Saturday, February 11, 2012

Education and Marketing: Connections?

My first real job that I liked after college was in the field of service marketing.  I worked in a vibrant multi-service design firm, Sasaki Associates, Inc. in Watertown, Massachusetts.  The building was alive with creativity and energy.  My job was to assist the marketing department with the preparation of proposals and presentations.  Since it was well before the great technology applications we have today, we spent many a late afternoon cutting, pasting, photocopying, spray mounting and more to create just-right presentations to best represent the company's work.

When thinking seriously about a career, I wanted to be as invested as the designers I worked with, but I knew my real passion related to the potential education held for better lives and a better world.  Hence, I left Sasaki and went to graduate school to study education.  Now, after more than a quarter of a century in teaching, I am finding the worlds of marketing and education intersecting in ways that I never dreamed of.  I am wondering about that intersection?  What is positive about it, and what is not?

I believe it is important for educators to spread the good news and questions related to education.  Best practices should not be limited to one classroom, school or system.  Instead, by freely sharing our best practices, we are educating each other, and making a difference for children globally. This is a positive intersection of marketing and education.

Also, the collaboration of educators with regard to sharing information in blogs, professional magazines, institutes and the writing of books is similarly positive.  Bringing educators together to combine their thinking and publish their craft helps to move us all forward.

Then there is the action of educators accepting advertisements and the related fees on their blog posts.  That action makes me wonder.  On one hand, educators who are willing to spend countless hours each day writing, analyzing and synthesizing ideas for the betterment of the profession should gain some compensation for their work.  After all they have families to feed, mortgages to pay and aspirations to meet.  On the other hand, it's essential that educators think deeply about who is willing to pay for those advertisements, and the companies, institutions or firms the educator is willing to promote.  Further, is the small fee the educator reaps equal to the monetary reward the advertiser makes?  I'm not sure what those equations look like, but I know they are important equations to consider.

There is an overlap in marketing and education.  After all, both fields are about the "message."  Every day I read Godin's blog. He's an entrepreneur who writes about business and marketing. His message provides wonderful, deep, meaningful direction for work in all fields including education.

I guess what separates marketing and education is the purpose.  Education is about the learner--the learner's needs, desires and success.  When educators take a path that puts marketing (and profit) before the learner, there's a problem.  We know that problem exists in some private education endeavors.  However, if marketing and education can work in tandem and still put the learner's success and progress center stage, well, maybe it can work.  I'm not convinced of that.

As some ask to advertise on my website, and I see others accepting ads, I wonder about this topic.  I'm curious about your thoughts and perspective.  Where do marketing and education intersect well, and where does the intersection serve to undermine education?  Let me know what you think.