Raw, Unfiltered Story Telling
Newton Learning Center is a private school for children with Autism or similar learning differences established in 2008 in Reno. The school has faced several challenges in recent years due to the housing shortage and subsequent rise in rent and housing costs in Reno, the turbulence with the executive leadership of the Washoe County School District and the firing of the two heads of Special Education in the district, as well as the district’s well-known and documented issues with managing Special Education students. With declining enrollment, the school was in danger of closing for the 2019-20 school year. In Plain Sight Marketing was hired by Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs, NLCNV’s parent company, to launch a 6-month campaign to help with student recruitment.
Research and planning
Situation: Newton Learning Center Northern Nevada is a private school in Reno, Nev., serving children with Autism or similar learning differences. NLCNV’s mission is to provide individualized learning plans to students to help them catch up to their current grade level’s educational standards and to prepare them to re-enter the public school system. Washoe County School District came under intense public, state and federal scrutiny for lack of compliance with special education laws and an abysmal 29 % graduation rate for special ed students in 2015. In 2018, the district’s special education team was again rocked by scandal and, in early 2019, the superintendent and her two appointed heads of special education were fired by the school board. Local lore in Washoe County is full of stories of poor perception of special education programs in the area, and of resistance from WCSD to refer students to private schools like NLCNV, as doing so would forfeit state education dollars and redirect them to private schools. Families distrust education professionals in the county and report constant struggles in finding quality education for their children. NLCNV faced an existential threat – bring up enrollment, or face closure by its parent company, San Jose, CA, based Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs. SSLDP hired In Plain Sight Marketing to recruit interested families to increase inquiries and school tours by 50% through a 6-month campaign.
We conducted both primary and secondary research to understand the perception, morale and attitudes of NLCNV parents, staff and school district personnel, interviewed staff, board members current and former parents and students, as well as the competitive landscape, news reports about the district and performed a comprehensive review of WCSD demographics.
Our target audience: Parents and grandparents of children with special needs and IEPs in targeted areas; primarily women age 25-65 who tend to make most of the decisions relating to education in the family
Goal: Establish NLCNV as the primary education choice for helping children with Autism achieve grade level in academics and re-entry into the Washoe County School District
Newton Learning Center Objectives:
- Secure a minimum of six paid media placements for family impact stories and four earned media placements about NLCNV programs across print, online and broadcast between 11/2018 and 5/2019
- Increase inquiries to the school by 50%
- Increase the quality of inquiries to create a net gain of actual school tours by 50%
- Attract 100 attendees to the Know Your IEP Rights event in February through promotion
- Attract 50 attendees to Autism Awareness Month Jamboree in April through promotion
- Increase social media engagement by at least two comments/shares per post; increase Facebook page likes by 20% and Instagram followers by 20%