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We should all be teachers

Dr. Jen Gunter is a great example of what education can do for your brand. Photo from CBC Media Centre.

Dr. Jen Gunter is a great example of what education can do for your brand. Photo from CBC Media Centre.

One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from a sports journalist: “Tell me something that I don’t know in every pitch you send me.”

It totally shifted how I think about PR.

PR is often used as a brand awareness tool or as a marketing tactic to increase sales. And this is the way I used to sell it to my clients.

But after that sports journalist gave me the pitching tip, I realized brand awareness and sales are not why I practice PR.

Education is why I practice PR.

I synthesize information for the public to better understand why something is important. I use my storytelling skills to capture people’s attention. I use my creativity to get people to do something about an issue.

So why do we pitch PR as just another marketing tactic and not as an educational tool? Because education doesn’t have a dollar figure attached to it. Things like sales and brand awareness can be measured and broken down into a dollar amount.

But education’s dollar figure? That’s much harder to calculate. This is why corporate types tend to call things “value” that are in fact education. “Value” sounds like it means money, even though it’s hard to measure.

Education breeds trust. Trust breeds awareness. Awareness breeds sales, which you can measure. 

People are learning something from you. That means that they’re listening to you - even if they don’t like what you’re saying. If they’re listening to you, they’re paying attention to you and your product or service, despite not making your business the centre of attention. And that probably means that someone is buying from you.

A great example of how effective education can be as a marketing tool is looking at Dr. Jen Gunter, an OB/GYN from Canada. Since Jen Gunter started using her Twitter account to educate the public about Gwenyth Paltrow’s ridiculous vaginal health advice, we’ve seen a rise of vagina-related media (so much so that I can write about it here on my blog and not feel “unprofessional”). Now that vaginal health pieces are more common and we see them in traditional media, Jen Gunter has published a bestselling book and recorded her own TV show, a.k.a. she has some more money in the bank.

Jen Gunter didn’t set out to make money off of her educational tweets, but she did because learning is emotional. People have strong feelings toward her: they HATE her for denying Goop’s claim that anyone needs to put a jade egg inside themselves or they LOVE her for debunking a claim that they already believed to be stupid. 

Think about the last time you told someone something they don’t know. There was likely a big emotional response: excitement, shock, joy, sadness – something you could physically see in that person’s face.

We all know that buying habits stem more from emotions than logic. So people have to feel something toward you, your mission and your product or service. Focusing on education can create those feelings that make people want to work with or buy from you. 

What do you want to educate people about? Comment below and I’ll reply with a tip on how to spread that message to more people!

Sabina Wex