Executing an award-winning PR playbook for science edtech

How Sterling Communications raised Labster’s visibility as the world’s leading edtech provider of virtual science lab simulations


Having a high-level communications strategy is important, but raising a client’s profile doesn’t happen overnight; it requires persistent tactical execution.

Our client, Labster, is well established in the educational technology (edtech) industry. More than six million learners in 3,000 educational institutions in 100-plus countries have used Labster interactive virtual laboratory simulations for science gateway courses to learn key concepts and perform realistic experiments in a risk-free learning environment. Labster has a rich offering of virtual simulations designed for high school and university learners in fields such as biology, biochemistry, genetics, biotechnology, chemistry, and physics. The browser-based Labster simulations take advantage of gamification techniques and are played on the most commonly used desktop and mobile devices.

Labster came to Sterling for assistance in taking their brand to a new level of visibility within edtech and especially within the U.S. market. As a company founded in Copenhagen, its earliest successes came within Europe. An already growing trend for “anytime, anywhere” delivery of classroom coursework was supercharged by the COVID-19 pandemic and presented an even greater opportunity for the company to extend its footprint in North America, enabled by the closure of a $47-million-dollar funding round..

Sterling’s playbook? Building their profile while making the budget stretch. The key is steady execution to produce consistent results: 1. content cadence; 2. awards applications; 3. influencer relations; and 4. regular announcements.

The results? Sterling helped position Labster clearly in the sightline of important influencers, garnering the attention of venture capitalists and journalists alike: Business Insider named Labster to its list of the 25 most promising edtech startups and Time included Labster in its list of the World’s Top Edtech Companies.

Creating content is king

Edtech is a constantly evolving industry, moving quickly to keep up with the pace of technology innovation and circulating trends of education. These conditions make contributed content king: by regularly adding to current discussions through bylined articles, an edtech company can showcase its ability to adapt to and lead in rapidly evolving industry trends, reinforcing its relevance and forward-thinking approach.

The leaders at Labster have invaluable insight into the cutting edge of edtech. Sterling’s content directors have mastered the art of thought leadership, and were able to pull a number of different content angles from a single discovery conversation with Labster’s leaders.

In a two-year period, Sterling collaborated with Labster executives to create and place nine bylines in key edtech media such as EdTech Digest and eSchoolNews, as well as business outlets such as Forbes. These opinion pieces helped Labster demonstrate to the market and potential customers that they are involved in key topical conversations, such as those around gamification, the metaverse, artificial intelligence, and the hybrid classroom.

Gathering accolades

In education-related industries, third-party validation is not a nice-to-have, it’s a non-negotiable. Edtech products aim to have a positive impact on learning outcomes. Third-party validation helps bolster messaging by providing evidence-based assessments of the actual impact and effectiveness of the technology in real-world educational settings. This builds trust among learners, educators, and administrators.

Sterling took a particularly proactive approach to awards with Labster. Labster’s products need to be recognized for trust-building, and the Labster logo belongs on the right lists with its peers. In less than two years, Sterling’s robust program helped Labster achieve 20 industry “best of” designations including winner or finalist placements in 10 competitions run by Tech4Good, EdTech Digest, The Edvocate, EdTechX, Bett UK, and GSV Ventures, among others.

The key here: knowing the right awards and how to craft a compelling application. Sterling’s understanding of the edtech industry and practiced execution built results over time, and ensured that Labster increasingly appeared on the lists of top edtech companies in media-written articles and industry blogs.

“Sterling has been an invaluable partner and has really helped us bump up Labster to a new level of industry recognition due to our robust content and announcement program and our winning award nominations. They don’t just wait for instructions, but are dogged in their proactive identification and pursuit of media opportunities and edtech influencer relationships that they feel could benefit us. I value their advice and enjoy our positive working relationship.”


— April Ondis, senior director of corporate communications, Labster

Involving influencers

But an award logo alone is not enough to persuade teachers and administrators and journalists who are justifiably skeptical after years of vendor claims of products as the magic panacea to scholastic woes. Tapping into Labster’s vast user database, Sterling secured a joint interview on the MyEdTechLife podcast for a Labster expert with an enthusiastic Labster-using high school teacher. Sterling also leveraged Labster-focused research conducted in a Texas University and in Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University for announcements and outreach.

After seeing an article on a Pennsylvania State University research study into STEM course accessibility for minority students, Sterling put the author on the Labster marketing team’s radar as a webinar guest. The professor subsequently agreed to Sterling’s suggestion to have his name and research cited in the press release announcing a Labster platform accessibility upgrade.

Sending signals to the market

The final leg of the stool is announcements. Maintaining a consistent announcement cadence is vital for startup companies. News releases effectively communicate milestones, innovations, and partnerships, showcasing the company’s health and momentum.

Sterling supported Labster in producing 31 announcements over a two-year period, two-thirds of which were distributed via a wire service in addition to website newsroom posting. By consistently sharing these achievements, Sterling contributed to building positive momentum reaffirming Labster’s leadership position, attracting attention from users, investors, and the education community.


Creating results

Zoom in, and you see an agency putting time in, day after day, to put together an edtech company’s award applications, thought leadership angles, writing, and pitching announcements. Zoom out, and you see a strategic PR plan that produced results. Labster garnering honors from Business Insider, Time, and many others was an outcome of the coordinated and consistent public relations efforts in Sterling’s playbook.

Consider the profile raised.

“We’re very appreciative of the quality of content and the quality of work from the team. It doesn’t feel awkward. You ask questions, we give you good philosophical feedback, and then you take it and run. We’re not micromanaging and there’s not a lot of back and forth. We’re just very thankful.”

— Hope Frank, former chief marketing officer, Labster

Raise your brand awareness. Increase your industry influence. Build your thought leadership. Sterling Communications is here for you.

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