The last two Spotlights offered real-life examples of how some of our Michigan State University Extension colleagues have successfully marketed their curriculum resulting in at least moderate increases in sales of the product in the MSU Extension Bookstore. Today, I’d like to offer my final example.
Extension program leaders Janet Olsen and Karen Pace wrote Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming and Fair Environments (HNI101). The curriculum is designed to help young people aged 11 to 14 and adults work in partnership to create environments that are physically and emotionally safe.
The curriculum has sold well in the MSU Extension Bookstore with 70 percent of sales coming from outside Michigan.
Janet said, “Karen and I have been quite intentional about our marketing efforts, and we think that there are multiple aspects of our overall program development and marketing that have contributed to good sales.”
For starters, the two did not just develop the curriculum because the subject interested them. They created it when seeing a need for research-based bullying prevention education within out-of-school time settings. As they created the curriculum, they paid particular attention to research from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning), which stressed that effective after-school programs that promote social and emotional learning are sequenced, active, focused and explicit (which also spells SAFE). Making connections between the Be SAFE curriculum design and the findings from CASEL has been an important aspect of marketing the value of the material.
Early in the process, they focused on cross-institute partnerships and capacity-building. Although the Be SAFE initiative was developed within the Health and Nutrition Institute Social and Emotional Work Team, they began building connections with staff in the Children and Youth Institute. As soon as the curriculum came off the presses in January 2013, they offered workshops to build the capacity of staff to address issues of bullying within their communities and to use and market the curriculum as a tool for addressing these issues. They also developed flyers designed to make local marketing easy to carry out. They currently offer mini-grants staff can use to help program sites put the curriculum to work.
They’ve promoted Be SAFE at a wide variety of youth- and health-related conferences across Michigan and the country. Some of these have been Extension-related (such as the National Extension Conference on Volunteerism and the Priester National Extension Health Conference), and many have been through external groups and organizations (such as Girl Scouts, the Michigan AfterSchool Association and the Childhood Trauma Practitioner’s Assembly). They always provide participants with copies of the curriculum flyer, as well as flyers for additional Be SAFE educational workshops. They always make sure they tell people to download a free PDF of the introduction to the Be SAFE curriculum from the MSU Extension Bookstore site. They also stress that the curriculum is available in multiple formats (print, flash drive and CD-ROM).
They’ve offered webinars about bullying topics “bookended” by information about Be SAFE. They’ve marketed these webinars through the local and statewide networks of MSU Extension staff members, as well as through the eXtension website and national Extension youth- and health-related Listservs. The recordings of the webinars are available for purchase through the MSU Extension Bookstore.
They use MSU Extension news articles as a marketing tool. As they write news articles about bullying and related issues, they often include a final paragraph that connects with the Be SAFE initiative and that highlights the curriculum. For example, a recent article about cyberbullying included three pertinent links: the Be SAFE program web page, the Be SAFE curriculum page in the MSU Extension Bookstore and the Events registration site for a recent webinar about cyberbullying.
They offer continuing education units for their workshops, which helps them reach broader audiences. They have worked with the Michigan Social Work Continuing Education Collaborative to have the Be SAFE-related workshops approved for continuing education hours. This has allowed them to have their approved workshops listed on the collaborative’s website, which is accessed by large numbers of social workers who need ongoing education hours for their licensing requirements.
Karen and Janet worked to get Be SAFE included in a nationally sold publication produced by the National 4-H Council titled A Guide to Bullying Prevention Programs. It talks about Be SAFE as an important resource to address issues of bullying.
As you can see from all three examples I’ve talked about, trying a variety of marketing methods can lead to successful sales of your product. Find some that work for you.