The biggest mistake educators make when marketing new programs

My first job in educational administration was in 1989 at Saint Mary’s University. I worked in what was then the Division of Continuing Education. Part of my job was to promote current and new programs. I’ve learned a thing or two over the past twenty years of working in education. What’s the biggest challenge of marketing of new educational programs?

One word: Impatience.

As educators, we tell our students that they need to study regularly. We tell them that consistent effort over time brings results. We tell them to set aside time every day for their studies. We tell them that if they put in the work, that they’ll see results… but they just have to be patient.  If we followed the same advice, we’d be much better at promoting educational programs.

Instead, administrators want results NOW. If a program is posted in the course calendar in one semester and it doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for registrations, it’s canned. Wiped off the books. Written off.

Imagine if you saw a student giving up so easily after getting less than stellar results on a test. Would you say, “Yeah, you’re right. You bombed this first test, so clearly you don’t have what it takes…”

No, of course not! You’d sit down with the student, review the results, determine strategies to improve and then monitor their progress. We can do the same thing with educational programs. If a new program bombs the first time, examine the results and try to figure out why. Develop some new marketing strategies and go out and try them. Keep an eye on your process and watch for improvements.

If we promoted our programs with the same vigilance and patience that we have with our students, we’d have better long term results.


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


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