Step Up to Quality

Communications strategy and execution

Nebraska Dept. of Education
Client Since
Early Childhood Education & Care
AMA Omaha Awards: Provider Outreach Communications (Pinnacle), Blog (Gold), High Five for Quality Campaign (Bronze)
PRSA Nebraska Awards of Excellence: High Five for Quality Campaign, Blog, Provider Outreach Campaign
PRSA Nebraska Award of Merit: Blog

Statewide communications to celebrate great child care providers

Launched in 2014, Step Up to Quality is a program within the Nebraska Department of Education and is the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. Child care providers participate in the program to learn more about best practices in early childhood education and to continuously improve the quality of their care. The framework built by Step Up to Quality ensures children across the state are given the very best start in life by having access to high-quality early care no matter where they live or what type of program they attend.

Services Provided

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child care providers enrolled since 2015


Step Up to Quality has always had two goals: increase the number of child care providers participating in the program and boost awareness about the program among parents of young children in Nebraska. When we started partnering with the Step Up to Quality team in 2015, our original approach was to inform and engage audiences, while speaking to their specific needs, motivations and goals. Communicating the “why” behind the work helped support the organization in attracting hundreds of providers and igniting new conversations across Nebraska’s child care community. 

The challenge then became to educate parents. This audience is constantly changing, with new babies being born every day and preschoolers graduating into kindergarten every year. We refined our collaborative strategy to meet parents where they are, including tactics like a consistently updated blog, integrated social media channels and targeted paid media. We also updated Step Up to Quality’s website search function, so parents can easily find providers in their area. We also crafted a downloadable checklist for parents to help them when interviewing child care providers and touring facilities. 

With an omnichannel approach and a strong brand to guide communications, Step Up to Quality keeps growing in its awareness, influence and outreach, with more than 600 child care providers now enrolled since 2015. Most importantly, more than 35,000 children have been educated by the hundreds of Step Up to Quality-rated programs across Nebraska.


impressions received on a 3-part video series in 2017

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growth in Instagram followers with strategic content creation


At the start of our partnership in 2015, Step Up to Quality had a basic brand and very little awareness outside of the core group of early childhood education professionals and legislators who created the process and program. Since that time, Emspace + Lovgren polished their brand, built new communications channels for them, updated their digital presence, celebrated their 5th anniversary, and much more. This partnership keeps growing and evolving, just like the early childhood education field it serves.

Other notable highlights included:

  • 42 blog posts published
  • Engagement rates across all social media channels exceed industry standards
  • Click-through rates on all digital advertisements exceed industry standards