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Education Marketers: Seeking Answers from the Magic 8-Ball in the Age of COVID?

Posted: Apr 21, 2020

During these last few weeks, the question on everyone’s mind has been–when will things go back to normal?

Answering with any certainty is like shaking a Magic 8-Ball, turning it over to see which of the 20 possible answers have appeared. Thankfully, 10 of the possible answers are hopeful, 5 are non-committal and only 5 are less optimistic. 

We’re not advising everyone dust off their Magic 8-Ball or take a whimsical approach to adjust business practices in the age of COVID-19. But the reality is that no one knows exactly when we’ll see some semblance of normalcy in the education market.

What we do know is BIG questions regarding budgets and resources will need to be tackled soon, but when? This is the main question. While we don’t have an answer, here are some suggestions about what to do right now.

Solve today’s problems today. Keep your customers’ needs top-of-mind and make sure to address their needs first. Think carefully about how your support helps school leaders solve short-term or long-term challenges. Don’t worry too much about amplifying core brand values or an expected ROI on the bottom line.

How can you do this without losing support from investors and board members?

  • Lend your voice or financial support to take care of the immediate needs: food, water, shelter and safety. Those same students who arrive at school hungry every day are still hungry. These students rely on support from their schools and national campaigns, such as For Schools’ Sake, for meals.
  • Expand the free trial. Many companies have already provided access to online resources, tools and platforms for no cost and many are keeping free trials active through June 30, 2020. It’s something to consider if you can swing it.
  • Amplify customer service and support. Teachers are facilitating learning through parents. Consider ways to make it easier for parents and teachers to team-up to help everyone adjust to at-home learning.
  • Provide some structure. Life’s routine has been turned upside down and due to the lack of a regular schedule, learning is just a little bit harder. Consider how you can give some structure to this temporary reality. It might be as simple as hosting web-based sessions every week on the same day, at the same time. Publish and promote the schedule in advance so teachers–and parents–have a few days to plan.

Recognize things have changed. Now is when those relationships forged over the years matter most. It’s also an opportunity to build new relationships and partner with others to solve for today and tomorrow.

How can collaborative problem-solving help in today’s new reality?

  • Work together. Now’s the time to work together with school leaders and other organizations. Join with others and take time to listen, learn, discover and collaborate on solutions to close the learning gaps many students are experiencing.
  • Modify how your product supports students. If you relied on a traditional school or classroom, explore how your program, product, resource or tool can support a blended learning model (in school, at-home, online). Consider providing real-world content to create relevant learning moments to make at-home learning and teaching easier for parents.
  • Re-organize to meet the needs of your customers. Now’s the time to be flexible with support. Parents are now the teachers and teachers are now the coaches. Are there teacher resources that can be swiftly modified for parents?

Be obsessive about focus. Staying focused on what your company does best, and how it can help, allows you to reallocate resources to what needs to get done now. When you’re focused, it’s easier to make quick decisions about what projects can wait.

  • Establish clear priorities. Thoroughly process those “if this, then that” scenarios, leaving no room to panic or react hastily. Plan how you, your company and employees can jump in to support.
  • Focus on what your organization can do to help. Articulate this focus internally and have a plan to share it externally. Build buy-in and support from everyone internally so that when the time comes to respond, everyone has a clear understanding of the company’s plan.
  • Align your rapid response plans to mission and brand. Determine how you’ll introduce, launch, scale and support what your company will do to support the crisis. Develop a strategic communications plan to inform your customers and make others aware of what and how your company is helping.

Economists studying the COVID-19 trends have offered ideas of what might happen over the coming months in the education market. While these predictions are more grounded in facts and statistics than those offered by the Magic 8-Ball, they are still predictions.

No one knows what the new normal will look like in the future, but two things are certain–you cannot panic your way to success and we’re all in this together doing the best we can with the information at hand.

If you’d like help with strategic planning or mapping out a communications plan, drop us an email. We’re here to support you.

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