Addressing the Teacher Shortage: How Strategic Marketing Drove Record-Breaking Growth for Golden Apple

Addressing the Teacher Shortage: How Strategic Marketing Drove Record-Breaking Growth for Golden Apple


The Golden Apple Foundation’s mission is to make meaningful improvements in the growing teacher shortage. Their Scholars and Accelerators teacher preparation programs expand the pipeline of highly effective, diverse educators who are uniquely equipped to teach in schools-of-need. There are more than 3,500 unfilled teaching positions in Illinois and The Economic Policy Institute predicts over 200,000 teaching vacancies nationwide by 2025, largely due to a 50% decline in enrollment in colleges of education. This underscores the urgency in addressing the growing teacher pipeline shortfall for Golden Apple, whose target demographic for teacher preparation programs includes high school seniors, early college students, and career changers.

Golden Apple received an increase in state funding for Fiscal Year 2023 to recruit more teachers to its programs, and the need to increase marketing efforts to reach its goals was elevated.

That’s where The Harbinger Group comes in. Our agency was tasked with creating comprehensive communications plans and campaigns to attract, acquire and retain quality applicants in Illinois for Golden Apple’s teacher preparation programs. Despite the critical issues surrounding the field of education, in the past two years, our recruitment marketing campaigns drove record-breaking increases in applicants to Golden Apple’s teacher preparation programs.

Strategy & Execution

In order to develop a marketing recruitment strategy for Golden Apple, our team started by creating audience personas targeting Golden Apple’s ideal candidates: 

We grounded these personas in successful historical data that we tracked and captured over time. We strategically cultivated these personas to address pivotal questions to ignite interest in teaching through Golden Apple’s programs.

To effectively reach priority audiences, we curated tailored email lists. These lists encompass SAT-taking high school students interested in education, high school counselors, principals, and superintendents, current program participants, and educational organizations who can disseminate program information to interested students.

Next, our copywriting team crafted key messaging points to effectively answer potential candidates’ inquiries to integrate into our comprehensive marketing campaign. This included producing original content for bi-weekly email distributions, four social media posts weekly, and monthly digital ad campaigns. From there, we regularly monitored how our messaging resonated with our target audiences, which enabled us to strategically refine and optimize Golden Apple’s messaging and assets.

Marketing Tactics for Target Audience

Finally, we recognized the need to support Golden Apple’s internal recruitment teams, so our team developed a series of lead nurturing communications to facilitate candidate progression through the application process. Developing these communications allowed us to ensure cohesive messaging alignment across the acquisition funnel for Golden Apple, reinforcing conversion-centric messages at every stage.


The Harbinger Group team faced the challenges of a teacher shortage and the stigmas associated with the teaching profession head-on for Golden Apple by developing audience personas grounded in historical data, tailoring key messaging points to distribute to carefully curated email lists, and consistently monitoring how that messaging was received in order to continually optimize it. Our strategic, tailored marketing plans have been a crucial component in achieving success for the Golden Apple Foundation. 

Programs consistently average more than 2,000 applicants per year and in the 2023 recruitment cycle, application totals reached historic highs, with more than 3,000 applications.

3000 Applications

LinkedIn Ads had a click thru rate of 0.89 (avg for LinkedIn is 0.44-0.65) and cost-per-click of $1.48 (avg for LinkedIn is $5.39)

LinkedIn Advertising Success

Google Search ads had a click thru rate of 16% (avg for education is 6.4%) and cost-per-click of $1.81 (avg for education is $4.10)

Google Advertising Success

Email open rates average 55%—a 15% YOY increase, and a 34% increase from talent acquisition emails across industries. Email click thru rates average 15%—a 7% increase YOY, and 12% higher than email click thru rates across industries.

Email marketing Success

Campaign landing page traffic increased by 500%, with the largest sources of referral traffic coming through marketing campaigns developed by The Harbinger Group: Organic Search, Email, Google Search Advertising and LinkedIn Advertising.

Website Traffic Increases