Three Lessons for Back to School Campaigns

When you logged onto Facebook today, chances are your news feed resembled a JCPenney Back-to-School ad: your friends’ kids modeling fresh outfits, sporting backpacks, and flaunting – or forcing – smiles.

Back-to-school may be all the hype for consumers right now, but marketers, particularly those in the retail and CPG industries, have been planning for it since their “Dads and Grads” campaigns ended in June. In fact, according to the New York Times, this fall’s back-to-school campaigns started even before many students received their grades for the 2012-2013 school year.

As the second major shopping season of the year, accounting for $84 billion in annual sales (a far cry from the mega $580 billion Thanksgiving-New Year’s period, according to the National Retail Federation), back-to-school gives marketers abundant opportunity to position their brands in front of a massive market, beyond just spotlighting products and services. Here are a few ideas to help “school” your next campaign:

back to school, campaign, public relations, thought leadership

  1. Spotlight the Brains Behind the Brand – In most cases, back-to-school marketing and PR is product-driven; the goal is to increase sales. But this does not mean your strategy for executive visibility should move to the back of the class. From food service to technology to athletics, publishing, health and more, the season provides a platform for thought leaders to address trends and issues that arise during the back-to-school discussion. Work with these individuals to develop perspectives that tie the company’s goods and services to the topic at hand, then develop content, pitch appropriate media outlets for an interview or byline article, or create an infographic to visually tell the story. This approach will help organically drive attention to your related offerings.
  2. Know Your ABCs CSRs – Much like promoting thought leadership, elevating your organization’s commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility can be a compelling element of a comprehensive back-to-school campaign. That said, many variables come into play, from a company’s mission, size and established (or not-yet-established) CSR strategy. In other words, if your organization cannot support a year-round commitment to education the same way some major corporations and dedicated non-profits do, consider developing an internal CSR campaign instead. Involving associates at every level in a back-to-school program such as “giving back” or volunteering will positively reflect on the company culture and give more meaning to your back-to-school efforts.
  3. Pick a Partner – Extend the reach of your campaign through cross promotion with one or more of your company partners. Recently, our client Dig-It! Games kicked off a major back-to-school discount deal for its flagship educational game, Mayan Mysteries, and worked in tandem with its key partner, FableVision, to promote it. Not only did this help increase exposure of the discount, it also enabled FableVision to offer a great value to its fans and followers while reinforcing the successful relationship between both organizations.

What helps earn your organization’s back-to-school campaigns a top grade?

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