Learning a thing or two about strategic communications

Project Overview

Nicolet Union School District (Nicolet) is an independent high school district with an award-winning, four-year college preparatory public high school and a richly diverse student body encompassing four of Milwaukee’s North Shore communities: Bayside, Fox Point, Glendale and River Hills. Mueller Communications’ first engagement with Nicolet resulted in a successful operational referendum and quickly evolved into a long-lasting, ongoing relationship in which Mueller provides comprehensive strategy and support for all of the District’s communications efforts.

The Challenge

The Nicolet Union High School District’s operational referendum was expiring in 2016 and District leadership knew that without a replacement referendum, the District faced a budget shortfall averaging $3.15 million per year each of the next six years. Instructional programs, services and class sizes were at risk, which would directly affect the students of Nicolet Union High School. The continued need for referendum communications also unearthed an underlying need for ongoing, strategic communications support to ensure the District was engaging with families and taxpayers in its community in a consistent, clear and transparent way before, throughout and long after the referendum process.

The Solution

Mueller Communications established a communications strategy and a distinct brand for Nicolet Union High School District that has allowed them to bring awareness to the achievements of students, teachers and alumni, and demonstrate the value in providing additional funding for the district.

Mueller’s efforts to generate awareness included media outreach, external community publications, internal communications to students, families, and teachers, and the launch and maintenance of social media accounts. In advance of the referendum, Mueller executed a strategy that built on the awareness campaign and educated residents through hosting informational sessions, conducting surveys, media outreach and coordination, consistent messaging, as well as a proactive government affairs strategy to strengthen relationships with local elected officials.

Serving as the media representative for Nicolet since 2016, Mueller continues to pitch positive news stories that highlight the achievements of Nicolet staff and students, including awards, unique family stories, class projects, events and more. Mueller has continued to implement and oversee a strategic and comprehensive outreach to key student, staff and community audiences through communications channels like social media, weekly updates, letters and emails to families, and the design, development and distribution of Nicolet’s twice annual community-wide newsletters. 

Mueller also serves as one of the district’s first calls when a crisis hits. We have helped the district communicate through multiple crises in a clear, consistent way that prioritizes transparency and builds trust.

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The Results

Our outreach helped pass the 2016 referendum and the district continues to receive praise for its communications approach. Consistent, branded internal and external communications are polished and reflect the high-caliber education students receive at Nicolet. Whether the district is sharing achievements and heartwarming stories, updating the community on a crisis, ensuring local realtors are armed with current school information for prospective families or announcing the need for additional financial support, Nicolet’s commitment to ensuring the community is informed has increased morale and encouraged a sense of trust.

Mueller Communications continues to be Nicolet’s ongoing communications partner, in addition to supporting Nicolet through the remote learning transition during the COVID-19 pandemic, an April 2021 operational referendum, a successful capital referendum in April 2022 and much more. We look forward to continuing our partnership with Nicolet for years to come.