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Guest Thinkers

My not-so-friendly library, boring teachers, and other marketing interactions

[cross-posted at the TechLearning blog]

My city’s public library is a wonderful place. It hosts a variety of

well-attended events, has a phenomenal children’s section, and serves as a real

hub for the community. But its formal communications stink.

The very first time that you have an overdue book, the initial notice that

you receive says that failure to pay your fines may result in being turned over

to a collection agency. Ouch. When you request a book,

the notification that the book is in says that failure to pick up the book

promptly will result in a $0.50 fine. Huh? If you

write a letter to the public library’s director highlighting the somewhat

draconian tone of its communications, you receive a letter justifying the

library’s terseness (trust me on this one). So despite all of the great things

that the public library does, you’re still left with a bitter taste in your



Godin reminds us

that every interaction with a customer / client / patron /

stakeholder / visitor is a marketing interaction. It’s

an opportunity for us to build or erode our brand, a chance to increase or

decrease the trust and goodwill of the people with whom we are interacting.

What’s this mean for schools? Well, it means that every time a parent walks

away unhappy from an encounter at school, that’s a marketing interaction. Every

time a teacher has yet another boring lesson, that’s a marketing interaction.

Every time a school board member puts her personal agenda ahead of what’s best

for students, that’s a marketing interaction. Every time a member of the

community walks through an uninviting building, that’s a marketing interaction.

And every time an administrator squanders an opportunity to be a leader rather

than a manager, that’s a marketing interaction.

Schools do a host of wonderful things. But they also engage in a number of

individual and organizational behaviors that chip away at the trust and goodwill

of their internal and external communities. We can bemoan the lack of student

engagement / parent support / community involvement / referendum votes all we

want, but our actions probably led to the problem(s) in the first place. Putting

forth a glossy spin on the surface (We’re the best! Support us!) does

no good if we’re not willing to look at our underlying practices as the

marketing interactions that they are.


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