Learning and thinking differences, such as ADHD and dyslexia, are invisible disabilities that impact skills like attention, reading, and organization. Over 70 million Americans have learning and thinking differences. They're often misunderstood, undiagnosed, and dismissed, and their differences are viewed as a weakness. Understood.org found that 6 of the 25 million parents of kids with learning differences are highly skeptical or unaware of their child's learning differences. In fact, many of them don’t believe in learning differences,
The past years have brought an incredible change to everyone, particularly to neurodivergent kids, who continue facing academic, social, and emotional challenges. The driving force behind such challenges and skepticism is the stigma associated with neurodiversity.
Understood.org research found that 60% of parents have seen children with learning differences referred to as “lazy” or “not smart.” Over 50% of parents with neurodivergent children are afraid to tell others about their child’s learning differences because of associated biases. While it can be difficult for all parents to start conversations with their children about these challenges due to societal stigmas, it has never been more important.
The research shows the impact parents can have on their children by being involved. Among parents who engaged around their kids’ differences, 80% report improvement in their kids’ lives.
Knowing the importance of parental support, Understood.org 's “Be the Reason” campaign drives awareness and understanding of learning differences among skeptical parents, changes attitudes and behaviors by combatting stigmas around neurodiversity, and helps parents be the reason their child thrives.
Phase one of the campaign focused on building awareness of learning differences among skeptical parents. To do this, Understood.org harnessed the power of first-person storytelling – the “Be the Reason” film, original song/video by The Holderness Family, and “real stories” from Understood.org employees – and injected it into every aspect of the campaign to drive understanding and combat stigma. This content was featured across an interactive landing page, digital ads (Youtube, Facebook, Reddit, etc.) geared towards skeptical parents, and the #YouCanBeTheReason social challenge with parenting influencers on TikTok.
The original film intentionally featured a diverse cast. We know that minority and culturally ethnic families face additional challenges and barriers when diagnosed with learning differences. The campaign reinforced for all families that their understanding is key to their children thriving.
For earned media, Understood.org leveraged the timeliness of Mental Health Awareness Month, given research findings that showed the negative impact of stigmas and lack of parental support on neurodivergent children’s mental health. Outreach to wellness, lifestyle, and parenting media prior to launch resulted in high-profile coverage that drove mainstream awareness of neurodiversity and the campaign.
To increase awareness of learning differences among skeptical parents, the team:
The paid media campaign took a video-first approach, prioritizing high-touch awareness-driving channels to help drive a positive shift in perception. A diversified targeting mix was leveraged across social platforms Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit as well as video partners YouTube, LoopMe, and Captify in order to establish an emotional connection with parents of neurodivergent kids. Campaign creative illustrated how neurodivergent kids need support, not stigma, utilizing cuts of the “Be the Reason” film starring Miya Kofo. The videos created by The Holderness Family for the #YouCanBeTheReason social media challenge were also leveraged across the paid social campaign. Campaign targeting incorporated search behavior and survey-based audience segments in addition to standard demographic and lifestyle targeting in order to really hone in on the easy-going skeptic target.
In addition to changing the minds of over ~97,000 parents with Facebook and Instagram ads, the paid media campaign drove almost 76 million impressions, exceeding its goal by 49%. There have been 45.3 million views of the film (105% to goal), with 24.6 million film completions (154% to goal) both of which exceeded their efficiency goals by 25% and 40% respectively. #YouCanBeTheReason posts from The Holderness Family and additional parenting influencers garnered 2.2 million impressions, including thousands of positive comments.
Earned media coverage included a Cheddar News Closing Bell feature segment, LA Parent byline, research findings on Politico, expert Q&A in Patch, and more. The Virtual Media Tour had 1,307 broadcast/radio airings and the audio news report, MAT release, and press release garnered 2,575 placements. On their owned channels, the team published Understood.org employees’ and executives’ “real stories” with stigma on Understood.org and LinkedIn to share experiences from people with diverse perspectives and backgrounds, and create community to humanize this issue. Understood.org executives’ posts about the campaign led to ~700 engagements, making it one of the best-performing social media initiatives for Understood.org’s leaders.
With this campaign, the larger opportunity is for Understood.org to bring parents and kids together and help facilitate real, honest conversations about the challenges neurodivergent kids are facing. The first step was to help parents acknowledge and understand learning and thinking differences in their children.