First awarded in 1998, the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award (formerly the Coming Up Taller Award) is the signature program of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH), for which First Lady Michelle Obama currently serves as honorary chair. The award is presented every year to recognize 12 afterschool and out-of-school programs that achieve measurable outcomes for at-risk youth by engaging them in the arts or the humanities. Outcomes include improvements in school attendance, educational achievement, and graduation rates, as well as increased skill in problem-solving, teamwork, and persistence. The award is presented in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). It is the highest honor the nation can bestow on such programs, presented in an East Room ceremony at the White House by the First Lady.
Metropolitan Group has been engaged by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities since 2010 to provide strategic communication and media relations counsel for the annual award program, helping to broaden and deepen both awareness and media coverage in order to increase understanding of the power of these programs to change lives and communities.
Metropolitan Group developed the communication strategy for the awards program, including articulation of a new message framework that focused more overtly on the outcomes and impact of these programs in kids’ lives and communities. Our intention was to broaden coverage beyond the “grip and grin” coverage that many media outlets had given in the past, often failing to provide a context for the award based on the outcomes created by the winning program. We also developed and implemented the media outreach and engagement strategy, focusing on both a national strategy and a regional/local strategy to reflect the media markets of each of the 12 annual awardees. We provided media relations training to the awardees (including both adult and youth representatives of each of the 12 winning programs).
MG also provided on-site coordination in the White House of the national and international media in attendance, including scheduling and facilitation of interviews and follow up with media outlets.
Our results report from the 2011 awards program showed that we had achieved nearly 1,500 media placements across the country, resulting in more than 600 million gross impressions, including placements in the nation’s leading media outlets (CNN, USA Today, Huffington Post, New York Times, etc.). Just as importantly, our evaluation found that the expanded message frame had been adopted by many news outlets, helping to increase understanding of the power of these arts and humanities programs to achieve powerful, positive outcomes for youth.