Situation: College Savings Iowa 529 Plan (CSI) is State of Iowa’s tax-advantaged college savings plan. CSI retained Hanser & Associates in 2002 to build awareness and participation in the program via statewide public relations.

Strategy & tactics: The firm developed and implemented a strategic communication/marketing plan that involved state-wide media relations, news media tours for State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald, PSAs, consumer trade show participation and placement of hundreds of news stories each year. Consumer events included exhibition at the 10-day Iowa State Fair, where our staff annually surveyed children (including what they want to be when they are adults and their estimated cost of a college education) and turned the results into a news story for media statewide. We also initiated a Baby New Year contest which awarded a college savings account to the first baby born each year in Iowa.

Results: Hanser & Associates helped deliver eight-fold growth for CSI — from 37,000 accounts ($200 million in total assets) when we were retained to 132,000 accounts ($1.6 billion in assets) —across four years. The November 2006 issue of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance named College Savings Iowa the nation’s best college savings plan, and CSI continues to be named among the best plans of its kind by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Money, and MSN Money.