strategy executed by the LRSD Communications Team.
Leading up to the launch, the team began to post "teaser" content on divisional social media platforms. This content included images of the exclusive Minecraft media kit in combination with Minecraft puns with the goal of standing out from other posted content.
Faced with the inability to plan an in-person event due to pandemic restrictions, the team wanted to create a memorable media kit that had visual, tactile and edible elements that represented important aspects from the game.
The media kit included a three-inch tall replica of Chickadee Richard, one of the non-player characters from the game and a member of LRSD's ICGG who played an integral role throughout the game development. The kit also included wild rice, locally made bannock and berry jam. The contents, including the news release, were housed in a cardboard box designed to look like a Minecraft block. The invitation was etched into a birch bark disk, a tree with sacred meaning to the Manitoba Anishinaabe community, and found throughout Manito Ahbee Aki. The media kit was also used as an invitation to important stakeholders and dignitaries.
During the launch, participants viewed videos conceptualized by the LRSD Communications Team that explained the development of the game, introduced the LRSD team and shared student testimonials. A flyover video of the game provided by Microsoft Canada was also premiered on Feb. 10. All of the videos were provided to media as an alternative to interviews that would be customary at an in-person launch. Media also had the chance to ask questions to the development team during the Microsoft Teams Live Event.
The team also worked with a local design agency to develop bilingual promotional posters. The posters were sent to all 40 schools within LRSD and a digital version was sent to schools across the province and country.
In the end, the launch campaign was a success. More than 400 attendees, including representatives from local media, joined in to watch the Microsoft Teams Live Event launch on Feb. 10. Manito Ahbee Aki also received positive coverage from all major local news outlets within one week of the launch date and substantial buzz on social media.
A special thanks to the LRSD ICGG, Knowledge Keepers, Christian Michalik, Bobbie-Jo Leclair, Gregory Kiesman, Ken Plaetinck and the team at LRATC, Chickadee Richard, Mark Lesiuk, Chris Heidebrecht, Clarke Hagan, Corey Kapilik, and the team at Marion School on helping make the launch a success!