How to brand your language or literacy program

February 25, 2010

Branding is one activity that falls under the larger umbrella of marketing. It’s important to have an overall marketing strategy. Branding is a hot topic though and lots of people ask me about it. So today I wanted to focus briefly just on branding for language schools and literacy programs. Here are a few tips to get you started:

Be clear about what programs you’re offering. If you focus on programs for adults, then be purposeful and decisive about it. Do not try to be all things to all people. Focus all your efforts on programs that fit within your niche. Find trusted colleagues who offer complementary programs so you can refer prospects to them who don’t fit in your niche. So if your specialty is a program for those 18-50 and you get an inquiry from someone looking for a youth program, have somewhere to refer them. That’s just good professional courtesy. Then, send them on their way and stay focussed on your niche. Being clear about who you are and what you do is the first step to marketing yourself successfully. From there, you can focus more on other activities, including branding.

Use your logo widely – If you have a logo, use it on all your marketing materials – not just the website or the brochures. Make sure it is on your business cards, your letterhead and any promotional materials you produce. People associate the logo with your activities , your style and your philosophy. Your logo is a visual, often pictorial image that represents who your organization is and what you do. This idea is very powerful for language and literacy programs where words may be a barrier to your clients! You don’t words on your logo. You can have them, but you don’t need them. Your logo becomes an imprint on the memory of those who see it. Use it widely and people will get to know your program better.

Be clear and consistent -You want to deliver the same message to your prospects with all of your marketing materials. It is important to keep the logo consistent over time and also to use it consistently.  In my experience, programs that have one logo that they use on every piece of paper that leaves their office and every web page are usually very successful. This is because they are sending a message that they are reliable, trustworthy and that they’re here to stay.

Here are a few of my favorite online articles for branding. They’re directed towards business people and entrepreneurs, and what they have to say is also good for educational leaders who are responsible for promoting their programs within their communities or to the world.

Fundamentals of branding

Approaches to branding

How to position a company, product, service or brand

and a good articles on the failure of some marketing campaigns (and the resulting failure of the associated products and services):

Product and brand failures: a marketing perspective


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Update – April, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.5 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.



Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

February 16, 2010

This new research report is freely available in e-format (.pdf).

Executive Summary

This research report investigates the links between formal, non-formal and informal learning and the differences between them. In particular, the report aims to link these notions of learning to literacy and essential skills, as well as the learning of second and other languages in Canada.

Philosophical underpinnings of this research are:

  • There is value in learning of all kinds.
  • Learning is a lifelong endeavour.
  • An interdisciplinary approach is valuable.

Notions of formal, non-formal and informal learning may be briefly outlined as:

Formal learning – This type of learning is intentional, organized and structured. Formal learning opportunities are usually arranged by institutions. Often this type of learning is guided by a curriculum or other type of formal program.
Non-formal learning – This type of learning may or may not be intentional or arranged by an institution, but is usually organized in some way, even if it is loosely organized. There are no formal credits granted in non-formal learning situations.
Informal learning – This type of learning is never organized. Rather than being guided by a rigid curriculum, it is often thought of experiential and spontaneous.

– (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development / Organisation de Coopération et de Développement Economiques (OECD), n.d.; Werquin, 2007)

Examples are given for literacy and essential skills, as well as second and other languages for each of the categories mentioned above.

Finally, the examples of systems developed value different types of learning using asset-based approaches are given. The tools developed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada are explored for the case of literacy. The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages developed by the Council of Europe is considered for second and other languages.

Copies of the report may be accessed through:

National Adult Literacy Database (Canada)


European Association of Education for Adults (Helsinki, Finland)


National Library of Canada – Online Archives Collection (Canada)


The Encyclopedia of Informal Education


Global Literacy Foundation


Centre for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA) (United States) (Resource #0274)

New! August, 2010 – Check out the companion report: Formal, Non-Formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences.

Related posts:

Formal, non-formal and informal education: What Are the Differences?

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning: A podcast

Breathtaking Impact of Volunteers’ Contribution to Non-formal and Informal Literacy Education in Alberta

Formal, Non-formal and Informal Learning in the Sciences

The many faces of non-formal learning


If you found this post helpful, please click “Like” below and share it with others.

Here’s a link for sharing:

Formal, non-formal and informal learning: The case of literacy and language learning in Canada

Update – April, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.5 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Literacy and Essential Skills (video)

February 12, 2010

Here’s a new video that I just posted on Literacy and Essential Skills, as defined by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada:

Related posts

Canada’s 9 Literacy and Essential Skills


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If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me atsarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Tips for success at educational trade fairs

February 10, 2010

Here are some tips I’ve used myself at educational trade fairs. They could just as easily apply to business trade shows too, I would expect, but since my experience is in the educational sector, I’ll stick to what I know. A few of them were passed on to me by others who were seasoned veterans of the fair circuit, so let me publicly thank them for helping me out when I was a rookie. I’m happy to share all these tips with you:

Think “first aid kit”. First aid kits are full of little things you need in emergencies. Your “trade fair kit” should include tape, push pins, “fun tack” (sticky putty that holds posters to the wall without marking the wall) business cards, markers, pens, elastic bands, a couple of large envelopes, a note pad and a pair of scissors. Bring everything you need to make your booth beautiful. Bonus tip: Using clear packing tape, I always tape a business card to the handle of my scissors so if anyone asks to borrow them, they will remember who to return them to. It’s amazing how many things get lent – and then lost – at a trade fair!

Be a “drinker”. Exhibition halls can get hot and usually don’t have a lot of fresh air. You may get dehydrated more quickly than usual. Keep a bottle of water handy and drink from it often. Coffee, tea and colas will dehydrate you (and they’ll look terrible if they spill on your clothes.) If you’re travelling in a foreign country remember to buy bottled water. Make sure the bottle is sealed when you get it. Otherwise, it may have been refilled with local tap water which may contain bacteria that is not agreeable to your system.

Dress for comfort. You’re on the go for 10, 12, maybe 14 hours (or more). You need to look professional, but you also need to be comfortable. If your shoes hurt your feet, leave them at home. If your favorite suit is a bit snug these days, forget it. The bottom line is that if you’re not thinking about what you’re wearing, you’re more likely to concentrate on your work. Bonus tip: Bring some stain remover. In Canada, for example, you can buy a box of individually wrapped stain-wipes and I expect you can get them in many other countries, too. They are great for travelling. If you spill something on yourself, you may not have time to run back to your room to change.

Be a know-it-all. People are more likely to remember you if you are helpful to them. Before the doors crash open and people flood the hall, make a point to find out where the closest bathrooms, exits, water fountain, information booth and cafeteria are. No, it’s not your job to direct traffic, but if you can be helpful to others, they will appreciate it and you’ll leave them with a positive impression.

Smile, smile, smile! Once students, agents and parents fill the hall, this is your time to shine. Make a point to smile to as many of them as possible. Sometimes, people start concentrating on answering questions or focus on how tired or jet lagged they feel. The tough reality is that students and parents have no idea how you feel and most of them won’t care. They will care, however, if you make them feel good. A smile always makes people feel good.

Be a farmer. Trade fairs are a place to plant seeds that will grow later. Collect as much contact information as you can, so you can stay in touch with people later. This is called “harvesting information”. One way to do this is to offer a draw for something that people are really keen on. Free tuition is always a hit. Then, use your entry forms to follow up with people when you get home. Plant the seeds. Nurture the relationships that germinate at trade fairs and some of them will blossom into registrations for you.

Warning – Don’t eat alone. Trade fairs mean networking. Valuable meetings can happen over meals or coffee. Use this time to build relationships with other professionals, agents or a new contact. Remember that the best way to network is to make yourself an excellent resource for others. Be ready to offer your own tips, ideas and information. Doing so will help others remember you – warmly.

(This post is a reprint of an article originally written by the blog author in the October 6, 2003 edition of the “weekly e-newsletter for subscribers of”.)

Related posts:

How to find a good ESL agent: Tips from the trenches

Tips for finding ESL educational agents


Share this post: Tips for success at educational trade fairs

If you are interested in booking me (Sarah Eaton) for a presentation, keynote or workshop (either live or via webinar) contact me at sarahelaineeaton (at) Please visit my speaking page, too.

Educational Leadership in the New Millennium (CILC workshop)

February 8, 2010

Recently I started working with the Centre for Interactive Learning and Collaboration as a provider of professional development programs.

I have just posted a new workshop with them:

Educational Leadership in the New Millennium: Leadership as part of professional practice

This is a new endeavour for me and I’m looking forward to delivering some professional development programs for educators, school administrators and other leaders in the field.


February 8, 2010

I’ve just received an e-mail saying that my application to attend the TEDxYYC event has been accepted. I am thrilled an honoured to have the opportunity to attend this event, which restricts attendance to 100 people. I am excited to hear the speakers and eager to meet others who are also attending.

3 Tips for dealing with non-English speakers on the phone

February 5, 2010

Anyone who answers or makes calls is going to encounter someone whose first language isn’t the same as their own. Providing this person speaks enough of the language to understand you, there are three key tactics you can use to set yourself apart from other, less compassionate and understanding people, when it comes to dealing with callers whose first language differs from yours.

Smile. The person on the other end of the phone can “hear” your smile and will respond to your positive energy. About 70% of our communication is non-verbal, so a smile conveys a lot, even if the other person can’t see it. But did you know that the smile is the only universal facial expression? All others can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the culture. But a sincere smile will always transcend words and cultural difference.

Be extra patient. Imagine you are the person on the other end of the phone. You would appreciate it if the native speaker did not jump in while you were still talking, finish your sentences for you or skip to the next point without letting you finish. If you allow a non-native speaker to finish saying what they have to say, listen intently and be patient, you will win respect and trust.

Speak slower, not louder. People whose first language isn’t English may need more time to process the language, but their hearing is probably just as good as yours. If you slow down the pace of your speech and leave longer pauses in between sentences, you will allow the other person time to absorb everything that you are saying. Don’t exaggerate your pauses or tone, but rather think of speaking slowly, clearly and cheerfully. If you do, the person on the other end will know you are trying to be helpful, not patronizing.

(This article is adapted from one published Sept. 8, 2003 in a weekly newsletter for language program marketers and managers on a Yahoo group.)


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Update – April, 2017 – This blog has had over 1.5 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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