This campaign raised awareness on something that matters and got the buy-in of their target audience to change behaviour. They got the brand upfront, recieved a significant amount of coverage around the opinion of the Oxford University Press and did very well on a small budget.


  • Cowshed and The Open University in Wales
    Graduation Ceremony 2018
  • Gerard Kelly & Partners
    GL Assessment: A Dangerous Diet
  • Livewire PR
    Autism with Attitude: Challenging perceptions and celebrating achievement
  • Loughborough University
    Heart 2 Heart

Winner entry:

Brief and objectives:

As a charitable organisation and one that engages with teachers on a daily basis, our thought leadership strategy at Oxford University Press (OUP) is motivated by the desire to further the impact of our publishing and address the barriers preventing children from accessing education. We were looking for an opportunity to solidify our position as the experts in children’s language.

The ‘Why closing the word gap matters’ campaign aimed to;

  • Use our understanding of the issue to alert policymakers, schools, teachers, and parents to the word gap problem, including amplifying the voice of teachers
  • Collaborate with policymakers, influencers, parents, and teachers to suggest new approaches for improving children’s vocabulary.
  • Connect teachers with our high quality curriculum resources, specifically designed to address vocabulary challenges.

The idea, research and planning:

The word gap (a situation in which many children start school understanding significantly fewer words than their counterparts) is a current and compelling issue. Our working group agreed to focus on it because it is firmly our area of expertise, providing the opportunity for us to have a direct impact.

It was clear from the beginning that the Department for Education (DfE) was a priority campaign audience, in order to make changes to education policy. Teachers and school leaders were also vital in providing solutions, and we wanted to advocate for them in the public sphere as many already understood what needed to change. Parents were integral to supporting teachers and adding political pressure, but also to understanding their own role in their children’s language development.

Early on, we conducted original market research using our established teachers forum. We also consulted our extensive network of education experts on the issue, and invited them to contribute to the report. The research results and influencer contributions formed the basis of ‘The Oxford Language Report’ – the publication which sat at the core of our campaign.

We planned an integrated campaign, using PESO principles, in order to reach our core audiences and deliver the policy and behaviour changes we sought.

Strategy, tactics, creativity and innovation:

The report launch created a dynamic call to action which reverberated across the education space. We identified the phrase ‘word gap’ as one already being used to describe the issue, including the use of #wordgap on social media. Using this phrase repeatedly in the report, our media interviews, marketing materials and SEO activities emphasised our role as thought leaders on the issue.

Early engagement with the DfE enabled us to prepare them, understand alignment with policy, and get their support in furthering the reach of the report. We sent them indicative content, met in advance, and contacted on launch. Preparing spokespeople for media in advance gave us a larger share of voice on the day, and provoked discussion among a broader audience.

This introduced OUP as the leaders on this issue to a wide range of organisations. We encouraged our UK employees to support the campaign. Making the issue relevant to them as parents and demonstrating how their organisation was championing an important issue was highly motivating, furthering our employer brand.


  • We handled the “sell-in” of the report in-house, teeing up key journalists in advance of the embargo on the story lifting, and the majority of the media list the day before.
  • We coordinated our multiple education social channels to share engaging online content with parents and teachers. Animations and Facebook Live posts increased our reach significantly as people shared it with their own networks.
  • We equipped sales teams for conversations with individual teachers using a specific crib sheet.
  • A Google Ad campaign increased the reach of the report and enabled us to demonstrate the way in which people were then visiting the tailored OUP product pages as part of their journey.
  • We provided colleagues with a summary to use in external meetings and detailed information for developing new products.

Measurement and evaluation:

The ‘Why closing the word gap matters’ campaign was successful in;

  • Changing behaviour in the classroom: 91% of teachers in our post-report survey said they are ‘quite’ or ‘very’ likely to review how vocabulary is taught in their school as a result of reading the report.
  • Positioning OUP as a thought leader on the issues of the word gap: – 60+ pieces of media coverage, 4 of which were national broadcast and 8 national press, including The Guardian, The Telegraph, and BBC online. Our Strategy Director, Jane Harley, was interviewed on BBC (1) Breakfast on the day the report launched.
  • The website achieved 6812 page views in the first 6 months after launch, as well as 1961 downloads of the report, summary, and infographic. In recurring instances since there have been over 400 downloads of the report in a month. Our digital subscriber email got an open rate of 27.43%, 623 unique report downloads, and 770 unique website visitors (75% new).
  • In the first 6 months following the report, we had 963 views of blog posts, 131 shares and 5.5k views on our associated Facebook Live, 173 retweets, and 373 likes on Facebook.
  • We delivered business growth with 9% of campaign web page visitors going on to view related product pages.
  • Stimulating policy changes: Our report was referenced in national media coverage announcing the DfE were increasing funds to help close the word gap. We have ongoing dialogue with the DfE regarding future Maths and English initiatives.

Budget and campaign impact:

Total budget: £10,500 which covered report generation, research, media training, design, and online and social promotion. Together with the success and initial reach of the campaign, its biggest achievement is its legacy:

  • We were approached by the National Literacy Trust and the Association of School and College Leaders to collaborate to try to close the word gap. This led to an upcoming white paper and a focus on the word gap at national conferences.
  • OUP have undertaken new publishing focused specifically on the word gap and have a working group dedicated to continuing the work this campaign started. Thought leadership is now a priority at OUP and being undertaken in many more countries and departments as a result of this campaign.