Working with Vicki Davis, Angela Maiers and 30 other connect educators has been eye opening. Through them, I'm seeing how companies are engaging with educators on the very leading edge of social media influence.
I’ve now had scores of one-on-one exchanges with these enterprises. Some have been large established national brands, others new ed tech startups. The experience has provided a rare view of what these companies want from connected educators. We're also seeing what educators are getting in return.
Perhaps the three most important insights gleaned so far are:
- For those who want to make a difference beyond the classroom, there are abundant new opportunities everywhere. This is especially true for educators with significant social media influence. (Most influential connected educators already know this.)
- There are also significant challenges, conflicts of interest and pitfalls to navigate. (Many are unaware of the myriad issues below the surface.)
- Finally, there is a massive gap between the value educators are providing, and the compensation they are getting.
As it stands now, most connected educators go into these relationships with companies blindly. Many have no idea what to expect or what will be expected of them. Many have no knowledge of what is generally acceptable and what is not. It’s clear that all connected educators can benefit from having some visibility into what’s going on in this rapidly developing love affair between connected educators and education marketers. So let's start with the big picture...
The View from 100,000+
- What do companies want from connected educators? The answer comes in many flavors and includes:
-- product reviews
-- guest blog posts
-- product feedback
-- supportive articles
-- access to your tribe
-- lessons planned around their resource
-- in short, access to your influence. Find out why this is so important.
The question is, what is the value of that influence? How is it determined? How is it negotiated? What's clear is that educator influence, though highly coveted, is dreadfully undercompensated. The overwhelming majority of offers we see weekly don’t come close to compensating the educator for the value requested. Though most of the queries we receive are invitations to “partner” the benefit to the company compared to the benefit to the educator is often vastly skewed. Let me be clear, most companies are not taking advantage of educators. A simple rationale shapes these relationships. Generally speaking, educators want to help kids learn. Educators are not in this field to make money. So many companies say, partner with us and we’ll give you the good feeling of improving education for kids and we’ll take the money. It's an intentionally imbalanced relationship between consenting adults.
2. Growing demand: I am astounded by the volume of requests we are seeing from marketers and PR firms. All indications are that those numbers will continue to grow. How many queries are you getting per month from marketers? What’s the average number? How does what you get compare to what others are getting? Knowing this is an important metric to watch. If your queries are above the mean, you are in demand, and that’s an indicator of the value of your influence. If your queries are below the mean and you are aspiring to be more relevant in this space, this is a good barometer to watch. I think this metric is so important that we’ve decided to do an anonymous poll and share the results with those who participate. You can take part in the three question survey here.
The View from Trenches
The view from above is exciting and appealing. The view in the trenches is a bit more complicated and peppered with potential pitfalls. One common example is mission creep.
So you commit to helping spread the word about an education resource that really rings your bell. You agree to do a sponsored blog post, host a Twitter party or write some lesson plans using the new tool. You block a certain number of hours, and you feel great about the project. Mid process you receive an email asking for one tiny addition. The next day you get a call with another request. Later in the week comes an urgent "invitation" to an unplanned meeting. It's scheduled right in the middle of your big school assembly. We call this mission creep, and it comes in at least four flavors:
1. Change orders: Request for changes to the original plan that are within the terms of the agreement. Example: Change the delivery date from Wednesday to Friday.
2. Slow response to approvals: When a company wants to approve your work before you publish, a slow approval process can be a frustrating experience that adds additional time to the project.
3. Requests for multiple unplanned meetings to clarify, modify or approve elements of the project.
4. Requests for new items that were not part of the original discussion or agreement.
Solution: A well defined "scope of work" document is essential. It should specify what you will include and how you will handle the items you have not explicitly included. The document should be reviewed and signed by all parties and referenced when handling requests. Once written, it’s just a matter of having the discipline to use the document as your working agreement.
Most companies who want to partner with education influencers are run by good people who also value education and have good intentions. Clarity about the terms of engagement is essential to ensure that good intentions evolve into good working relationships, and good outcomes for you, the company, and the kids.
How SyndicatED Can Help
I believe that greater transparency will help this new space develop in ways that benefit educators, companies and students.
The aim here is to provide a window into both the opportunities and the challenges that are surfacing for influential connected educators and the companies who want to engage them. More importantly, this blog will be a reliable, practical resource for educators who are looking to make an impact beyond the classroom. Whether that means staying in the classroom or venturing out; whether you are a leading connected educator or an emerging educator with a larger vision for your life, you should find some helpful insights on these pages.
This blog will also provide insights to quality companies who are looking to understand how to work constructively with educators who have high social media influence.
Your comments are welcomed!