As an account executive at Jacht Club, a student ad lab at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education was one of my team’s clients in the fall of 2011. This prize is an award given out annually to a Nebraska teacher who exemplifies the qualities of Christa McAuliffe, a teacher-turned-astronaut who lost her life during the Challenger spaceshuttle tragedy. Gregg Wright, a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Education and Human Sciences was especially affected by the tragedy and decided to start a fund for a prize to search out courageous teachers like Christa in the state of Nebraska.
Amy Struthers and select students from both the College of Journalism and Mass Communication and the College of Education have collaborated on promoting this prize for several years. The prize already has a prestigious and honorable brand personality, so overall branding was not an issue with this client. Our job was to increase nominations for this year’s nomination period. The first couple of years saw great interest in the prize and the tragedy; however, nominations had declined over the past 20 years. On average, the prize received about 7 nominations a year, with a low of 1. The only recent year generating significant interest was when a direct mail piece was sent out to schools and teachers across the state, resulting in 20 nominations.
Our research for this project consisted mainly of examining what had been done in the past, especially looking at what worked well and what didn’t work at all. What we found was when the prize was promoted a lot, for example, sending a mass mailing to schools in Nebraska, there were a lot of nominations. When there wasn’t any promotion, nominations fell dramatically. From this, we found that the prize didn’t generate lasting buzz and wasn’t being promoted through administration staff, teachers, and schools without any help.
So, to “push” the prize out to teachers, we collaborated with University Communications to help get our press release across all media outlets in Nebraska. We also contacted Nebraska Education Association and got our press release into their monthly magazine sent to every teacher in the state. We also initiated a social media presence on Twitter.
A significant part of our strategy was to send kits to the past winners of this prize. We want these past winners to help be our voice to others, especially among the education audience where we personally don’t have a lot of connections. We contacted these winners by phone and email and sent them a kit composed of a PowerPoint to present at faculty or PTA meetings, flyers to pass out in school, at church, or wherever they see fit, a letter full of ideas, and our press release to use if they need it.
The nomination period ended on January 20 with 19 nominations! A wonderful, courageous teacher named Bryan Corkle from O’Neill Nebraska was selected due in part to his support of the DREAM Act in an area of rural America that doesn’t always agree with it. To read more about the Christa McAuliffe Prize for Courage and Excellence in Education, go to courage.unl.edu.
As part of my job, I wrote up the creative brief.
Here is the press release I wrote.
I also wrote and designed the letter and instructions that came with the kit.
These are the half-page flyers I wrote the copy for.