Washington University in St. Louis

The Challenge

Position the Executive MBA program as a tool for senior professionals to take their career to the next level

Washington University in St. Louis’ Executive MBA (EMBA) program has produced more than 2,500 graduates since it was founded in 1983. However, in recent years, the university’s leadership recognized it needed to conduct more aggressive outreach to increase enrollment.

They turned to Hawthorne Strategy Group to design a communications program to help boost program visibility and awareness. Specifically, the Hawthorne team was tasked with finding opportunities to build and strengthen the credibility of Washington University’s program in target markets – including Central Illinois, Kansas City, and Denver – and increase local engagement amongst prospective students and media.

The Solution

Supplement Washington University’s advertising messages with more in-depth, effective communications

To increase local engagement and strengthen awareness of Washington University’s EMBA program, Hawthorne focused on earned media as a way to showcase the benefits of the program – identifying leads in the area and encouraging enrollment by highlighting alumni success stories, the expertise of EMBA staff, and other topics relevant to the local business landscape. This was done through an extensive story-mining process where interviews were conducted to identify noteworthy graduates in each target market.

Hawthorne also developed press materials to bring to life the differences between Washington University and its competitors and created a comprehensive digital media strategy to cultivate content-rich channels for prospective student engagement. 

The Results

Increased awareness and engagement in target markets

Hawthorne leveraged unique stories – such as an NFL star who used his EMBA to obtain a senior-level business position at a global company, and a former Black Hawk pilot who graduated from the program to start her own successful business – to generate more than 200,000 impressions and secure more than 15 placements.

The coverage focused on the dynamic and compelling stories of EMBA graduates, the benefits of the program, and how it can be best utilized. It also had 100% message pull-through for the client. Top placements included:

  • Print and online coverage from the Illinois Business Journal, Denver Business Journal, the Edwardsville IntelligencerS. Veterans MagazineBizJournals.com, and Poets & Quants
  • Television coverage on KHQA-TV (Quincy, IL), WEEK-TV (Peoria, IL), and KDNL-TV (St. Louis, MO)
  • Radio coverage on KTRS-AM (St. Louis, MO)
  • International coverage in London-based business school publication, Business Because