“we are the sum of our whole experience and our marketing insight can help, maybe even because we are not in L and D as such. More like lovers of #LnD. We are embracing our whole experience here and starting to share more of our point of view.”
#1: Create a brand for learning and development itself
Why is low participation and engagement in learning and development such a challenge? To quote a friend recently and passionate learning and development community member;
“we almost have an embarrassment of riches with the learning that is available to us when you compare it to people in other parts of the world.”
So why is engagement in learning and development a problem?
Part of the answer could be lack of brand. Having a brand helps a companies express its purpose and intention. It outlines the problem its there to solve. Marketing teams obsess over brand messages, it’s purpose and meaning, and create the stories the brand is telling to its old fans and new. A marketing manager’s role involves protecting the brand and ensuring the brand’s messages create the desired effect and we can use this as inspiration to improve the influence and effectiveness of our learning and development function.
- What does learning and development really do for it’s target audiences?
- Does it solve a specific business challenge or make them more valuable?
- Does it get them unstuck?
- Do your learning and development programs get them a promotion?
Creating and promoting the intention and purpose of your learning and development function and the purpose and intention of new initiatives cannot be underestimated if we want to get people engaged. Which leads to the next key point.
#2 Forget about brand.
Brand is just the side effect of constant communication from your learning and development function. Yes , we know, it’s a contradiction… but marketing is like that.
How you are communicating those messages through your learning brand needs to be considered. Forget brand. Brand is the side effect of constant, consistent communication. Your target audience is getting hit and processing hundreds of thousands bite sized bits information a day, sub consciously and unconsciously. Define the most important “key” messages in a couple of short sentences then constantly refer back to this with all of your communication. Is everyone in the team repeating the same messages? Is your LMS repeating the same messages as your EDM’s are? Is your answering machine repeating it? Are you repeating it? To ensure your learning and development audience is not left confused or assuming something, get clear on your key message and consistently repeat these in every channel that your learning and development team can. Person, print, digital or otherwise. Which leads us to our next point…
In radio and television advertising, media planners measure frequency to assess the effectiveness of a marketing campaign. We can keep this in mind when we’re planning our learning and development. What’s frequency? It’s how many times the target audience hears or sees it. Brand campaigns are often run over a longer, more sustained period of time to help build trust, credibility and likability and we usually want one message to connect with a user at least three times or more, and for that frequency to grow. In campaigns where the advertiser needs the audience to take a direct action now, the frequency of how much a message is repeated goes into overdrive and is accompanied by a deadline. In rudimentary terms, if something is really important and critical short term we need to hit people over the head with the message as many times as possible as many ways as possible if you want to engage your audience to take action, a frequency of one is not enough. Which leads us to our next point.
#4 Be aware of different promotional formats and channels in learner engagement.
If you are being KPI’d on engagement it can help to start really considering how your messaging and creative can make an impact. Deciding which digital advertising format to use in each instance, matters. Take the little rectangle digital ads you see on news sites called banner ads; the standing joke in the media industry is that a consumer is less likely to click a banner ad online than they are to have a Qantas plane accident. It almost never happens. Banner ads are used to create awareness not action.
On the flip side a little text ad on a Google ad gets about 2% cut through with some variation for category and relevance (2% is good FYI). Highly relevant Google text ads can get about 7% of the audience to click on them. If you’re thinking about promoting a learning campaign in your inhouse channels text links are highly prized gold and video placements in tools like Yammer perform well.In the education category on Facebook, similar digital media ads get around 14% conversion in the education category.
The absolute powerhouse is of digital formats though is the email. It still outperforms almost every other channel in digital marketing and this is where you should spend a lot of time perfecting your message.
The ultimate advice is to make sure the message can be read in 2 phone swipes, or better yet embed a short video in email your email. Hubspot have free email templates with great messaging to make this super easy so check them out. You can start to see why marketers spend so much time focused on messaging, creative and placement (selecting formats). Now on messaging. this leads us to our next point.
#5 Pay super close attention to creative and cut through in learning and development
Creative writers and directors know they have about 9 seconds at the start of the ad to engage the audience or lose them. Given our attention spans this has probably dropped to four seconds. These seconds either make you or break you. Make it about the learner or audience immediately, bring all of the punchy, funny and emotional stuff to the start. As we all know, most of the time people don’t act on knowledge if they aren’t emotionally engaged in the outcome so try not to let your most powerful messages get lost in the middle. There is not a lot of room so every message you communicate really needs to sing. Refer back to your most important key messages. Are you covering off “emotional reason” to connect with this message and any of the practical and logistical information the learner needs to take action.
Due to the absolute explosion of tools to produce and develop assets with high production value, means creating assets or resources on low budget is unbelievable. You can make a significant impact on production values very quickly for your learning and development projects. At change republic, Australia’s first online marketplace of learning and development professionals and providers, members with hybrid skills like graphic design and instructional design use a broad range of free or low cost tools on the market. Tools to assist with podcast production or video production and free “design made easy” tools like Canva are used frequently by Change Republic experts. This you could be the time for you to experiment. Hybrid skills continue to be in hot demand in learning and development teams.
#6 Find your brand influencers and create diehard learning and development followers
Launching something new or want to ensure your new learning and development project gets some water cooler action? Find your ambassadors and engage them early. Then create diehard fans. Why are diehard fans so important? To quote Tim Ferrris in his article the 3 critical rules of branding “Because the diehard fans obviate the need for marketing, if you do it right. If you are able to design a product or service that creates or owns a category for 1,000 diehard fans, they become then your strongest marketing force; your unpaid sales force, effectively.” And communicating to this group becomes a lot easier.
Diehard followers means you need to get:
- Very clear on who you’re targeting for the learning experience
- Certain on the pain points you are solving for them in the learning experience
- Clear on the benefits you’re creating for them in the learning experiennce
We can also keep in mind that we then have two target audiences we are solving for;
- the business problem owner, who can then help you sponsor (financially or through influence) other new endeavours you dream up to create change internally.
- And your learners, for whom you want to provide a rich, effective learning experience with real tangible outcomes.
Another extremely important point to keep in mind when you’re in analysis and creation is from Tony Robinson (who by the way generates 5-6 billion in revenue each year)
“Don’t fall in love with your product or idea; fall in love with your customer. This is a very, very mission-critical distinction. Don’t fall in love with your product, don’t fall in love with your service; fall in love with your customer and then you can determine how best to serve them.”
Which leads us….
#7 Your learning experience designers can consider the “media mix”
While learning and development teams have worked well the first explosion of online learning we believe that a second wave of highly creative use of media channels is hitting learning. Inhouse podcast yet?
Voice as a media is exploding at the moment and the reason is that it is personal and highly relevant.
Do you use video to launch programs? Think about using quick videos filmed on your phone ? We know from insta marketing these get better 3X better engagement than highly produced videos because they feel real. Even better if they use filters. When planning a learning campaign understanding and engaging users with different types of content in different places is really powerful. Bring what you are seeing and experience into your work practice. Your users expect it.
#8 Landing Pages and Call to action
Once someone clicks on your message the place they land is critical. You need to know exactly what you want someone to enrol? Commence the learning? Turn up? Then the messaging and copy all needs to point to this. Hubspot do some great media insights on what should be in your landing page and what layouts work. The great news is that this is all tracked to within an inch of its life and proven to work. They aren’t opinions!
#9 Cognitive Overload.
Marketers, learning designers and neuroscientists are increasingly aware of the absolutely explosion of information hitting user groups. As Daniel Levetin a researcher and neuroscientist explains in his absolute must read book the Organised Mind humans are now taking in five more times the information than we did in 1986. This is super significant for marketers and learning and development designers because our brains have a limit of information we can take in. And we are hitting “full” early. In response to our brains hitting full we struggle to keep up and we multitask, and when we multitask what our brain is actually doing is switching. Switching attention from one thing to another. When our brains switch regularly from one thing to another our attention starts to get used to fracturing. We find it’s harder to concentrate, experience brain fog, an increases in the stress hormone cortisol and struggle to learn new things or take things in. All the constant decision making and multitasking is also reducing the glucose we have in our brains and this reduction of glucose (which is what our brains use as energy) then impacts our ability to process new information. As a learning designer we can look at solutions to cognitive overload and fatigue such as ensuring learners are taking breaks in information through programs, workshops and elearning modules. If want our employees to be great learners, more productive, more creative and make better decisions the ultimate thing we can do is to produce learning content that gives us a better understanding of how our brains work and the relationship between things like information overload, productivity and learning. Daydreaming is also one of the most effective ways to restore our brain as is exposing ourselves to nature or taking a nap. To ensure we don’t fill up with too much useless information requires deliberate practice in our personal and professional lives and information overload is a big problem worth looking at if any of your leaders want to improve productivity or ROI on learning.
#10 None of the matters if the experience is wellllll ….. shit…
Oh did we say that ? We believe in gorgeous learning. Which we define as learning that beautifully and gorgeously does it’s job. We actually believe compliance learning can be gorgeous. Which might make you laugh but its all about function and form. All the messaging and branding in the world wont matter if the product we create together isn’t really and truly gorgeous .
This article was created by our co-founders Emily Walker and Kylie Sinclair. Change Republic is bringing the best creative and learning talent we can find to create gorgeous learning experiences. Our community of instructional designers, designers, communications experts, videographers, animators and developers can help you bring together a modern learning experience. If you need to outsource we can help. Jump online check us out here.