Inside Look

Amplifying Education Equity Through Strategic Communications

Access and success in higher education should be equally available to all students. Bottom Line is making that a reality by partnering with degree-aspiring students of color from under-resourced communities to get into and through college, and to successfully launch a career. Through building strong connections with students, providing them with individual support, and ensuring they have the guidance they need to persist and earn a college degree, Bottom Line has already helped over 20,000 students across the United States.

Bottom Line received a $15 million grant in funding from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in the fall of 2022. As might be expected from such a significant jolt to the organization, this funding allowed for preparation to expand their model. However, such an influx of funding could have implied to current and legacy Bottom Line funders that the organization was now set and no longer needed funding. A strategic PR approach was needed to ensure the organization navigated this critical juncture to effectively steward the new resources toward key organizational objectives while maintaining regular funding and building thought leadership credibility. Bottom Line retained The Wakeman Agency to develop and execute this strategic PR approach.

The Wakeman Agency’s Engagement with Bottom Line was based upon the following objectives:

  • Elevate and amplify the presence, success and potential of Bottom Line to increase brand awareness in preparation for its 2030 goals.
  • Strengthen the profile of the CEO to support thought leadership development.
  • Create a narrative for the grant award that motivates current funders to continue their investment in the organization.
  • Provide supporting communications guidance and materials to leverage the impressive results of the Random Control Trial (RCT) conducted—the gold standard in scientific evaluation of program impact—to demonstrate the reliability of Bottom Line’s model.

To achieve these objectives The Wakeman Agency employed the following strategies and tactics:

  • Developed a narrative that allowed Bottom Line to highlight its expertise in the education space and position its work as a true disruptor of the nonprofit higher education guidance industry.
  • Created a sense of urgency, drawing on key news items and unfolding political and social events, to strengthen engagement around investment in Bottom Line’s work.
  • Focused on strategic communications and media relations as an approach to driving awareness of Bottom Line, catalyzing stakeholder groups into action.
  • Prioritized initial efforts on a few key areas to create a steady drumbeat of media placements and influence building activities.
  • Collaboratively constructed foundational elements that will aid the expansion of Bottom Line and boost brand awareness to key stakeholder groups.

The engagement was a resounding success. The Wakeman Agency effectively helped Bottom Line consider how best to amplify its reach, for example, through:

  • Providing counsel on language use, framing and positioning regarding emerging news topics.
  • Timing, sequencing and internal/external coordination on Issuing public statements and commentary for relevant and timely media stories.
  • Presenting the organization’s thought leadership at industry conferences by identifying opportunities and preparing successful submissions from concept elaboration to proposal execution.
  • Creating audience narratives to discuss organizational expansion to a new city, fostering awareness and credibility building in a new market.
  • Positioning internal talent to engage at the local and state level on policy issues relevant to the organization’s mission.
  • Preparing and coaching spokespeople to testify in front of state legislatures to advance funding for more equitable access to higher education in state schools.
  • Media coaching for student ambassadors to prepare students to speak to external audiences about their experience with the organization.

Through these efforts we were able to build foundational elements of thought leadership for the organization so that they have become sought after by media for their insights and expertise on relevant matters. This resulted in a wide range of media placements about Bottom Line or commentary by the organization, including:

Schedule a confidential consultation to learn how our strategic communications offerings can elevate your organization’s impact.