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Are you ready for PR in EdTech? Find out below.
You need to know what makes the education market unique to begin with. Check out these five key factors.
The education market has its own language that may seem like Greek to the layman. Acronyms like IDEA (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding, and IEP (Individualized Education Program) are commonplace. You’ll also need to know more niche terms for the disciplines you work in. Do you know what “the science of reading” means to an ELA teacher, and why it’s different from “balanced literacy”? What about high-dosage tutoring, scaffolding, and differentiation?
Whether you’re trying to connect with editors of major publications or chat with teachers themselves, if you don’t know what you’re talking about, your audience will see right through it and won't trust you. Of course, that’s true in every industry. But, it really matters in education. First impressions matter, and education organizations, especially those just getting started with PR, can’t afford to get off on the wrong foot.
If you tell an educator that you have the solution to elementary school literacy, but you think “phonemic awareness” is a Marvel superpower, educators and editors will dismiss you before you get past the “h” in hello. (Yes, that was a phonemic awareness pun.)
Unfortunately, decision-makers in the education market can be wary even of the EdTech companies that know what they’re talking about. Teachers may have had bad experiences with software that took hours to set up or didn’t work. Districts may have been burned by companies whose customer support ghosted them the minute the platform was up and running.
At the same time, products being sold in the pre-K–12 are subject to a high level of public scrutiny and sometimes, regulation. This is fair enough: curriculum, educational games, or software platforms have a profound impact on student learning.
During the last few school years disrupted by COVID-19, parents, caregivers, and the general public have taken a more active role in how and what students are being taught. The fierce political debate over topics like race and gender has drawn attention to everything in the classroom. Mainstream news sources have ratcheted up their coverage of EdTech. Some of this scrutiny has led to legislation that emphasizes student privacy and safety. From parents to lawmakers, everyone is paying attention.
Don’t worry! We’ll share a few tricks later to help you navigate and cut through this skepticism.
Outside of the education market, news stories often have a very short lifecycle. They’re published, they get attention, and then they’re forgotten. In the education industry, news cycles, as well as sales, marketing, and PR cycles, often play out over months. Schools have a timeline that’s financial, legal, and even emotional.
From PR and marketing to sales outreach, timing every connection point to the right moment in the sales cycle is critical in guiding your buyer through their sales process. There’s a right moment for every press release, cold email, or other touchpoint. And yes, the response time to these communications will almost always be longer than in consumer-facing markets.
Your messaging (and your products) need to appeal to different stakeholders for different reasons. Sure, you may be trying to get to a superintendent or to a CTO who will sign a purchase order. But, your product and your messaging have to be useful and engaging for teachers and students, too. Especially today, when parent empowerment is a focal point in education news, it certainly helps to have parents on your side, as well.
Every purchasing decision has to make its way up through many layers of bureaucracy before it reaches someone with purchasing power. A committee may evaluate each purchase. For example, a teacher might find your product and share it with a technology specialist, who might also talk with other teachers, facilities, or IT, before bringing it to a principal, who might bring it to a superintendent, who might have questions about budget… Each of these folks will have different concerns and need to see different messaging in different places at different times.
When we think about PR, we often think about consumer media and big publications. Yet, education buyers don’t typically look to The New York Times to make decisions about the products they’ll have in their classrooms. Your buyers are members of organizations like New Era Superintendents. Sometimes they’re on micro-platforms like K12-Leaders. They’re using Teachers Pay Teachers or Donors Choose. They’re going to conferences like SXSWEdu, and they’re reading publications like District Administration, eSchool News, EdTechDigest, The Learning Counsel, THE Journal, SmartBrief, EdWeek, and Edutopia…. (For a glimpse into the type of content they’re reading, check out the PRP Press Room).
When an agency like PRP Group works with the members of our client family who serve the education market, we’ll help you overcome unique challenges, such as a long and complex buying cycle. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t get started on your own.
Planning to tackle PR on your own? No problem! Check out our Quick Start Guide and be sure to read our list of solutions to these challenges here. And if you’re looking for help along the way, you know where to find us!
PRP Group, formerly PR with Panache! is an award-winning education PR and marketing firm serving the pre-K—12 and higher-ed community.