This project is best suited for graduating seniors. Use it to pull together various aspects of your lessons in communications and marketing.
--A Positioning Campaign in Support of Career and Technical Education and Business/Marketing Education--
This project is best suited for graduating seniors. Use it to pull together various aspects of your lessons in communications and marketing. The project offers a real-life activity that includes identification of target markets, benefits analysis, communications strategy, and more. And, it has the added benefits of helping vest your students more solidly in the program over time (They will remember this project.) and of building a support base (stakeholders with a vested interest) that will benefit your program over time.
Important: This project is not intended to be a two day letter-writing exercise. Rather, it is intended to be conducted as a marketing project that results in a communications campaign not unlike how a marketing research company and a PR company might team up to build a branding campaign. Keep in mind, this project is NOT a simulation. This is a real campaign, with real people, and with real consequences.
Ideally, this project might be developed over a six to ten-week period.
1. Identify stakeholders. Brainstorm with the entire class to identify those who benefit from your school's business and marketing program:
Short term: (Example: seniors planning to attend college and major in business)
Long term: (Example: local economy)
Don't be bashful. Consider how the program benefits local employers, underclassmen searching for something of interest in school, students not interested in college and who need career skills right now, et. al.
NOTE: For the time being, do not consider legislators as a stakeholder group. They will get special treatment later in the project.
2. Develop a benefit analysis. Begin with small groups assigned to specific stakeholders, and identify benefits of your program to each stakeholder. Think in terms of positive learning outcomes rather than process. ("We had a great trip to nationals" is not a benefit statement. But what were the benefits of having made the trip?) Use your curriculum and program of study as a trigger to generate ideas. In a large-group (classroom) setting, use the input from the small group assignments to expand and refine the list. The end product of step 2 should be a very substantive list of benefits organized by stakeholder group. (There will be some overlaps, but there should also be distinctly different benefits for each.)
3. Test the benefit statements. Divide the class into small groups, each responsible for a stakeholder group. (Some students might appropriately be assigned to more than one group.) Have each group arrange to interview several representatives of those groups that are accessible. In each interview, have students plan to a) explain your business/marketing program as necessary, b) review the relevant benefit statements to determine agreement, to modify as necessary to better fit the stakeholder group, and c) to generate additional statements. Based on stakeholder input, create the final list of benefit statements for each group.
5. Personalize the benefits. Individually, or in teams of two or three, use the class's lists of benefits to select those with the most meaning to individual students. Each student should be able to identify at least four or five specific benefits that s/he gained over the course of the year(s). Rewrite the selected benefits, adding specific examples and language of individual students.
Example: If the class lists "Learned to communicate with adults." as a benefit statement, a personalized version might read: "Before I took marketing education, I was afraid to talk to anyone older than me, except for my family. In my business classes, we learned how to interact with professional business people, and I learned that I do have something to say when I'm working with adults."
4. Identify gatekeepers. Brainstorm with the entire class a list of those people who have the power to support or damage your program. To generate the list, identify those people who control things like funding (where the money comes from), budgeting (how the money is spent), and valuing (i.e., making decisions about the value of the program to the school and to individual students).
Example: Funding comes from the federal government (Perkins), so your list should include the appropriate House representative and both Senators from your state. (Hint: Identify your Congressional delegation by visiting the public policy section of ACTEonline.org) Funding also comes from state funds, so you'll want to add to your list the Congressional delegation for each student's home address.
Be sure to expand your list of gatekeepers to include all gatekeepers (administrators, school board members, guidance counselors, et. al.).
5. Legislators: Write the letter. Ask each individual student to use the list of personalized benefits (item 3) to develop one letter to his/her Congressperson. (Hint: Each letter might have four parts: 1) I am (or will soon be) a registered voter in your district/state. 2) Thank you for supporting Career and Technical Education. 3) As a CTE business/marketing student, I benefited..., and 4) Please continue your support of CTE and please help support funding of the Perkins legislation. (Please provide enough federal funds to keep CTE alive in my school.) Letters do not have to be long.
Check the letter carefully for grammar and spelling.
Personalize the letter for each of the three Congressional delegates.
Fax or email the letter. (Hint: Because of security procedures in DC, most Congressional offices prefer fax or email over hard copy letters.) A very easy way to email is through the Public Policy section at http://www.acteonline.org/
Repeat the process for state legislatorssubstituting references to Perkins with references to state legislation. Many states have specific laws supporting CTE. In those that don't ask for support. (Hint: "My CTE program in business/marketing is so important to so many students, we really need for the state to offer its support. A little money could do a lot of good...")
6. Reach out to other gatekeepers.
a. Using the list of benefits generated previously, match appropriate benefit statements with specific gatekeepers. (Example: School administrator: 1) recognition for the school through positive publicity, 2) documentation of learning through achievement of certifications, 3) reduction of drop-outs because of increased interest, or 4) improved test scores resulting from integration of math into the business/marketing curriculum.
b. For each group of gatekeepers, develop strategies to communicate identified benefits. (Example: a) letters, b) formal report, c) face-to-face meetings, or d) meal function with show and tell.)
7. Involve all stakeholders. Brainstorm specific ideas for involving all remaining stakeholders. Keep in mind that the definition of a stakeholder is someone with a vested interest in the program. In other words, a stakeholder is an individual who will be impacted (either positively or negatively) by the success of the business/marketing program.
Using the benefit statements generated earlier, identify ways a) to communicate appropriate benefits to each stakeholder - either one on one, or as a group - and b) to involve them in a way that encourages them to become increasingly vested in the success or failures of the program.
8. Strategic plan. Using the various outcomes of the above activities, develop the first draft of a strategic plan for positioning your business/marketing program in the community. Think in terms of short-term goals (months) and long-term goals (years). Identify key activities and specific outcomes for each activity and schedule them for completion over the next three years. (Keep in mind that many activities might be completed each year (e.g., letters to legislators), while others might take the full three years to reach completion (e.g., gain commitment and funds to establish an in-school computer network to support all business students).
Reminder: Be sure to share your ideas and successes with MBA Research. Let us share your successes with your colleagues nationwide. And, remember, this activity is intended to spark your own creativity. Make it work for you, your students, and your school. Begin this spring with letters to legislators (critical) and add additional activities as appropriate. Do one or two things this year and plan (this year) for additional activities to be completed next year.
Remember: Other than your students, your program has few vested stakeholders until you find a way to communicate with and to involve them in the successes of your program. In other words, no one cares about your program until you give them a reason to care.