UTS Library

At the Cutting Edge for 125 Years


Wilderness School

PR Company: 

Carve Consulting

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2010 C11 - 6



Executive Summary: 

Adelaide’s oldest girls school, Wilderness School, commissioned Carve Consulting in February 2009 to create a PR program to maximise the success and exposure of the school’s 125th anniversary celebration event and provide strategic communication counsel across all stakeholder groups.


Wilderness achieved significant local, state and National media coverage throughout its milestone year and continued to do so after this program.


In addition, the community day, the Garden of Wildy Delights, saw record attendance and despite the global financial crisis, more than $80,000 was raised at the major fundraising event, the sold-out Wildy Winter Wonderland Gala Ball.

Situation Analysis: 

The school celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2009 and had planned a series of events for the extended school community.


Whilst the school was experiencing record enrolment growth, it was important for it to use the opportunity of the key milestone to ‘tell the Wilderness story’ and articulate its values and education philosophies.


These are key factors in the decision making process for parents when choosing (and staying at) a school and therefore in an increasingly competitive school environment, it was important these were communicated to the existing and greater community clearly.


In order to effectively develop a plan that met these school’s objectives, a strategic communication audit was undertaken by Carve Consulting.


This process interrogated the thinking behind the schools values, target publics, key messages and communication goals.


Carve Consulting conducted a session with the Principal and department heads to identify the various key publics (importantly from a departmental rather than purely a marketing department perspective) and assess the various ways it communicated with them.


The consultancy identified the target publics that were most important for achieving the objectives and developed a set of tailored key messages to be used in all communication.


The consultancy recommended a communication survey be undertaken to gain important feedback from these groups as to their preference for communication and the effectiveness of existing communication methods.


A communication survey was distributed to the existing school community, co-ordinated by the school’s Head of Marketing and Community Relations.


The results of the survey showed the existing methods of communication were well accepted, but the key messages identified in the research process could be more effectively communicated via publicity.


Informal feedback gained by the Head of Marketing and Communications was that media coverage in local publications was a key objective and criteria for success of the events and the PR program.


This provided evidence a PR strategy relying heavily on local publicity would be most successful.


A media evaluation was conducted to determine the most relevant titles for the school. This also examined which publications were most likely read by the school community based on demographic and geographic data.


A media list was developed highlighting individual journalists writing about education issues, schools and issues affecting young people such as careers and social issues.


Further research was conducted to develop the media focussed plan including benchmarking the school’s current positioning – what was being said, frequency of stories, key messages, and spokesperson.

A competitor analysis looked at how the school’s key competitors were positioned and which titles were most likely to cover their stories.

Target Policies: 

  •  Current students and parents
    • General community will ask their opinions / advice on what the school is ‘really like’, what it stands for and its philosophies
  • Media;
    • The research showed one of the most important channels of communicating the message to the existing community and general public
  • Parents and Friends;
    • Form the extended school community and act as advocates for the school 
  • Old scholars;
    • Key part of the extended school community and ‘ambassadors’ for the school in the general community
  • Prospective parents / General community;
    • Despite record enrolments, overall positioning of school in this target public important for ongoing success of the school

Communication Strategy: 

A strategic communication plan was developed that identified the schools key publics, communication objectives, messages, and outlined a roadmap of activities for achieving these objectives.


Based on the research and objectives, the program relied heavily on publicity and in particular, there was a focus on local media outlets and social coverage.


It was important for the school’s management team to have a good understanding of PR and what was newsworthy.


The communication strategy was two-tiered:


Event specific focussed program


This element of the strategy focussed on identifying and generating media coverage in target local publications such as SA Life, The Advertiser and the Messenger to raise awareness of the events such as the Gala Ball and the Community Day to encourage attendance.


Another part of this element was to raise awareness of key messages such as the school’s heritage through the 125th anniversary milestone.


In addition, social coverage of the events was of utmost importance to reinforcing the strong sense of community and demonstrating this to the general public.


Media relations program


Achieving the objectives such as articulating the schools values and education philosophies, raising awareness among the general public as one of the best girls Schools in Australia and its position as oldest girls school as well as making its voice heard in the competitive environment were core to the media relations program.


This element was designed to ensure the schools key messages reached its intended audiences.


A key part of this approach was to develop strong relationships with targeted journalists at key publications to ensure the school’s stories were covered.

There was a focus on developing mutually beneficial relationships which meant journalists could come to Wilderness for comment or guidance on any educational issue without always having to provide coverage.


The PR program involved a multifaceted approach which involved a number of separate programs as outlined below:


Event specific focussed program


Garden of Wildy Delights Program – objective was to raise awareness of the community day among the local community and the broader SA community to encourage attendance.


The program was also designed to use the event as an opportunity to raise awareness of the 125th   anniversary and the key message it was Adelaide’s oldest girls school.


Wildy Winter Wonderland Program – the focus was focus on key SA titles to encourage ticket sales and position the event as the ‘must attend event’ on the social calendar.


A strong focus was also on social coverage across all media in SA as this was a key opportunity to raise awareness of the 125th anniversary key message.


Media relations program


What is PR session – educating management team and raise awareness of newsworthy stories for possible use in the program.


Media list development – developed a key media list for tailored distribution of relevant news about the school.


Media relations / news release program – focussed on achieving regular coverage, including key messages, in key titles throughout the year in local publications.  

Journalist program – a tailored program aimed at developing strong relationships with education and key writers at The Advertiser, The Messenger and The Australian.


Throughout the year there was regular media coverage of the school in key publications such as The Australian, The Advertiser, SA Life, City North Messenger and the Sunday Mail. Overall there were eighteen separate pieces of coverage (Appendix A, Figure 1).


Most importantly, this coverage included key messages such as the school’s focus on community, being the oldest girls school in Adelaide but also being ‘cutting edge’ and academically strong (Appendix A, Figure 2 and 3).


The success of the journalist program was also evident with key journalists such as Lauren Novak from The Advertiser directly contacting the school for inclusion in a story about the success of one of the school’s Year 12 students (Appendix A, Figure 3).


The key events were a huge success with more than 1100 people attending the community day, with  many old scholars and past parents attending, hugely exceeding the 700 expected and the Gala ball being sold out and raising more than $80,000 (Appendix A, Figure 4, 5, 6)


Media coverage appeared in key titles promoting the events such as SA Life (Appendix A, Figure 7 and 8).


The journalist relation program was as huge success with journalists targeted contacting the school directly for comment on relevant issues and for assistance with stories such as the cyber bullying story (Appendix A, Figure 9).

The ongoing success of this program has been evident with media coverage in 2010 more than the school has had in the past (Appendix A, Figure 10).


Articulate its values and education philosophies to existing and wider community


Eight pieces of media coverage including reference to the school’s values and education philosophies were achieved in publications such as The Advertiser, The Messenger and The Australian reaching a wide cross section of existing and wider community.


Outcome: 100% achieved


Raise awareness among general community in South Australia of its position as Adelaide’s oldest girls school


Nine pieces of media coverage referencing the school’s 125th anniversary and ‘Adelaide’s oldest girls school’ were achieved including The Australian, SA Life x 3, The Advertiser x 2, The Standard Messenger, City Messenger and The Sunday Mail.


Outcome: 100% achieved


Be acknowledged as one of the best leading girls school in Australia among the general public


Wilderness was the only South Australian school that appeared in a special feature on private schools in The Australian (Appendix A, Figure 2).


A full page article in The Advertiser (Appendix A, Figure 3) featured exam tips from Wilderness’ 2008 dux


Outcome: 100% achieved


Make its voice ‘heard among the noise’ of increasing private school competitiveness through regular


The school obtained regular coverage (at least every month) in key publications throughout the year and in the first quarter of 2010 the media relations program continued to prove successful with the school obtaining significant coverage.


Several comments from parents and even parents of other private schools, staff and students supported the view that Wilderness was very well represented in the local media.


Outcome: 100% achieved


Reinforce the already strong sense of community and reassure its existing community (students, parents) them they have made the right choice in sending their children to Wilderness School


The extended school community declared the events were a resounding success with greater attendance than expected, significant funds raised and generous media coverage.


Reports from the school council were very positive about the events success and informal comments from parents supported this.


Outcome: 100% achieved


Re-connect with any members of the school community who it had lost touch with, such as old scholars and parents of past students and engage them as advocates of the school

Many of the attendees at both key events were from the extended school community such as part parents and old scholars.


Outcome: 100% achieved


The strategic nature of the PR program with the clear focus on key messages aimed at key audiences ensured the success of this campaign.