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Building a Communications and Marketing Strategy in a State or Institution for Incremental Credentialing

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Step 1: Define Your Audience

Five-Step Approach

Step 1: Define Your Audience

Because incremental credentialing is a new approach to education and training, it is imperative to communicate these changes to a broad array of stakeholders. These stakeholders include learners, employers, college and university faculty and advisors, policymakers, quality assurance entities, and others.  All of these audiences will want to know whether incremental credentials are credible, of high quality, and can help those who acquire them reach their education and career goals. In many cases, they also want to know how these credentials already fit within traditional education and training systems. Communications and marketing efforts can help convey these messages to defined audiences. The first step, therefore, is to define your audiences.

state-level audience typically includes:

  • State agencies and programs with legislatively defined roles in the learn-and-work ecosystem (e.g., the governor’s office; Departments of Education, Labor/Workforce, and Commerce; business services and data systems entities; coordinating boards and commissions)
  • Business/employer councils comprising large, mid-sized, and small businesses—for-profit and nonprofit
  • Community-based organizations, including those with missions focused on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)
  • Unions/labor organizations

An institution-wide audience typically includes:

  • Learners—prospective, enrolled, and formerly enrolled
  • School districts that are feeders to colleges and universities
  • Employers that employ your learners while they are enrolled, graduates, and work with you on reskilling programs
  • Faculty and student support services staff
  • Continuing education and outreach units
  • Policymakers, including the Board of Regents
  • Quality assurance entities, including your institutional accreditor and specialized accreditors for your various programs

To define these audiences, go “granular” by documenting a range of descriptors for them. For instance, list your audience’s job roles, priorities, motivation, objectives, media consumption practices, research methods, trusted resources, buying authority, budget, and purchasing processes. When considering individuals within audiences, it may be useful to document their likes and dislikes, habits and skills, education, income, years in role, and other demographic factors. The more clearly and specifically you define your audiences, the better able you’ll be to create an effective communications and marketing plan for incremental credentialing.

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