When we introduced new leadership at St. Gregory, my partners and I started looking for new community service opportunities that aligned with the interests of our current clients as well as our team. At about the same time, Bill Burwinkle approached me about St. Gregory joining Adopt A Class.
Founded in 2003, Adopt A Class matches teams of mentors with individual teachers and classrooms to expose them to life and career experiences. Company teams commit to planning and presenting a one-hour lesson each month that shows what we do all day while reinforcing universal skills like cooperation, teamwork, creativity and critical thinking.
I should note that Bill, who also founded National Marketshare Group and built it into a sales powerhouse across the continent, is a commissioner of Great Parks of Hamilton County, which makes him my client.
At first, I wondered what a bunch of marketing and communication people knew about teaching a fifth-grade class. More to the point, what do a bunch of 10-year-olds care about how an agency operates or how marketing campaigns are created? Let alone what I do all day?
Let’s face it: Agency life can be fun and interesting. It also can be stressful and frustrating. Both are exciting for those of us lucky enough to make our livings doing it. But what it is not is often fun to watch.
“Okay kids, pull up a chair and watch me send emails and talk on the phone for eight or nine hours.”
The initial reaction from the StG team, however, did away with that concern. Over pizza and sodas in a conference room, we quickly filled a whiteboard with more potential lessons and projects from every discipline than we possibly could use in a full-time course, let alone nine classroom sessions.
Adopt A Class paired us with Mrs. Brown’s fifth-grade class at Glendale Elementary, part of the Princeton City School District. More students should be lucky enough to be part of such a cheerful, enthusiastic and well-run classroom. Her students made it clear from the jump that we were going to need our best game to keep up with their energy and creativity.
Over the course of eight sessions, we introduced team members from every discipline in the agency, explaining what each brought to the clients we serve and kicking off an exercise that allowed them to practice it. It was a great opportunity for the students to gain some insights into how advertising identifies and communicates with them, and also how some of those techniques can work to their advantage.
- Lesson 1: Role and Function of Marketing Agencies
- Lesson 2: Brand Identities, Their Importance and How They’re Created
- Lesson 3: Slogans, Taglines, Use and Creation
- Lesson 4: Audience Identification and Reach
- Lesson 5: New Product Identity
- Lesson 6: New Product Packaging and Design
- Lesson 7: Audience and Media/Video Storyboard
- Lesson 8: Out-of-Home and Video Review
For the sake of continuity, we approached the school-year-long engagement like the kick-off of a campaign. We played the role of client, presenting our “agency” with a new product to bring to market. We then challenged them to create a name a brand identity with logo and tagline, packaging, identify the appropriate market and key motivators and sample creative.
The product – completely made-up, of course – was a potential blockbuster. It was a substance that when added to any food item, made it taste exactly like the user’s favorite food. If you use it on your cabbage, the cabbage will taste like chocolate if that’s your favorite food. If I put it on fish, the fish will taste like my favorite food. Which is pork, but that’s not important.
The strategies and ideas generated by the students ranged from indescribable to intimidatingly smart. There are far too many specific anecdotes wrapped up in this experience for a humble blog post, but I can share the video we created for the class based on their ideas.
Aside from whatever insights we brought to Mrs. Brown’s class, Adopt A Class was an incredibly productive and energizing experience for St. Gregory. The opportunity to work together in a new environment and on unfamiliar tasks – like building lesson plans and teaching rubrics – made us a better team and taught us skills we can bring back to our own work.
Our thanks to Adopt A Class, Glendale Elementary, Bill Burwinkle, our team and especially Mrs. Brown. If you’re interested in hearing more about Adopt A Class or wondering if it’s right for your team, you can get a taste of the experience here. Or, feel free to contact me here.