Client: Athabasca University
Uniquely founded on the principles of flexibility and openness, Athabasca
University’s (AU) asynchronous learning model gives students control over their studies so they
can learn whenever and wherever it is right for them. However, this differentiator became
diluted in a marketplace that was in chaos when post-secondary institutions were forced to
move to online learning in response to the pandemic.
To stand out, AU repositioned itself as Canada’s Open University where students can pursue higher education regardless of location, academic history, or age. AU also saw an opportunity to highlight its micro-credentialing professional development courses, offered through its continuing education unit, PowerED, to further differentiate itself in the higher learning category.
The agency rolled out a strategic media relations campaign centered on an Omnibus
poll, “Flying the Pandemic Coop” where resulting news coverage positioned AU as a thought
leader on Canadians’ attitudes and expectations for work and life in a post-pandemic era.
Sharing unique insights from the survey to reinforce AU’s public profile as an accredited
research university, key AU spokespeople promoted PowerED and the university’s unique “open”
positioning to entice Canadians to learn more about its offerings to meet their learning and
The campaign generated 51 stories, secured close to 14 million media impressions
and garnered a qualitative MRP score of 90.98 per cent. Most importantly, from a business-
building perspective, this campaign informed a considerable increase in enrollment for AU’s
PowerED offering, exceeding its initial extended capacity goals. Specifically, the university’s
PowerED revenue (non-credit open enrollment) increased by 22 per cent quarter-over-quarter.
The campaign also earned a Bronze CPRS ACE award in the Best Use of Media Relations (Under $50,000) category.