CMT encourages adults to seek higher education

WASHINGTON: Country Music Television, a unit of Viacom, has launched an initiative to motivate and encourage people of all ages to pursue post-secondary or higher education.

WASHINGTON: Country Music Television, a unit of Viacom, has launched an initiative to motivate and encourage people of all ages to pursue post-secondary or higher education.

The impetus for the “CMT Empowering Education” campaign was the “Get Schooled” non-profit organization. Get Schooled was formed between Viacom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2009 with the goal of leveraging the BET, MTV, and Paramount Picture brands to raise awareness of the challenges public school systems face in the US.

Lucia Folk, senior director of public affairs at CMT, said the Get Schooled program targets students between Kindergarten and 12th grade, but CMT wanted to cater its message to its own brand and target audience “in a way that would connect with them.”

“Country music is all about family and community, and CMT prides itself on connecting with to them,” she said. “So we felt it was important to connect them to resources in their communities if they wanted to pursue post-secondary educations.”

In the US, 3.7 million jobs are open because of “skills gaps,” Folk added. CMT wants to help its viewers “whether 16 or 42 years old” go back to school and get the skills they need for a career, she added.

The initiative, which kicked off Wednesday night in Washington, DC, with a performance from Broken Bow's Dustin Lynch, includes the website CMTEmpoweringEducation.com to help viewers find information on schools, financial resources, and certification programs in their communities.

CMT is working with various partners, such as Achieving the Dream, the American Association of Community Colleges, and The Apsen Institute, to gather research and resources for the initiative.

Since country music is about “storytelling,” Folk said the website includes motivational quotes and personal content about education from famous singers, including Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. Consumers who log on to the site are also encouraged to contribute their own stories and try to connect with or inspire other viewers.

In addition to launching a website, the country music network created CMT Empowering Education Facebook and Twitter pages to engage its audience in the social space, said Folk. Time columnist Andrew Rotherham, who founded the education blog Eduwonk, is also working with CMT by posting content on his blog and tweeting, she said.

Folk added that CMT, with a core team of three PR staffers working on the campaign, is targeting education and entertainment media to raise awareness of the program. The network is also working with its radio team and will “integrate the messaging throughout [its] channel,” she said.

In October, CMT will enter phase two of the initiative by allowing users who visit the website to create their own “personalized road map” of goals and plans, Folk said. The map, which will also help people figure out a plan that can work for them, can be shared on both Facebook and Twitter.

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