Darrell A. Dromgoole, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Scott Cummings, Associate Department Head and Program Leader; Professor and Extension Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
Although we live and work in an environment, where clientele are inundated with information Extension is still commonly referred to as the “best kept secret”. At one time this statement was commonly used to describe Extension, but today with the overwhelming amount of information literally at our clientele’s fingertips it is imperative that we effectively deploy marketing strategies to increase program participation and for brand recognition.
In 2019, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service’s Organizational Development Unit conducted a statewide evaluation regarding clientele’s learning preferences and their knowledge of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. When respondents were asked if they were aware of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service 31.8% indicated that they were aware and 69.2% indicated that they were not aware of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service (Cummings, Dromgoole & Dewald, 2019). When respondents were asked if they had attended a program 28.3% indicated they had and 71.7% indicated they had not attended a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program (Cummings, Dromgoole, & Dewald, 2019). With these results in mind, we can’t afford to be the “best kept secret’ anymore.
As Extension educators respond to the complex issues facing clientele, it is imperative at this juncture in Extension’s history to employee effective marketing strategies to assist in attracting leaders, volunteers and clientele, increasing clientele satisfaction, designing innovative programs which carry out Extension’s mission. Effective marketing also plays a critical role in enlisting financial and political support as well as enthusiasm of clientele, elected officials, funding partners and other stakeholder groups.
Effective marketing does not just happen, it takes planning to be effective. There are no magical formulas or secrets to marketing. Like all managerial activities, marketing must be planned, organized, and controlled. It involves designing Extension programs to meet the needs of target clientele, communication efforts, and distribution of information to inform, and motivate clientele.
Marketing educational programs is critical to program attendance and brand recognition. Promotional materials create visibility for the program, inform the public about the program, and encourage them to seek more education about the topic. Marketing strategies begin with a focused plan and goals that provide potential clientele with clear benefits of participating in or attending educational events. Some effective marketing strategies Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service educators can use include:
The future of Extension hinges on our ability to market—to effectively tell Extension’s story, our educational programs, and the impact those programs have on our communities. We can’t afford to be the “best kept secret” any longer. In future Next Step to Success installments we will discuss using social media to market Extension Programs.
Cummings, S., Dromgoole, D., & Dewald, S. (2019) How do Texans Learn? A statewide study of clientele learning preferences. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, College Station Texas.