During the ISTE 2011 Conference, C. Blohm & Associates and the Winter Group conducted two 90-minute focus groups to investigate buying habits and media preferences among school and district-level educators.
Media Trends PRINT MEDIA Educators still rely on traditional print publications for industry news, useful products and implementation strategies; howeverDuring the ISTE 2011 Conference, C. Blohm & they are increasingly more savvy about ﬁnding information andAssociates and the Winter Group conducted EdNET Roundtable Executive Summary continue to place a high value on product recommendations from other educators. The publications deemed highly usefultwo 90-minute focus groups to investigate are adapting to the educator-to-educator information model,buying habits and media preferences among and are moving away from the “advertorial” in favor of creatingschool and district-level educators. The relevant content and real research to back up articles andseventeen participants held the following product recommendations.professional titles: District Technology Director I THINK IT SEEMS LIKE THE ARTICLES IN [SOME Instructional Coordinator PUBLICATIONS] WERE WRITTEN BY ADVERTISERS. THEY SEEM LIKE EXTENDED ADVERTISEMENTS AND Instructional Technology Coordinator IT GETS TIRESOME AND YOU’RE NOT GETTING A LOT IT Services Director OF AUTHORITATIVE INFORMATION IF IT’S COMING Technology Instructor Teacher FROM THE PR DEPARTMENT AT THE COMPANY. Media Specialist & Instructional Coordinator Instructional Technology Specialist Curriculum Supervisor WHEN I’M READING AN ARTICLE AND IT’S WRITTEN Assistant Middle School Head Teacher BY A TEACHER WHO HAS BEEN USING SOMETHING IN THE CLASSROOM, THEN I’M GOING TO PAY Curriculum & Technology Specialist MORE ATTENTION TO THE PRODUCT/SOLUTION. Director of Technology 5th Grade Teacher There is still value in advertising in these spaces, but companies Library & Instructional Technology Specialist with the most successful marketing strategies understand that Secondary Curriculum Director brief product descriptions and highlights aren’t enough to gain the interest or trust of educational consumers—they need to Technology Director demonstrate the value of their products in a meaningful way in all communication with their customers.
ONLINE MEDIA/EMAIL SOCIAL MEDIAMost respondents state that they have been movingtoward the digital versions of traditional educational I USUALLY GET MORE OF MY INFORMATIONpublications over the past two years. The format is easy FROM PEOPLE RATHER THAN COMPANIES. THEto follow, and attention-grabbing headlines provide theability to choose content that is most relevant to the RESPONSE TIME TO MY QUESTIONS ON FINDINGindividual. Educators appreciate the value of a more SOLUTIONS IS RELATIVELY QUICKER AND THATinteractive online publication, and are moving away GIVES ME A STARTING POINT FOR RESEARCH.from those publishers that just place print contentonline. Much like their preference toward print content,educators are placing more value in publications thatprovide research, study results and trends. As educators’ personal and professional lives move online, the emergence of personal learning networks via social media continues to increase. Between Twitter,NOW THERE HAS TO BE AN EYE CATCHING Facebook and RSS feeds, more and more educators are obtaining and sharing information through colleagues.HEADLINE FOR AN ARTICLE THAT I CAN’T GET The necessity of digital information from publications isFROM OTHER EDUCATORS ON TWITTER OR key in this space—as educators trust links to articles thatVIA BLOGS. I’D PREFER ARTICLES WITH SOME are shared through their networks.KIND OF RESEARCH OR THE RESULT OF A In order to be in front of these increasingly savvySTUDY OR TRENDS. educators, successful vendors need to not only have a presence, they also need to actively seek relationships with their customers—this includes prompt response times to questions, and actively sharing how productsTrusted industry publications still garner loyalty from can provide solutions to the challenges that schools andeducators, and respondents said that they are more educators face.likely to open an eNewsletter or webinar opportunityif it comes from these publications. However, content Currently, educators are using traditional onlinestill has to be relevant and interesting to cause platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as opposed tothem to click through to any links or sign up for any the educator-only counterparts, mostly because of theopportunities. increased social functionality. The resources geared toward the educational community aren’t seen as being useful for the social media component becauseTHE SUBJECT LINE HAS TO CAPTURE MY their memberships aren’t as high as those mainstream platforms. Also, many respondents use social networkingATTENTION OTHERWISE I’LL JUST DELETE IT. sites to communicate with students, so teacher-only sites don’t meet those needs. While YouTube is not readily available to some schools due to increased network security, few see educator-friendly video content sites as a viable replacement. Because educators value easy discoverability of resources, they are more reliant on established and well-known sources for their video content because the search functionality is greater and the library of resources more vast.I HAVE THE CAPABILITIES ON FACEBOOK, THROUGH THE SCHOOL’S PAGE, TO SUGGEST BOOK ANDMATERIALS FOR STUDENTS TO USE AND I KNOW IT’S MORE LIKELY THAT IT’LL HAPPEN WITH FACEBOOK.
Product &Program Research Participants also noted that they still rely heavily on product demonstrations at educational conferences, and value the ability to speak personally with the vendor about the needs relevant to their school. They were distrustful of “all-in-one” solutions, and place high valueHOW EDUCATORS RESEARCH on proven implementation strategies.The trend of educator-to-educator shared content Many educators ﬁnd vendor webinars to be extremelyextends to product endorsements and recommendations. useful. Continuing the trend toward teacher advocacy,While several participants are still using basic search participants felt that the most effective webinars had aengines to conduct product research, many ﬁrst look to teacher-user as a panelist. Effective advocates did notpersonal learning networks and regional consortia for necessarily need to represent the same district statisticsrecommendations on school and classroom solutions. of the participants, but the vendor should provide detailsThey prefer to have an advocate backing a product— on integration and scalability so that all educators couldsomeone who can speak to the effectiveness and provide see the value of the product/service.guidance for integration. Many participants did not visitvendor sites without ﬁrst receiving an endorsement froma fellow educator. I THINK [WEBINARS] ARE USEFUL, ESPECIALLY FOR TIME’S SAKE BECAUSE I CAN PUT IT ON MY CALENDAR AND SIT AT MY DESK ANDWE ALSO HAVE A CONSORTIUM THAT LISTEN THROUGH IT AND IT JUST SEEMSCOMES TOGETHER AND WE HAVE MADE EASIER FOR ME TO GET THE INFORMATIONRELATIONSHIPS WITH THESE OTHER MEMBERS, THAT I NEED.WHICH IS HELPFUL BECAUSE THEY CAN GIVEUS RECOMMENDATIONS TO HELP SOLVE APROBLEM WE MIGHT BE HAVING. WHAT THEY WANT FROM VENDORS Educators often feel overwhelmed with the amount“IN PERSON” IMPACTS of information they receive. While most participants felt that email was the best way for a vendor toAs school budgets continue to shrink, educators are communicate with them, they state that the subjectbecoming more and more savvy about purchasing line really needs to capture their attention to guaranteeproducts and solutions. They are less trustful of marketing they will read it. It is also very important for the vendorthat only provides basic product detail, and increasingly to know the school and the ﬁnancial landscape of thewant vendors to talk about scalability and integration of district before they contact educators—participants areproducts. Educators see value in vendors who provide looking for a “partner” in ﬁnding solutions that work.references from prior customers, and prefer a teacher When educators reach out to vendors with questions, itadvocate of a product to a vendor’s sales department. is very important that they receive a prompt response to their questions, or the educator will look elsewhere for answers and solutions.I WOULD LIKE VENDORS TO GIVE NEWCUSTOMERS THE ABILITY TO REACH OUTTO THEIR CURRENT CUSTOMERS SO THATI CAN REACH OUT TO THOSE CUSTOMERSABOUT THEIR SUCCESS WITH THE PRODUCT/SOLUTION.
Purchasing Trends ABOUT WINTER GROUP Operating with a full-time staff of 16 designers, production/programming artists, copywriters, accountNearly ﬁfty percent of focus group participants stated that managers, media specialists, researchers and supporttheir most recent purchase was for tablet computers. Most staff, Winter Group serves a diverse group of clientsof those purchased were for teachers and administrators; in the education, publishing and nonproﬁt sectors.however, several interesting trends emerged regarding Our clients include The Wall Street Journal, PBS/PBSpurchasing practices for student resources. TeacherLine, Epson America, Adobe, CTB/McGraw-Hill, Scholastic, The Verizon Foundation, National HistoryOne educator advocated the purchase of tablet computers Day, Amigos de las Americas, The Consortium for Schoolfor the classroom because he had used the technology inhis college education and saw the value and need for the Networking, Autodesk, ABC-CLIO, Math Solutions,same technology among his students. There seems to be Juniper Networks, Blackboard, e2020 and several otheropportunities for marketing efforts focusing on preservice innovative organizations serving the education andteachers to develop brand loyalty that would translate to library markets. Today, our services include a spectrumthe K12 market. of digital and multimedia communications, direct marketing, advertising in multiple venues includingAnother interesting trend that emerged focuses on niche online, mobile, social and print environments, lead andmarkets within K12 school systems. Several funding demand generation, market research, strategic planning,streams allow schools to make purchases for products and exhibit/environmental design, event management andtechnology for smaller groups of students, such as Special the development of comprehensive branding programs.Education. Once these products offer proven results inthese specialty areas of education, districts are more likely To learn more, contact Linda Winter atto rely on these products for school-wide integration. email@example.com, or 303-778-0866, x12.I DON’T REALLY REJECT ANYTHING BASED ONWHERE IT IS OR ENROLLMENT SIZE BECAUSEWE GET GOOD IDEAS OUT OF SMALL SCHOOLSYSTEMS AND THEN TAKE IT BACK AND SEE IF IT’SSOMETHING THAT WE CAN SCALE OR IF IT FALLS ABOUT C. BLOHM & ASSOCIATESINTO A SPECIFIC GROUP. Creating conversations between education publishers and media is the primary activity at C. Blohm & Associates, Inc. We guide education companies in clarifying andWHAT WE LEARNED delivering their communications—whether speaking to media, chatting with industry colleagues or respondingEducational consumers are becoming more savvy about to customers and prospects. We help our clients buildtheir purchasing efforts, and are relying more and more strategic communications plans that signiﬁcantly booston the shared communication amongst educators their visibility, which in turn has a substantial impact onregarding products and services and the ability to their bottom line. Each client’s plan is customized tointegrate resources into the school system. However,they are still reliant on traditional communication to focus on their key audiences—teachers, administrators,provide insight and knowledge about emergent trends school board members, state and national policy makersand useful products. Publications and vendors who will be and parents. We execute and analyze media and publicmost successful in this current landscape understand the relations plans, create and deploy corporate visibilityvalue of proven research and practical advocacy. There campaigns and recommend and utilize PR techniques tois an increasing value placed on shared information, so support Web optimization strategies.communication with this consumer group needs to To learn more, contact Charlene Blohm atbe honest and provide useful insight into real-worldapplication of resources and services. firstname.lastname@example.org, or 608-216-7300, x17.