Newport News Public Schools
Every Student Counts Campaign
Every fall hundreds of parents with children new to the Newport News Schools system wait until the week of school opening to register their children for school. Not only does this place a huge burden on school personnel in terms of assigning rooms and bus stops, it frequently results in students not having assigned homerooms, schedules and bus stops until several days after school starts. It adds to students’ and families’ “new school year chaos,” and it takes much longer for classrooms to become productive places of learning. In fact, the school system postpones hiring some teachers until after the first week of school because it does not know the final student count, further prolonging the time until students and teachers can settle into a learning environment.
The Newport News Schools took a proactive approach to the problem and hired The Buzz Factoree to work with its Community Relations Department to plan and execute a public relations plan to encourage parents of first-time and students who have moved since the previous year to register earlier in the summer.
We devised a summer campaign called “Every student counts” and designed a colorful logo/graphic showing hands reaching for a star. The total budget for the low-budget campaign was $23,680 and included:
- $3,800 for copywriting, project management and design (note: I served as copywriter and project manager and worked with my designer to come up with the logo and design of various pieces of campaign);
- $1,134 for printing for posters and brochures for the public, displayed at libraries and other public buildings throughout the summer 2007;
- $978 for printing for fliers for every student to take home before the last day of the 2006-07 school year;
- $12,000 for radio advertising (note: My only input in this aspect of the project was to review copy presented by the radio station) in July;
- $3,834 for advertising on panels inside public buses in July;
- $1,434 for banners displayed on parked school buses and on an overpass at a major overpass in town;
- A comp quarter-page ad was donated by the local “Kidsville News” magazine to run in August.
- $500 for giveaways (school backpacks loaded with school supplies – limited number) to reward parents and students for registering their children at special registration sites set up over the summer at various schools in July and August.
- Press release for Newport News Schools web site and to send to media. The press release and follow-up calls resulted in a story on the local ABC-TV affiliate station on the 5:30 p.m. news show. It remained accessible on its web site for a month afterwards and, according to the reporter, received more click-throughs than average.
We were all pleased with the outcome of the project. Statistics show that parents began registering their students earlier in the summer in greater quantities in the summer of 2007 compared to the previous summer, resulting in approximately 450 fewer registrations the first week of school for the 2007-08 year over the previous year. The special registration centers set up for the first time over the summer registered 92 students. And, perhaps the most telling statistic, is that the school system only had to hire one additional teacher for the current school year rather than 11 for the previous year, an indication that many more eligible students had been registered in time for Human Resources and Student Services to accurately plan for the year.
Newport News Schools decided to repeat the program for one more year, tweaking the program to reflect “lessons learned.” The 2008 PR program focused on year-round registration rather than just summer registration, emphasizing “real-time” registration, and advertising was moved to earlier in the year.
This low-budget campaign won numerous awards for effective communications programs, including eight awards in the Virginia Press Women 2008 Communications Contest:
- First place for a public service campaign:
- First place for a poster;
- First place for billboard advertising;
- First place for banner advertising;
- Second place for a single print ad with spot-color;
- Second place for PR printed materials/single news release;
- Honorable mention for PR printed materials/brochure.
Three national awards from the National Federation of Press Women:
- First place for a public service campaign;
- Second place for a billboard campaign;
- Third place for a poster.
And honorable mention in the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America Pinnacle Awards.
Collateral for “Every Student Counts” Campaign
Logo for “Every Student Counts” Campaign. The overall campaign won a first-place state award for service campaigns and a first-place national award in the same category. The entire campaign won a total of 12 awards. See “Case Studies” for details.