A PR Case Study: From Pitch to Page One graphic with Photos of The front page of the State Journal from February 12, 2024 and a photo of the article.


A PR Case Study: From Pitch to Page One graphic with Photos of The front page of the State Journal from February 12, 2024 and a photo of the article.

The Challenge

Have a story you think everyone should know about? How will you get your local storyteller — the modern-day journalist — to choose to report your story instead of all the others?

That was the case for two clients: Literacy Network, a Madison-based nonprofit providing life-changing literacy services to adults, and its new funding partner and fellow local nonprofit, Ascendium Education Group.

Ascendium awarded Literacy Network with a significant grant, and our challenge was to secure media placements that highlighted both the transformative impact of Literacy Network and the critical role of Ascendium’s grant in expanding its reach.

Our Approach

Ascendium is a “humble funder” and wants the emphasis of any coverage to highlight its grant recipients. Our goal was to secure coverage that both generated awareness and support for Literacy Network and the significance of Ascendium’s grant in broadening Literacy Network’s reach: two butterflies in one publicity net.

Strategic media targeting: The Wisconsin State Journal is a perfect fit due to its focus on local issues..

Strategic partnerships: Collaborating with organizations like Ascendium can amplify messages and attract media attention.

The power of storytelling: Personal narratives resonate with readers and effectively convey the impact of an organization’s work. We crafted a pitch highlighting human success stories, the partnership with Ascendium, and Literacy Network’s 50th anniversary. This meant collaborating with the client to get Literacy Network students, staff, volunteers, leadership, and alumni available on different dates to accommodate journalists’ fluid schedules.

Relationship building: Understanding media landscapes and building journalist relationships is vital to securing noteworthy placements. We nurtured relationships with key journalists, including Executive Editor Kelly Lecker and Race & Culture Reporter Melissa Renee Perry. Kelly assured The Creative Company team that she wanted the story covered but would need more time. This meant accommodating the journalists while simultaneously asking the client to be patient. When media coverage is close to fruition, it's times like this that media relations and client relations become a balancing act. The Creative Company ensured Kelly and Melissa understood the client's story’s significance and relevance so the two journalists could appropriately relay the client’s intended message to the paper’s audience. 

Newsworthy angle: We positioned the story beyond a simple press release by focusing on the timely issue of adult literacy and the unique partnership with Ascendium.

The Results

Front-page, top-fold coverage in The Wisconsin State Journal: A powerful feature story titled “Volunteer tutors help adults hone their skills” ran on the front page of The Wisconsin State Journal. This major newspaper covers statewide news across Wisconsin. This prominent placement ensured maximum exposure, reaching a broader audience than inside pages. This includes a higher likelihood of reader reactions, increased website traffic, and specific outreach inquiries.

Credibility and trust: Earning such a prominent placement in a respected newspaper reinforces Literacy Network’s and Ascendium’s credibility and attracts potential donors, volunteers, and students.

Compelling storytelling: The article centered on the personal stories of Literacy Network students like Betha Ortiz Hahn and Daniel Hernandez, showcasing the real-world impact of the organization’s work.

Highlighting the partnership: The article explicitly mentioned Ascendium’s grant and its importance in enabling the Literacy network to serve more students, demonstrating the value of their partnership.

Premium media placement: More than 280,000 people had eyes on the online version of the article alone, worth $3,356 per Critical Mention and Worth of Web, software services that measure advertising value equivalency for earned media coverage. As of March 2023, the Wisconsin State Journal has a subscriber count of approximately 51,000 for their weekday print editions. We use the formula for advertising value equivalency to determine the estimated financial value of the physical print article.

AVE = size in lines x advertising rate

Wisconsin State Journal AVE = 8 lines x $290 for premium print advertising

Article top-of-fold AVE =
(134 lines ÷ 8  lines) x $290 = $4,930 

Article continuation on page A6 AVE =
(246 lines ÷ 8  lines) x $250 = $7,687.50

Total AVE for print article = $12,617.50 

Quantifying impact beyond advertising value: While AVE is interesting, this coverage brings real-world outcomes to reality, such as increased enrollment and funding, alongside being positioned as a key player in upcoming policy changes. The article encourages community engagement and support by shedding light on adult literacy needs and Literacy Network student success stories. A feature story like this significantly impacted Madison-area and Dane County community members and will, in turn, inspire donations and volunteer registrations.

Pie chart style graph showing Mentions by Media Type Total - 5 Online - 4 Print - 1
Pie chart style graph showing Audience by Media Type Total - 331,717 Online - 280,717 Print - 51,000
Pie chart style graph showing Publicity by Media Type Total - $15,973.50 Online - $3,356.00 Print - $12,617.50
Image: Photo headshot of the author Craig Hadley of The Creative Company

Ben Sefarbi, 
Public Relations Media Specialist

Get a PR Proposal