How One Interview Turned a Champion User into an Ed Tech PR Viral Sensation

Apr 26, 2017

By: Julia Brolin

People like to hear stories about people like themselves. Not products or things. It’s a saying I keep at the top of my mind when helping members of the PRP client family identify “good” stories. The education industry is unique in that educators want to share their success, and want others to learn about what their colleagues are doing to improve student achievement. I always tell clients that when an educator shares their success after using your product, others take notice, which brings immediate credibility to your solution and your brand. Well-crafted stories that don’t appear to be product plugs are the backbone of a successful ed tech PR campaign.


DL Anthony Johnson Classroom


One of the best things a company can do is to identify a character (a user), then share their story of how your product created more value for that customer’s students, teachers, school, or district. Their colleagues will read the story and identify similarities between the character and themselves. They think, “If it worked for them, I wonder if I could make that work for me and my students?” When readers are able to make that connection, they are well on their way to becoming potential customers.


Meet Anthony Johnson

Anthony Johnson, an elementary science and social studies teacher in Salisbury, NC, is innovative, creative, driven, and well-respected among his peers. His ideas of reformatting his classroom to feel like a city, Johnsonville, is unlike any other. Our team immediately knew this was a story that needed to be shared, allowing educators across the country and the world to learn from his experience and recreate his success in their own classrooms.


Learn how PRP helped one educator become a viral sensation. 


After connecting via email, we scheduled a 30-minute phone interview after school during which Anthony provided his perspective on how school should be a simulation of adulthood where students work, create, and learn about personal finance and entrepreneurial skills. He created an environment where his students could experience real-world situations and gain insights into global affairs. Students tend to view his classroom less as a “classroom” and more of an interactive city where all projects intertwine to create an ecosystem of businesses and homes.


When I hung up the phone, I knew the story was going to be a hit, and here’s why: 

  • Anthony’s story is unique! We had never ever heard of another educator taking this approach in the classroom, so we knew it would stand out, especially coming from Anthony, who is a former high school dropout.
  • He was ready and willing to share his story. Anthony was always quick to respond to phone calls, emails, and was able to edit and approve drafted articles within 24 hours. This made him easy to work with and allowed us to move on opportunities with tight deadlines.
  • His story appealed to a very broad audience. Although he is a teacher, his replicable classroom model attracted administrators, principals, other teachers, and even straight technology folks. Each media outlet has its own focus, and during our PR campaign, we were able highlight different facets of Anthony’s story for a variety of ed tech news outlets.


In a matter of six months, Anthony’s story went viral. Through various analytics tools, our team was able to track 200+ new leads for our client as a result of earned media placements in education publications. All this success came out of one 30-minute interview and Anthony’s eagerness to share his story. To me, this is a prime example of how a powerful story and a team of highly skilled storytellers can make waves in the media—and create sales opportunities for the client who got it all started.


Thank you for sharing!


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