First, an apology: Before I started working for MBS, I spent more than a decade in college classrooms oblivious to the needs of campus retailers. Although I can’t speak for all faculty members, I doubt my ignorance was unique.
As a faculty member, I didn’t know getting adoptions in early helped lower students costs. I knew little about course materials options, and I didn’t know students were habitually beginning to forgo textbook purchases in many classes. Perhaps most importantly, I was unaware that putting off adoptions a week (or two or three … or four) could make life harder for workers and managers at the college bookstore.
If you want to communicate with an audience, the No. 1 tip for teachers, marketers, retailers — anyone — is to start where they are. Use their language. Find common ground. Get to know their problems.
Arm yourself with these secrets when you launch an adoption campaign
- There’s no guarantee faculty will know industry lingo — As a teacher, I didn’t use words like “adoption” and “course materials” and “OER.” If someone had ever asked me a question like Lori, Where are your adoptions? I wouldn’t have thought immediately of favorites like Anne Charters’ superb anthology The Story and Its Writer, Tim O’Brien’s classic The Things They Carried or Diane Hacker’s definitive Bedford Handbook. I would have pictured forlorn tots waiting in a room for new parents to call them their own. You know — adoptions. When I undertook that once-a-semester ritual of filling out an adoption form, I called it … ordering my books. If and when emails arrived from stores on campuses where I worked requesting my “adoption submissions,” I ignored them.
- Faculty check administrative email last — if at all — When you send a note to faculty members, you’re competing for attention with students, colleagues and department chairs. Students come first. That’s not just because instructors have an obligation to students, but because college-age young people tend to write teachers in a state of panic. They’ve missed class, forgotten an assignment, misunderstood a lecture — and if you don’t respond immediately, the world will end. Millennial and Gen Z kids, raised on text messages, become especially overwrought if they don’t receive prompt replies. The hour between classes includes at least five urgent emails from students — and those multiply around midterms and finals. By contrast, most administrative missives are mass emails with little relevance to an individual faculty member’s job. They’re easy to ignore or miss. If you want to ensure faculty members get your message, enlist department chairs to help you. Teachers open these emails because they come from the boss. Even if the chair only forwards your letter, it’s guaranteed to go much farther than a generic admin notice.
- As many as 70% of your faculty are part-time —Schools are relying on part-timers — adjuncts, TAs, fellowship holders — at increasing rates. These famously underpaid instructors typically have a heavy course load and minimal access to an office or school computer. The email rules that apply to full-time faculty apply doubly to them. Again, enlist a department chair for help. Often, however, adjuncts don’t know whether they will have classes until a few weeks — even days — before the semester starts. That means they’re forced to ignore even those adoption requests they do see. I remember reading bookstore notices in the past and thinking to myself, Right. If only I knew.
How does your store handle these issues? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.In the meantime, stay tuned for more tips from Foreword Online about how to get your message through to clueless faculty.