Public opinion research and prospective student market data indicated that many students, families and taxpayers in Washington State believed that public higher education was either unattainable or not worth the investment relative to cost. With evidence to the contrary and these attitudes threatening higher education funding by the legislature, The University of Washington and Washington State University joined together in an attempt to dispel these myths and misconceptions, and to create positive beliefs around access to public higher education in Washington State.

Phinney Bischoff was engaged to develop a state-wide marketing and public affairs campaign to make the case that public higher education is affordable, achievable and worth the investment. The campaign was designed to present two long-time rival universities as united around a common purpose, with the aim to build an understanding that these and other universities in Washington State are more accessible and affordable than students may realize.

The primary audience for the campaign was influencers of prospective students, such as parents, teachers, friends, coaches and mentors. Our engagement kicked off with an in-depth stakeholder workshop to learn more about the target audience and to investigate how we would address their beliefs and concerns through this campaign.

Working from the shared ethos of both universities to bring quality education to Washington State residents, Phinney Bischoff developed a series of campaign concepts around the key message that public higher education is within reach in Washington and is a primary pathway for our residents and communities to thrive. The campaign needed to reflect the diversity of our state, be inclusive in its message and create a space to unite around a common purpose, despite our differences. The concepts were designed to inspire audiences to feel undeterred, informed and empowered by the idea of college as a viable choice.

After a thorough exploration of directions and concepts, as well as a series of creative testing measures, we arrived at the final campaign theme, Yes, It’s Possible, which takes a straight-talk approach to directly address our target audience’s pain points.

Our team was engaged to provide the creative concept, messaging framework, creative direction and guidelines for the campaign so that each in-house communications team could execute within their respective communication channels and communities.

The campaign went live with a targeted digital advertising and PR effort, supported by public and streaming radio spots, Spanish language media placements and a robust social media campaign. Media and advertising pointed influencers to a campaign microsite where there was a wealth of information about accessing funding, success statistics and other resources.