PR News 2016 Nonprofit PR Awards: Branding/Re-Branding

Winner: Right Hat—A New Way of Thinking

Waynflete School was struggling with the public’s perception that the school was not academically rigorous, too “artsy” and primarily for wealthy families. Although the school was widely loved by current families and enjoyed low attrition rates, new families were not inquiring about enrolling their children at the pace desired. Right Hat’s goal was to breathe new life into Waynflete’s outdated branding efforts, improve its brand recognition and, in turn, bolster both inquiry and application rates.

Although the students at Waynflete achieve the second-highest SAT scores in Maine, the negative misconception about the school’s academic performance remained. Thus, Right Hat’s challenge was to prove that even though the school uses less traditional teaching methods, it still has top academics.

The discovery process revealed that the main problem was many families perceived that stringent rules and a fixed curriculum equaled a stellar education. To get past this, a paradigm shift needed to be created in how education is viewed. The tagline “Learn to Learn” was developed to steer the conversation to learning the skills you need for a lifetime, not a test. And interest was created by using a series of provocative questions on ads, posters and email campaigns.

Careful attention was paid to both qualitative and quantitative results throughout the process. Right Hat has witnessed both attitudes and understanding shift in significant ways, and by hearing prospective families, donors and others mimic “Learn to Learn,” it knows its messaging is hitting the right chord. And, in the introductory year, inquiries have increased by 15%, and applications by 14%.

Honorable Mentions:

•    Corporation for Public Broadcasting - American Graduate

•    Right Hat - Growing Excellence