ASPR was retained by the nonprofit Educate Now! to engage national reporters before and during a major milestone — the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Educate Now! realized over a year before the anniversary that the nation’s media lens would soon focus again on the city. In particular, the organization had served as a catalyst after the devastating storm to rebuild a failing education system in the city by promoting a new, state-run school district that was comprised of charter schools. Leaders feared that media, left to their own devices, would only want to re-run footage of the hurricane and ignore the rebuilding of the social structure of the city, of which education is the shining star.
It was, and still is, a complicated story to explain and opponents of the old way were eager to promote their messages. Success was achieved beyond expectations and included the incorporation of the initiative’s messages in an address by President Barack Obama, major news coverage and the satisfaction in knowing the story was told accurately. ASPR played two key roles: First, as a convener and planner for all the players in the project. In addition, the team specifically focused on top tier media coverage that would define how other influencers felt about the situation.
News coverage was monitored throughout the engagement and a “rapid response” function was executed to quickly capture falsehoods and respond to them with correct information and data. Overall, the majority of the coverage included positive messages about New Orleans education system; public policy-focused outlets had more time to delve into the details about how this success was occurring and how it can serve as a national model.