Why teachers need to embrace marketing and advertising

Recently, I’ve started working on a new multiplication initiative with the aim to help and motivate children across the school to get learning those times tables (there’s just no getting away from some things) and while I was fleshing out my initial ideas, it occurred to me that the way I was approaching this wasn’t so different to how I used to think in my ‘former life’; before teaching, I was a magazine designer,  a large part of which involved putting together adverts, and before that I worked as a junior designer for a design and communications agency. When it comes down to it, teachers often need to utilise marketing and advertising tools even if we don’t realise it…

Einstein - he speaks the truth.

Einstein – he speaks the truth.

The hook

Whenever you’re introducing something new, be it to colleagues or pupils, it never hurts to think about your hook – something to grab your audience’s attention. Mystery could be a hook: when I recruited my digital leaders, I created posters that didn’t give away too much information, just a few juicy bits that I knew would really spark interest such as ‘yes, you will be teaching teachers.’ This meant I had a lot of children coming to speak to me to find out more and pupils were talking about it amongst themselves creating a ‘buzz’. At a staff meeting or any kind of CPD session, it could be a surprising quote related to the training you’re just about to deliver, an interesting image or both – Einstein poking his tongue out anyone? I’m going to start a running club soon and I’ve already had an idea hook – a short video, mapping out one of my runs. My colleagues and I have also used short videos as hooks for topics too. The hook for the times table initiative is that it’s going to be structured in a similar way to Karate and its belt system and will have a cartoon character associated with it.


Yes, content is ultimately what’s important, but we all judge books by their covers to some extent and the way things look can make a difference. I’m not talking about spending ages mulling over the kerning as I used to have to do, but just making good use of ready made tools like SmartArt in Word can make a world of difference to your diagrams and tables in just a few clicks. And hey, why not try out prezi instead of PowerPoint now and again because it’s just as easy to use, but can look just that bit more professional with a little practice? Think about your font choices too. I did a four year degree in typography and a small part of me used to die when I used Comic Sans, but I have moved on from that now and realise it has its place – in the classroom! Font choices are a lot about personal preferences, but move away from the defaults – too much Calibri never did anyone any favours. I often find Arial Rounded works well on presentations and Gill Sans is smart for printed text – and that’s all I’m going to say on typefaces or I’ll be here for another five years…

Sponsorship and brand ambassadors

Richard Branson has Usain Bolt, Pepsil has Beyonce and I have four year 6 boys developing the times table initiative with me – and they’re going to deliver the first assembly on it too. Essentially they are my ambassadors for the whole project. Why? Well, several reasons: it’s great for them, they get to develop lots of enterprise skills and their ideas have been really good, but also it’s going to mean a lot more to my target audience (all the other pupils) coming from them rather than me. They will listen to them in a different way than they would listen to me. The power of ‘cool points’ shouldn’t be underestimated.

So you see, without even realising it, I’m willing to bet a lot of teachers have to call upon the powers of advertising at times. Of course, ultimately it’s the quality of whatever you’re trying to ‘sell’ that will win in the end, but the way you deliver it can certainly help get others on board. How have you been an advertiser in the past? Have you found any particular techniques and approaches to be particularly successful?  I would love you to share your ideas below.

Coca-Cola by “Caveman Chuck” Coker
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One comment

  • Claire Rafferty

    Thank you for this, lots of educators will be doing this and not realise it. I am introducing Minecraft into my class, you have inspired me to recruit som digital leaders of my own!

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