education

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I’ve been a student of educational marketing for a couple of years. K through 12 specifically. A recent study was published suggesting Charter Schools have a rate of suspension comparable to that of public schools and in both cases black students are 4X as likely to be suspended as white. Suspension is one of the disciplinary tools available to schools but like yelling at your children for yelling or the death penalty for murder, it doesn’t seem very effective.

I’d love to see a charter school go on record as taking suspension off the board as a disciplinary option. Pulling kids out of class as punishment makes sense, but how can you create an environment where kids learn and feel some remorse for their transgressions? What if the school were to put them in a classroom with a teacher or administration to supervise lessons, but also include some of their parents to aid in supervision. Say for every 20 suspended kids, at least 5 of their parents must be there for half a day. Don’t make it feel punitive for the parents – make it a supervisory, learning moment. Get parents more involved. For younger students, many parents have to stay home anyway.

Making parents more involved in schooling is a goal of successful pedagogy. Involving them in discipline, for their own kids and community kids, may be worth testing. At least it’s not the same old same old.

Thoughts?                                                

Peace.    

 

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When I first went to work in the advertising business on the AT&T account, word was, the huge company didn’t know how to market. Prior to the breakup of the Baby Bells, AT&T was one big monopoly. You either used their service or you didn’t. Deregulation came along and competitors (MCI, Sprint) raised their heads. The initial spanking AT&T took was quite a wake-up call.

Then I moved into the healthcare industry. Word was, they didn’t know how to market either. Healthcare systems and big hospitals were physician-driven, physician run. They knew nothing about brand as a marketing principles, though they did understand the power of brand. Participating in an era when large healthcare companies began acting more like consumer packaged goods companies was exciting. And the fur flew.

One of the last bastions of poor marketing these days is the area of education. That is changing somewhat thanks to the introduction of technology products, services and devices to the class room. Education orgs. suffer from a similar fate of the healthcare industry; they tend to be run by academicians and teachers. Not a marketing hot bed for sure. Thumb through the pages of education newspapers or teaching and learning magazines and the level of creativity and salesmanship you see is juvenile. That said, education company Amplify is beginning to do some nice work. So hopefully .edu is pointing in the right direction. Oops, and there’s the Bell.

Peace.

 

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teacher in class

A couple of years ago I worked with an education company. Travelling elementary, middle and high schools in the northeast, interviewing teachers, administrators and observing kids, I was amazed by how K12 education is changing. And, in many cases, not. The tools and pedagogy are there, we just have to use them.

What became most clear to me after my time in education was a simple observation about teaching and learning. The latter is the result of the former. But only if done well. You see, there is bad teaching but there is no bad learning. Understanding the linkage is important.

This observation powered an insight that changed my approach to branding and marketing. Most marketing is about teaching. While the best marketing is about learning. The old days of reach and frequency –smother consumers with repetition– akin to learning ABCs or months of the year, is not how we need to market in the 21st century. Not with the constant bombardment of media and messages. And messy messages at that.

With a rich “organizing principle for your product, experience and messaging” (a brand strategy), brought to life through learning moments and learning demonstrations, you can connect with and motivate consumers. Stand at the front of the class and recite benefits (teach) and you will fail. Peace.

 

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Last year I worked with an interesting K12 educational development company called Teq. For a brand planner it provided a perfect storm of stimulating elements: a business with a changing model, tons of humanity (tools to teach children), inner city color, political sturm und drang, and pent-up market demand. Oh, and the market could be measured in billions not millions. In addition to developing a brand plan and marketing communications plan I had my eye on creating a social media dept. – something I’ve long blogged about.

Before I landed at Teq I found a dude on the company site named Jeremy Stiffler. He was one of the reasons I really liked the Teq, site unseen. Every company needs a Jeremy Stiffler.  He was a SME (subject matter expert), who without breaking a sweat could be recorded on video and teach the products and services.  Part actor, part teacher, part digital usability savant, Jeremy could look the camera in the eye and walk you through a product or topic tutorial (tute) with flawless effectiveness. Good teachers know when a student doesn’t get something by looking at their expression. Jeremy, intuitively knew it, even from behind the camera.

Social media departments need a good writer, videographer, editor and still photographer.  Obviously, they all need to be orchestrated at the hands of a brand manager and plan.  But the best departments in their respective business will always have a full or part time Jeremy.  Not a pretty on-camera face or rented talent, an illuminating teaching presence who works for the company and gets people. Peace.

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There are few things harder to sell than education.  I’ve done some brand planning for universities and the academicians who approve the work are often not equipped for the job. The budgets are also low so good agencies are rarely around and in many cases students, professors and recent grads in-house are at the controls.  Brand strategy is non-existent and everyone promises the same thing: a good life after graduation. The end benefit.  The how to that end benefit is also pretty much the same: great faculty, personal teaching environment, great courses, flah, flah, flah.

It’s ironic that college and university advertising is so poor because often the experience is one of life’s most powerful. That 4 years has the ability to create a loyalty few jobs can.  Who sleeps in their Met Life tee-shirt 20 years after working there? Two husbands later.

As we slide out of the difficult economy with new elections upon us and technology flattening the world, the moment is nigh for some serious focus on education.  There are lots of trivial bits flying across the web these days, but only a small percentage are focusing on education. We are already using web tutorials to help us clean bathroom pipes and shower grout, why not improve our SAT scores.  Perhaps things are changing. This morning I noted on Skype an organic chemistry teacher available for $40 an hour (first hour free) and high school math assistance at $.25 a minute. (Do the math.)  

Web-enabled academia is not the haps yet – not like geolocating your friends at Mary Carrol’s – but it’s coming. And along with that, in time, will come improvements in the branding of higher education institutions.  These times are exciting. Stay tuned. Peace!

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the state of education in America and how it can be improved. In brand planning there is research and there is insight. One is a technique, the other a result. In academia there is teaching – a technique, and education the result. Too great a percentage of those in academia are teachers, not educators.  

One of my favorite “insights,” mined on behalf of  an entertainment property was “a musician is never more in touch with his/her art than when looking into the eyes of the audience.” Immediate feedback is available in the eyes…in the bop.  In class, those with the ability to connect with students, to get through – who can see the light in the eyes of students—they are the educators.  In all we do, let’s not confuse the technique with the result.  Peace!

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