Understood.org Nonprofit Media Relations Campaign

Understood.org Nonprofit Media Relations Campaign

The Challenge: Position Understood.org as the go-to expert for print, broadcast and online media that are covering special education and parenting topics related to the 1 in 5 kids with learning and attention issues and their families

Understood.org, a free education resource and community for parents of the 1 in 5 kids in the U.S. with learning and attention issues, retained Schneider Associates (SA) to generate awareness of the challenges faced by millions of parents and caregivers through a national media relations campaign.

Campaign Goals:

  • Position Understood as the go-to expert for print, broadcast and online media that are covering special education and parenting topics related to the 1 in 5 kids with learning and attention issues and their families
  • Increase web traffic to Understood.org
  • Educate the public and reduce the stigma associated with learning and attention issues through increased awareness and resource sharing

Our Approach: Leverage news events and key “moments in time” to build awareness and create interest in Understood’s message

SA conducted a series of “discovery sessions” and interviewed Understood leadership and experts to develop a solid understanding of the nonprofit’s mission, goals, messages and compelling stories. Effective strategies that SA developed included:

  • Leverage news events and key “moments in time” to build awareness and create interest in Understood’s message
  • Develop relationships with national reporters/producers who cover education and learning disabilities to position Understood as a media resource
  • Insert Understood into the national conversation and educate reporters about elevating the term learning and attention issues vs. learning disabilities(a term that does not incorporate ADHD)

The Results:

Leveraging News and Key Moments in Time

  • For Learning Disabilities Awareness Month (October), SA recommended Understood commission a survey of parents on Back-to-School related stress. The survey capitalized on a “moment in time” and inserted Understood into news coverage. The survey made the front page of USA Today.
  • SA secured coverage in the Washington Post for a story on what parents of dyslexic children can do to help them learn to read.

When the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in the Endrew F. case on the level of services public schools need to provide students with learning disabilities, SA quickly activated Understood experts to comment on the ruling. Over the course of two days, SA secured a total of 598 media placements reaching an estimated 269,000,000 people. Placements were secured in the following: Politico, The Atlantic, NPR, and the Associated Press.

During Understood.org’s Back-to-School campaign, one of its spokespeople wrote an emotional story about her second grader who had a learning and attention issue and how other parents treated her family when they learned her son would be in their child’s class. SA recommended posting this letter on Huffington Post and then pitched it to the media. The story was picked up by several broadcast outlets including New England Cable News’ “The Take,” Maine’s WCSH-TV, and New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV, resulting in an estimated reach of more than 3 million people.

For Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, SA embraced the challenge of securing local and national monuments and landmarks to be illuminated in the Understood colors of purple, blue and white. SA researched and contacted 45 monuments, submitted all necessary forms and secured permissions, conducted media outreach, and coordinated photographers in each city. SA negotiated seven illuminated locations across the country in just six weeks. The landmark locations were secured at zero cost and in priority locations, including Niagara Falls, L.A. International Airport and Boston’s Zakim Bridge.

Throughout LD Week, an estimated 2 million people viewed the landmark lightings. Besides earning media attention in several cities, SA promoted shares from influencer and monument social media accounts, resulting in the potential reach on Facebook of 180,768, and 208,829 on Twitter.

Relationship Building

Creating relationships with reporters was an integral part of SA’s success in generating national media attention for Understood spokespeople and experts in policy and education. SA planned and secured “deskside briefings” for Understood experts with key reporters in Washington DC, including NPR Ed, U.S. World News and Report, and Politico.

These informal, relationship-building conversations allowed Understood to successfully brief journalists about its mission, experts, and parent network and establish the organization as a resource for journalists. These meetings led to several follow-up stories and pending media opportunities.

Additionally, SA built positive relationships with other reporters, including one at U.S. News & World Report. We offered heraccess to Understood parents and communicated regularly with her which resulted in seven stories in U.S. News & World Report featuring Understood (and its founding partners). Each story reached an estimated 23,945,529 viewers.

The Hechinger Report, an outlet dedicated to covering inequality and innovation in education, featured Understood’s experts and many of the organization’s founding partners. SA’s relationship building efforts resulted in a four-story series, as well as an op-ed for a leadership team executive. The Hechinger Report reached approximately 1,000,000 readers.