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National Star College

Admissions drive that also challenged public perceptions

Communitas won a competitive pitch to work with National Star College - a specialist FE provider for young people with complex disabilities – with a remit to raise the profile of specialist provision amongst eligible families.

A survey of more than 1,600 parents that ran concurrently with the marketing revealed that the vast majority of parents of children with SEN and disabilities have been given no information about the existence of specialist FE provision – in spite of their Local Authority being required to provide it. We enabled the charity to gain further qualitative insight from parents by running a sponsored thread on Mumsnet asking for their experiences with FE, both positive and negative, while running adverts throughout the site to drive awareness.

The admissions campaign was also designed to reach the general public with the message that young people with disabilities are motivated by many of the hopes and fears that affect their able-bodied peers.  As with all young people, the right educational environment can make a vital contribution to their successful future.

Says Account Director Hannah Jefferies, ‘It was clear from our first meetings with National Star that they consider their students as teenagers or young adults, first and foremost. The College recognises that they have the same desires to live independently, have great mates and follow their interests as anyone who’s able-bodied. We were determined to reflect that through the campaign creative by using positive imagery and single descriptors that were aspirational, and that everyone could relate to (though they may not have previously made the connection with disabled young people).’

Multi-channel campaign 

Six current and former students were featured in a poster series under descriptors that reflected what they saw as key achievements from their time at National Star College, such as Sports coach, BFFs and Entrepreneur. Accompanying films were hosted on National Star’s YouTube channel and featured on the posters via QR codes to bring the students’ achievements, successes and stories to life.

Working closely with Damselfly PR (National Star’s retained PR consultant) Communitas also organised a mini roadshow, an interactive workshop at BETT, secured local press coverage, informed 227 local parent networks about the survey and planned and delivered a display advertising campaign targeting Bristol’s main train stations and also Bluewater shopping centre.

Impact of our campaign

The campaign had a widespread reach amongst its target audience with 84,696 impressions via Mumsnet advertising, 60,317 via social media channels and the videos on QR codes were viewed by 1,293 people. The roadshows and associated advertising in Bluewater and The Galleries shopping centres received a footfall of 538,461 and 205,000 respectively. Response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive. While the campaign was not aimed at fundraising there have nonetheless been donations coming from the public in recognition of how staff were engaging with the students at the roadshows. We’re looking forward to seeing how this raised awareness will relate to admissions in the coming months.

Says David Ellis Chief Executive, National Star: “We were looking for an organisation that would understand the values and ethos of a charity working with young adults with disabilities and when we met with both Jane and Hannah we knew that there would be a good ‘fit’ between Communitas and National Star. Communitas were then a great support in helping us develop a marketing campaign that we had never attempted before, including the use of social media, the production of very strong marketing materials and putting on marketing roadshows in shopping centres around the country.”

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