CubanEight - Renaissance Learning and What Kids Are Reading

 A back-to-school approach to improving literacy standards – CubanEight promoting Renaissance Learning and What Kids Are Reading 

Renaissance Learning is a global educational software company working with over 2,500 UK primary and secondary schools. The company helps schools develop better and more tailored approaches to teaching literacy and reading, based on assessing each child’s ‘reading age’. This leads to better engagement from children, while ensuring their reading ability is gradually stretched and challenged as they progress.

Renaissance Learning wanted to raise and maintain its profile across key audiences - teachers, parents and education industry influencers. Promoting its annual ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report - which included data on what, and how well, over 300,000 children were reading - was central to the brief.

PR objectives were to improve website traffic, downloads and awareness of the report, as well as convey specific key messages regarding the importance of children reading for pleasure and its core product offering, ultimately positioning the company as experts in the fields of literacy and education.

Any potential pitfalls you needed to take into account?

The education space is crowded – there are ongoing debates around literacy standards, teaching practices and achievement so it was important to develop a strategy to make Renaissance Learning stand out in this field.

In addition, because of the nature of Renaissance Learning’s offering, stories risk becoming off message – for example negating the hard work of teachers and becoming negative in terms of children’s achievements. To combat this, the team worked closely with Renaissance Learning to develop messages and briefed spokespeople accordingly.

Renaissance Learning wanted all coverage to be aligned with its broader marketing messages, including the importance of children reading at the appropriate level for their age, and being adequately challenged and guided by professionals, such as teachers and librarians, so it was essential to create an overarching campaign strategy to reflect this.

OK, and what was your grand plan to tackle this?

Strategy focused on factual, research-based content, largely extricated from Renaissance Learning’s data, which was mined for interesting angles to support key messages.

Each year, Renaissance Learning generates a report which analyses the usage of its literacy software by hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren. This report was used to create interesting media stories that could be interwoven into wider education debates, including the most popular children’s books and how this differed to the most read books, as well as key trends in school reading in 2013.

Another news story focused on Renaissance Learning’s research into GCSE-level texts, which showed they were inaccessible to many GCSE pupils because of a lower-than-expected reading age. These stories were phased and released periodically to sustain momentum.

The campaign involved securing independent spokespeople to provide credibility, including children’s authors, organisations such as The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and the National Literacy Trust, and report author Keith Topping, Professor of Educational at Dundee University. National awareness days such as National Book Day and National Libraries Day were used as hooks to ensure that the campaign was timely and relevant.

Sounds good. What outcome did all this have on your Renaissance Learning?

Coverage targets were exceeded by 256% with a total of 107 pieces, including The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC Radio 2, BBC Breakfast and BBC Online. Coverage also achieved its objective to convey Renaissance Learning’s key messages around reading for pleasure and its products, whilst positioning its key spokespeople as experts across literacy and education-related topics.

On the day the ‘What Kids Are Reading’ report (2013) was launched, web traffic was 68% higher than the day the report was released in 2012. An article secured on The Guardian’s website was ranked as being the fifth most influential referral to the client’s homepage during the campaign.

Impressive. Any gems of wisdom you learned from working on this that you’d like to pass on?

This campaign reinforced the power of good data, especially when it’s unique. Utilising Renaissance Learning’s data offered a real insight into the state of reading among British children and this had real appeal to the media and wider audiences.

Close collaborative working with the client allowed us to appropriately shape the messaging to suit their aims and objectives. Pre-empting any difficulties and working in advance to resolve these allowed us to get across key messages in a way that ultimately translated into coverage and to the target audience.

Through working with the client we were able to identify what really moved the needle for them. Integrating the campaign with wider marketing activity, such as new website content and driving traffic to pre-defined home pages for example, meant that we could display real ROI and tangible results.

CubanEight is an award-winning PR agency creating and driving campaigns that set its clients apart, by resonating and engaging with their audiences.

For more information please contact Sian Gaskell on 01869 238089 or email  

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