1. Know the curriculum at different grade levels and develop programs that are grade- and subject-appropriate.
2. Know your audience and their language. Don’t rely solely on research. Speak to kids and teens yourself, read what they are reading, watch what they are watching, know their concerns. Go out and meet your target audience of teachers and kids where your program is going-into schools.
3. Make the materials easy for teachers/administrators to implement. Remember that the teacher/administrator is the gatekeeper to the use of the program. So make the materials user-friendly for busy educators.
4. Make sure your program is going to work effectively with the intended audience. Field-test it with teachers and students in the schools you plan to reach.
5. Remember that first and foremost, your message must be educational and balanced. Be prepared to tell your clients or corporate management when they are stepping over the commercial line. Their reputation and yours depends on it.
6. Understand the seasonality of the school year, when certain themes and subjects are taught, and when specific purchasing decisions are made. For the greatest effectiveness, target your programs to these dates.
7. Think globally, but act locally. Today’s youth share many common interests, sensibilities and concerns with their peers in other countries. Many in-school programs can cross borders easily, and so should your message. However, consult with educators and kids in each country to modify the program according to the needs and sensitivities of that educational system.
8. Kids love learning new things-as long as it seems like fun. Don’t be afraid to present them with new and challenging information, but do present it in a fun format.
9. Kids love to teach their parents. Empower kids with knowledge and they’ll bring your message home.
10. Don’t sugarcoat your message. Violence, the environment and drug abuse are real issues for today’s youth. They care about the world they’re going to inherit.
11. Don’t talk down to young people; that’s the fastest way to get them to stop listening.
12. Kids think they are immortal. They don’t understand the concept of risk, so do be careful with your message.
13. Schools are typically at least five years behind industry and the general public in acceptance and use of new technologies.
14. Print still rules in schools! Many teachers remain technophobic, computers too often sit in closets and older modems are frustratingly slow. (A recent national study shows that fewer than 2% of educators want materials delivered on-line only.) So don’t be fooled into thinking that the Internet can be your main delivery system into classrooms.
15. You may love contests and sweepstakes, but many schools don’t! Contests mean more work for teachers, so if you’re planning a contest make sure it’s easy for teachers to administer and that a number of students can be ‘winners.’ Sweepstakes are considered ‘games of chance’ (gambling) in some states and are illegal in many schools.
16. When designing an in-school promo, put on your parent’s hat first. As a parent, how would you respond to the program being presented in school? Would you want class time taken to implement it?
17. Make sure you’d feel grateful to the sponsor for helping your kids and their teachers! If you feel uneasy about the content or approach to the material that you are being asked to deliver, be candid with your clients or your upper management and guide them in a more appropriate, effective direction.
18. Finally, be prepared to walk away from a project that is too heavy-handed and runs the risk of a negative backlash from educators. You’ll respect yourself in the morning and so will your clients.
Roberta Nusim (email@example.com) is the president of Easton, Connecticut-based
Youth Marketing International, a full-service marketing company specializing in in-school programs.