Standing out in a Crowded Space: Education and Edtech
Few, if any, issues are as emotionally charged as education is. Joining the conversation around improving education requires a greater level of sensitivity and awareness of the issues than other industries. Behind every burgeoning tech company that promises to transform education, there are sure to be critics who feel that solution won’t adequately address today’s challenges.
Over the last several years, Team Ditto has elevated education and edtech companies and positioned their founders and executives as thought leaders. We owe our success to our deep understanding of the industry, and to our clients’ willingness to provide the assets we need to get results.
As with most industries, simply saying, “Hey, we exist” isn’t enough to create broad awareness around an education or edtech company. In order to get meaningful results, we encourage our clients to take a strong stance on the issues impacting their industry, which can be a challenge when people tend to respond emotionally to them.
Here are some of the tactics that have gotten the best results for our education and edtech clients:
Make the story about a real person.
Our client, the coding academy Flatiron School, sounds impressive on paper: 98% of its graduates find jobs as programmers, earning an average salary of $74K. But what really engages reporters, producers, readers and viewers is hearing about someone with no real, long-term career prospects — a man who worked in a warehouse or a woman was an administrative assistant — whose entire life was transformed by attending Flatiron School.
Most of Flatiron School’s top-tier media coverage — from the Wall Street Journal to PBS News Hour, Fox Business to CNBC.com — focuses on some of the program’s most impressive graduates. In most of these pieces, Flatiron School’s co-founders are also featured, but the human interest element provided by the graduates’ stories is what hooks the readers and viewers.
Show how you’re part of a growing trend.
In most aspects of education — from K-12 to higher ed — there tends to be one or two industry behemoths and several small upstarts that are challenging the way things have always been done. That’s certainly true of our former client ArborBridge, an elite online tutoring company that specializes in SAT and ACT prep.
ArborBridge tapped Team Ditto to get them top-tier national media coverage. We knew that the likelihood of a reporter at, say, the New York Times writing a standalone story on a small, relatively unknown edtech startup was a long shot. But we also felt there was a strong possibility of a reporter writing about the emerging players in SAT prep and the widely varying costs of different options. After pitching this story to Ann Carrns, an influential personal finance columnist at the Times, that’s exactly what she did.
Differentiate yourself through smart and unique thought leadership.
In a rapidly transforming industry like education, there is a strong need for experts to provide context around new developments and explain what they mean to reporters, editors, parents, teachers and administrators. For that reason, thought leadership — positioning a company’s founders and executives as experts in their industry — is a key component of our work with most of our education and edtech clients.
One of our most successful thought leadership programs has been with client ISDI, a digital business school that recently launched in the Bay Area. Team Ditto pitched ISDI’s co-founder, Steve Cadigan, as a thought leader in the talent strategies, leadership and culture space. We shared an article Steve had written with a Forbes editor, who enjoyed the content and Steve’s expertise so much that he invited him to become a regular contributor. This has benefited Steve’s individual profile and further promoted ISDI as a great way to further your education and career.
Don’t discount the power of local press.
Most immediate changes in education happen first on a local level. Parents, teachers and administrators are the decision-makers most of our education and edtech clients want to target. And because those demographics still widely receive their news from their local newspapers and TV news, it’s important to not discount those outlets.
When working with Edco, an online fundraising platform for K-12 extracurricular programs, Team Ditto helped them identify teams using the platform in key markets who were open to doing interviews on their fundraising efforts. Teams in locations as widely dispersed as Fresno, CA; Waco, TX; and New York City appeared on their local news stations talking about using Edco to reach their fundraising goals. This was also a way for Edco to solidify its relationship with these teams, since appearing on local news helped drum up interest in their programs.
What do these tactics have in common? They show the impact our clients are having on the education landscape and on the teachers and students themselves. In an industry as crowded as edtech and people have an unusually personal response to the issues, it’s important to work with a PR firm that understands the industry and can help emerging companies raise their profile and differentiate themselves from competitors.