You’re Going to the Principal’s Office! Make Sure You Carry the Right Message
7 Mar, 2018
Although your product or service may be attractive to many or even all educators in a school, you can’t talk to everyone the same way about the same things. Use the tips below as a starting point to target and tailor your approach to unique job titles for better, more accurate messaging and results.
Principals are CEOs. Don’t bother them with the small stuff.
Focus on large-scale, strategic goals and ask how you are best positioned to help the principal as a strategic partner. Principals are looking more for the expertise of others who can help them build a better future over time than they are providers who can fill a one-time need.
Craft high-level messaging that provides instant insight into your capabilities. The principal will have little to no interest in reading about fine-grained detail, especially on first encounter with your brand.
Show knowledge of their school, not just schools like theirs. It’s tempting to overlay demographic generalities, and to be fair, you may get some results that way – but it isn’t the best way to approach a principal. Just as you’d know the ins-and-outs of a company whose CEO you plan to directly reach, you should know the intricacies of the school, too.
Bombard them with “administrivia” or minutiae. They are looking at the big picture. Do not waste time talking to them about the color of the frame or what wood it’s made of.
Offer micro-level management solutions. Ask yourself, “If I were essentially CEO of a school with hundreds of students and staff, would I need to read this?” If no, then retarget your message.
Overcommunicate with them. Time is scarce and principals’ responsibilities are many and heavy. Nurture well, but nurture with caution. Limit your touchpoints to a couple of times a month and pack as much value as you can into each one.
Assistant principals (also called vice principals) are a lot like COOs (chief operating officers). Target them with information that shows how you can help make day-to-day operations better.
Focus your message on tactical-level detail. The assistant principal often runs the day-to-day, micro-level management of the school. Their days are filled putting out fires and making sure new ones don’t ignite. Where you would take a high-level approach with the principal, you can get into the weeds with the assistant principal.
Be familiar with current solutions the assistant principal has in place, do a competitive analysis, and show how you can do better. (Protip: Do not talk about your competitors by name. Focus on your unique features and solutions, not on the school’s current solution’s shortcomings.)
Know the scope of the assistant principal’s job. In addition to day-to-day operations, depending on the school, the assistant principal may have broader responsibilities, such as evaluating teachers and curriculum and interfacing with parents, administrators and other audiences. It may be nigh-impossible to know the scope down to the individual of your assistant principal audience’s jobs, but any data you have can prove helpful in further segmenting your messaging and lists.
Treat them as gatekeepers who can grant you access to the principal or other administrative officials. “Assistant principal” does not mean “assistant to the principal.”
Assume they all are aspiring principals. Although assistant principalship often is a prerequisite for principalship, and many assistant principals are gaining experience that they hope will lead to that position, don’t assume that in your messaging. Some may find “aspirational” messaging insulting to the dignity and uniqueness of their office. Speak to assistant principals as the executives they are.
Fail to show proof of how your services work in the real world. As tacticians, they are likely to disregard anything that tells but doesn’t show. Develop white papers, case studies, and other content that shows real-world, recent results.
Think of curriculum coordinators as quality improvement and assurance officers with a big appetite for innovation. They are always on the lookout for ways to optimize the way education is delivered, ensure teachers are up to date in practice, and improve standardized test scores.
Know state education standards and be especially familiar with regulations that widely and profoundly affect curricula.
Emphasize how you can provide insight into methods, products and services that improve standardized test scores, since this is a major focus for this segment.
Demonstrate how to make complexity easier. Curriculum coordinators handle a lot of technical information that affects how teachers teach, students learn and outcomes improve, meaning they have many moving—and vital—parts to contend with. Provide them with content assets written by reliable thought leaders to help them navigate an ever-changing map.
Go without consultation and review of your messaging and assets by a subject-matter expert. Curriculum management is highly technical and, well, academic. Don’t wing your messaging—no matter how well you understand the concepts.
Avoid talking tech. Technology is integral to the delivery of curriculum in today’s classrooms. Curriculum coordinators care about content and how your technology will support the delivery of lessons, differentiation and assessment.
Ignore their roles as coaches, mentors and facilitators. A large part of the job is developing instructional material and coaching teachers, particularly through new-curricula implementations. Account for their role as a resource.
Think of the lead teacher as the first among equals and the “teacher to teachers.” Lead teachers mentor new and struggling teachers and are the communication channel between teachers and administration.
Show how you can help them teach teachers. Highlight how you can make their job as the steward of continuing education for the teaching staff easier and more rewarding. Equip them with access to better ways to train, advise and mentor.
Stay tightly focused on how you can help them with one function at a time. Lead teachers oversee a broad range of activities, from personnel management to evaluation to interfacing with administration. Show them how you can get one or two things off of their lists rather than trying to change the world.
Rely on them to rally the right people, both their fellow teachers and other stakeholders, such as parents, behind the positive change for students that your product or service can make possible. Lead teachers have a powerful voice with administration.
Mistake them for curriculum coordinators, even though they have significant input into the development and implementation of curricula.
Confuse teacher management with infrastructure management. Lead teachers manage teachers; they don’t have large-scale purchasing power, though, so don’t flood them with calls to action that ask them to make infrastructure decisions.
Send the wrong message to administration by using lead teachers as gatekeepers. Just as you shouldn’t market to the assistant principal as a proxy, don’t do that with lead teachers, either.
Computer and Instructional Technology Coordinator
Computer and instructional technology coordinators are the chief technology officers of schools. They select and purchase software and keep infrastructure current and effective.mThis individual is responsible for purchasing software, managing technology within a school, and training educators in using edtech in their classrooms.
Feel free to get technical, the more the better. This is the audience that will benefit most from knowing how things work down to the granular level.
Provide clear value propositions that they can use to communicate with nontechnical staff, particularly decision makers, that are clear and comprehensive and that show the technological value of your offering without using highly technical language. Speak to them in their language, and teach them to translate your value compellingly and succinctly.
Invite them to share their insights on how your product can be improved. User experience refinement begins with the end user, so establish and encourage two-way communication.
Overreach in your messaging if you don’t understand at the same level that your audience would the intricacies of your technology product. As with content geared toward any audience with specialized knowledge, get a subject-matter expert’s input.
Send poorly designed emails or web sites. This segment is on the bleeding edge of technology and has zero patience for poorly executed digital products.
Rely on your last competitive analysis. Somewhere, one of your competitors isn’t accounting for a new feature that you released four months ago and have updated with improved functionality twice since. Technology moves fast – universally, Assume that your competitors are even busier than you and make competitive analysis a scheduled, not emergency, activity.
"Educators" or "Teachers" don't all do the same thing so make sure your messaging treats them as individuals based on their job responsibilities. For more details about the different roles and responsibilities education professionals have at the school and the district level, read my article "Who Does What in Schools and Districts."
Connie Davis is Director of Strategic Accounts at Agile Education Marketing. In that capacity, Connie has advised hundreds of education companies on education marketing best practices. An expert in the education sales cycle, Connie helps companies reach targeted groups of educators with personalized content and marketing messages at the right times and on the most effective platforms for communication. Reach Connie at firstname.lastname@example.org.