Marketers of educational program make one fatal mistake. They think like educational administrators and not like marketers.
I’ve seen marketing materials that look more like a handbook of rules and regulations than they do promotional materials. They’re long, boring, tedious and impersonal. Here’s one key tip that will change the way you write and think about your marketing materials.
Use the word “you”.
That’s it. Sound simple? Well, if you’re used to writing your marketing materials that way, it is pretty straightforward. Many programs use third person plural – for example, “the students” or “they” – in their marketing materials. This weakens your marketing edge because it puts perceived distance between you and your prospective learner. This passive writing style is harder to follow by speakers of other languages, and is considered old-fashioned in modern writing of all kinds.
You are promoting your program to the person reading about it, so speak to that person directly. This is a marketing and communications technique that brings the product or service closer to the individual, and connects it to the client in a personal way. Consider the difference between these two statements:
“Students will be taken on interesting excursions every Friday afternoon.” (Yawn. Booh-ring!)
“You will go on interesting excursions every Friday afternoon.” (Who, me? I will go on interesting excursions every Friday? Well, sign me up!)
Do you see and feel a difference between these two statements? If the second statement has more impact on you, then you understand the power of speaking directly to your prospective learner.
One technique for writing marketing materials is to envision one single person you would like to sign up for your program. This could be a current student if he or she fits your vision of the ideal registrant. Bring a picture of your this ideal prospective learner into your mind. How old is that person? Where is your learner from? What language(s) does your learner speak? It is unlikely that you are only going to have one type of learner in your program. The point isn’t to focus on one person to the exclusion of other types of learners, but rather to bring a visual image into your mind so you have someone to “talk to” when you write your marketing materials.
Then write as if you were speaking to that person directly. You will be amazed at the powerful marketing materials you can produce.
In marketing, as in teaching, the most powerful word is “you”. It is always about the learner. In your classrooms. On your website. In your brochures.
This post has been adapted from “Idea # 11: Write your marketing materials using ‘you'” from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.