Discover goes to school with money management lessons

At the start of February, Discover Financial Services began a five-year, $10 million journey to educate US high school students on money management.

Company: Discover Financial Services
Campaign: Pathway to Financial Success
Agency mix: Burson-Marsteller (PR); Proof Integrated Communications (PSA development and production); Fuse Box (website development); Direct Impact (grassroots efforts)
In-house team: Leslie Sutton, PR director; Matthew Towson, senior manager, media relations and community affairs; Jennifer Grisamore, project manager for community affairs
Budget: $200,000 to $300,000

At the start of February, Discover Financial Services began a five-year, $10 million journey to educate US high school students on money management.

The goal of "Pathway to Financial Success" is to reach 500,000-plus students by providing grants to public high schools that will pay for financial courses to be incorporated into curriculums, says Discover PR director Leslie Sutton. The program will also prepare teachers to discuss finances with students.

"Not enough is being done to educate kids about money," she says. "We can play a key role in helping provide a solution."

Burson-Marsteller, a Discover PR agency partner since July 2011, helped develop the effort, adds Sutton, and now the firm is offering counsel and reaching out to national and local media.

"The program is largely unbranded because Discover feels so deeply this is important," says Erica Swerdlow, Midwest market leader and MD of brand marketing at Burson. "Communications is the one way people will learn who is behind it."

With a team of 10 staffers, the firm is also targeting personal finance and mommy bloggers, encouraging them to visit pathwaytofinancialsuccess.org to learn more on getting schools involved, adds Swerdlow.

On the site, as well as on YouTube, people can view the PSA, "Awkward Conversations," which was created by Proof Integrated Communications. The PSA plays with the idea of parents talking to their kids about sex, highlighting how uncomfortable some parents are discussing financial issues with their children, says Sutton.

Along with the site, Discover will post Facebook and Twitter messages about the program to reach a wider teen audience.

Grassroots efforts were led by Burson's sister agency Direct Impact. Discover will be attending PTA meetings and education conferences to "identify people within key markets who really care about this issue," adds Sutton.

Discover will measure success based on traditional and social media impressions, as well as feedback about the curriculums from teachers and students.

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