If you believe in what you’re doing, you should be talking about what you’re doing. It can be uncomfortable to put yourself out there, and it can feel self-serving to talk about your success when what you really want is to help students, but the simple fact of the matter is this: Whether you’re a K-12 teacher, principal, business owner or nonprofit leader, if you’ve found a new way to improve students’ learning, students everywhere deserve a chance to benefit from your discovery.
The only way to make that happen is by talking about your work and gaining recognition.
If you haven’t yet started sharing your work publicly but are starting to realize that you owe it to your fellow educators to share your ideas, here are three simple steps that can help frame your thinking and planning around your future communications.
Know Your Why
Of course, as a first step, it’s crucial to know why you want to spread your message (see our recent post on this subject). Ask yourself: am I doing this for the benefit of myself, or the students I serve? If somebody else had this idea, would I want to support them?
People have become more sensitive to marketers trying to “sell” them things, and the best way to avoid this is to cultivate a genuine attitude and organizational culture that places students first. At SXSWedu last year, I spoke with an EdTech startup sales rep hoping to get coverage on Getting Smart who said to me “we’re really excited to be doing this work–we know universities all across the country have deep pockets that they’re willing to throw at the latest EdTech.”
While I admired this sales representative’s honesty, I did not admire his motives–and his company’s name has not made it to Getting Smart, or any other publications that I have read.
Determine Your Audience
This may seem a bit “Communications 101” at first glance, but the idea has taken on new weight in the digital era. As people today are inundated with sensory input from a vast range of media sources, they become better and better at tuning out irrelevant “noise.”
The only way to stand out is to determine the person you are trying to reach, where you can find them, and what message they want (but don’t yet know they want) to hear. I really like audience personas as a way to think through the outreach strategy for (and tone of) my writing. Another good strategy that we at Getting Smart like is keeping up to date with education trendsetters on Twitter.
If you wouldn’t send the same physical letter to a superintendant and a teacher, why would you do that with emails?
Set a Plan
Now, the hard part. Options for setting a communication plan abound, and ideas range from paying for a booth at a conference to trying to gain media attention. But these are expensive strategies, and they don’t guarantee success. What is the ground level for talking about your work?
We (as you are likely well aware) are big fans of using digital tools to connect with different audiences–the only requirements are time and effort (though an ad dollar here or there doesn’t hurt). If you’re just getting started, try these approaches to three classic platforms that will likely feel a bit fresher than the old “You’re the one millionth visitor!” pop-up ad:
- Social Media. We’ve written a pretty in-depth guide to social media, so I’ll keep this brief. Suffice it to say, whether you’re seeking to develop your personal learning network or engage in the important conversations through any of the hundreds of popular education hashtags, social media is probably the first place to turn.
- Email Marketing. If you’re not a digital marketing professional, you might not be aware of how email marketing has evolved to allow intensely personal communication with much less effort than would have been required even five years ago. Marketing automation can be a good option for those selling a product to many potential customers, but for those just getting started, contact segmentation through platforms like Emma can be more than enough. I recently spoke with Emma’s Director of Customer Success, Cliff Corr, who told me that a number of universities (such as Notre Dame and University of Minnesota) had organized successful email campaigns with Emma by focusing on “communicating clearly with personalized messages.”
- Blogging. This is our bread and butter. Over the many years of our blogging, we’ve learned quite a few lessons, but here are the three most important:
- Keep it personal. Statistics and explanations are great, but they can only get at the logical part of the brain. If you really want your work to resonate, you need to tell a story that people can identify with.
- Give people something they can use. Be sure to give your audience some next steps to take when they’re done reading, but be careful how you frame them. If the only course of action for people interested in your ideas is buying your product or service, then it’s not a blog post–it’s an advertisement. And advertisements purporting to be blog posts tend to alienate readers.
- Start Small. Starting and maintaining a blog is a big undertaking. Not sure if you want to devote that many resources? Dip your toes in the water by sharing a post with us.
At Getting Smart, we believe that the powerful communication of good ideas is one of the best ways to positively impact education on a large scale. If you feel the same, we invite you to share your message with us by emailing email@example.com. Or, if you’d like a partner who can help you strategize a more robust campaign, shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org–she’ll be more than happy to see how we can help.
For more, see:
- 10 Tips for Designing High Impact Campaigns
- Fail Forward: I Fail, So That Students Can Succeed
- 6 Steps to a Successful School Marketing Plan
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