Successful Marketing of Extension Programs and Resources

October 02, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Successful Marketing of Extension Programs Chat Thursday, June 25, 2009 from 11:00 to 12:30 EDT Login at eXtension Web Cast 27 participants

Topics: Social Networking Marketing Programs Martketing to Rural



Fire Ant CoP

New plan by UGA

Marketing Firms

Targeting Audiences


YouTube Videos

Social Networking

Marketing Extension

Ideas for Marketing at the Home and Garden show



Michael Gutter: Many of us are challenged with making sure that we have awareness of our programs in our communities and making sure we have good attendance. Today we would like to explore together some of the ideas we all use in marketing our programs. This may include social marketing, networking, carrots, and of course, the old faithful Y'all Come

Michael Gutter: I hope you will not only ask questions but will also share your own ideas and successes


Michael Gutter: One examples of a carrot we have used has been with the Get Checking Program

Michael Gutter: In this program participants who have bounced too many checks receive negative indicators on their CheckSystems or Telecheck Reports

Michael Gutter: This prevents them from having an account with many financial institutions. However if they complete the GC program, they receive a certificate which participating FIS will accept and open an account for them. Thus, the carrot is the desire to open an account but they need something to show an FI before they can. The FIs themselves market this program then, as do the educators

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): I'd love to hear more about carrots too. I find it draining to advertise programs -- there are so many calendars to post things to, newspaper ads to pay for and mailings to send. But getting people who aren't our same old audience and who are motivated is very important.

Martha Filipic: At Ohio State, our family finances team developed a program for people going through bankruptcy. The four-hour class helps fulfill the bankruptcy requirements; we developed marketing materials for bankruptcy lawyers to give to their clients. The program has been very successful; go to for information.

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): We offer the bankruptcy program here too (for in-person classes only), but almost all of the debtors take the class online or by telephone, so our contacts are minimal. But we do it as a service because there is a segment who just isn't comfortable with technology.

Michael Gutter: Cole good point and one of the reasons we need to continue to collaborate on so we too have the online programming to offer

Fire Ant CoP Marketing

Glenda, Virginia, Carol, Maggie: Our department's marketing work for the Imported Fire Ant CoP is energizing to the people involved. We're excited to be part of this national effort.

Glenda, Virginia, Carol, Maggie: When asked originally to do this, we just jumped in and said yes. We haven't been sorry. We knew it would take time, but as with other things that really matter, we manage to fit it in.

Glenda, Virginia, Carol, Maggie: The people on this chat plus our videographer and some designers have been the ones most actively involved in our eXtension marketing.

Julie England: How did the Fire Ant Cop energize you?

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Julie, we were energized by the Fire Ant CoP because the leaders involved us from the beginning and because they were excited about what they could do together as a community. That led to ideas about how to recruit new members and market the community.

Julie England: IS there a link to learn more about the Fire Ant CoP and how they recruited and marketed?

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Julie, here's a link to the original plan: You are also welcome to look around the other sections in the fire Ant CoP community. We haven't been very good about keeping it up to date on the community page

New plan by UGA

Faith Peppers: In 2006, UGA Extension adopted a new marketing plan. You can view the entire plan at . One of our most successful portions of that plan has been an online fitness program Walk Georgia. To date, about 10,000 people have participated. We are now working on an online game component for kids.

Faith Peppers: This new plan came after several years of budget reductions and gave us a way to introduce new audiences to Extension and to train newly hired faculty to marketing concepts. Now is the perfect time to begin planning for new marketing efforts when our budgets improve.

Marketing Firms

Michael Gutter: I can also say that one other strategy I have seen being used with grants is building in funds to employ a marketing firm. A project I am a part of that is trying to reach out to college audiences. However, while many of us work with college students we would not claim we know how to market to them...

Michael Gutter: So our budget included funds to hire a marketing firm.

Michael Gutter: Similarly when I was at UW, a marketing firm donated their time to help us design PR materials - the infamous posters featured a toilet about not flushing their $ away

Targeting Audiences

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): I like the idea of drawing from a motivated audience, like your get checking program seems to, but there seems to be a vast need for generally distributed information (in columns for instance, or in the y'all come classes). The impact is impossible to measure of course, but finding audiences who will stick with you for multi-session classes is hard too. How do you choose? What's the balance?

Michael Gutter: Cole - That is a great question. I think the issue of balance is important because we do not need to be engaging in all of those types of programs. I think the motivated audiences have to be part of our effort in order to be sure we can demonstrate impact. However if we think to the implications of the TTM model, then we know some of our efforts need to be broad strokes to simply increase awareness

Michael Gutter: I tend to think we need to address people across different states of readiness

Michael Gutter: Cole what has been your experience in trying to balance these issues?

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): Mainly I've been doing general distribution things -- like bulletins -- but we're working toward podcasts and psa's.

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): But because real changes in people's lives happen with more intense contact, we'd like to have more of the multi-session programs.

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): However, many of the educators I work with (as a specialist) are drawn in at least two other directions because of the topic areas we cover; it is hard to make this a priority with significant effort behind it.

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): So partnerships are becoming more important -- with groups like NEFE and JumpStart

Michael Gutter: Cole I think that is always our challenge and requires us to think about how we can make it easier for people to continue to participate. We also need to make sure we make that easy for them to do so and try to go where they are...

Michael Gutter: Cole - well said

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Cole, you need to show a tangible benefit for the targeted audiences.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: We used that strategy to recruit ACES employees to eXtension--getting IDs--by writing targeted letters to support staff, faculty, and agents/educators. Each letter showed benefits specific to that group and included quotes from peers.

Jan Andersen: Based on my experiences, most people do not act until they are forced to. (i.e., they have personal compelling reasons that most often relate to fulfilling basic needs or maintaining their current lifestyle). With all the competition for peoples' time it is pretty difficult to convince someone that Extension is the best source of information. There are always a few self-interested individuals, but most need to be in trouble before they will act. (Now I'm repeating myself.) I guess what I'm trying to say is that all of the marketing avenues that are available will be of little use unless we target those people who are in (or soon-to-be in) pain. All marketing needs to be targeted.

Faith Peppers: Soon, there will be a new site available through eXtension, Managing In Tough Times, that will be a collection of valuable programs, tools and communication ideas about working with groups across all program areas. This repository is designed to save time for agents, educators and specialists who are long on need and short on resources. Stay tuned for more information and the release date.

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): I'd like to do some distance ed -- webinars and the like -- but we're not there yet. Getting an audience is intimidating in part. Being prepared with a good program is intimidating too.

Cole Ehmke (Wyoming): We're all educators, but often I see people come into the field we don't have training in teaching -- just their topic area.

Glenn Muske: Cole's comment touches on a valid point, our educators often have not had training in educational methods. Also most of us have had no training in effective marketing techniques. The general research says we need to have 3-5 contacts before people even remember they saw our material and 7-10 touches to get them to take action. How many of us have those kind of resources or time? It takes, as was earlier mentioned, partnerships.

Michael Gutter: Glenn - good point and I would love to hear the types of carrots everyone is using

Glenn Muske: Food

Jan Andersen: Carrots--food, money, discounts, something free, childcare, child activities are some that come to mind.

Michael Gutter: Cole - I agree, perhaps we should think of an in-service on marketing some of this at one of the Extension Pre-Conferences at some point

Michael Gutter: While this chat is a great place for sharing - we could all benefit from a bit longer session - and even better if face to face

Valerie White: I think telephone or web conference would be better for this. Face to face would be best, like you said, but a little less possible.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Michael and Cole, it seems that maybe we should consider combining on-site and online audiences so that we are accommodating those w/and those w/out technology

Michael Gutter: i agree the multi-channel approach is often the best case. I know many CCCS offices use that strategy as well


mbischoff, UIdaho: Targeting audiences is critical for marketing, then finding a partner who reaches that audience helps with program promotion. For example, when Idaho was focusing on financial security in later life programming, we partnered with AARP Idaho. We discussed how partnering could enhance Extension's and AARP's goal of reaching audiences with Long Term Care and Retirement planning information. We find that those most interested in both topics are ages 50+. AARP is trying to reach the 50-something demographic, so they 'bit' on our proposal and funded LTC workshops for 4 years. They've provided some funds for our retirement workshops. Better yet, they provided free direct-mail marketing to their members residing in communities where we offer the programs. That has tremendously helped us reach new mid-life & older audiences.

Michael Gutter: Marilyn - that is a great example of using a partner to assist in this effort and AARP is a great one. What other partnerships have been helpful?

Faith Peppers: Some of our suburban agents have had great success offering classes through the local Parks and Recreation department. This has many advantages: P&R handles the registration, provides the location, and there is some cost recovery available for the programs presented. They have found this brings in new clients.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: our Heir Property series targets rural and minority audiences. They have partnered with area churches to get info out and to host programs

mbischoff, UIdaho: AARP's budgets have been affected by the economy. However, like all of us they're trying to reach new potential members. Partnerships are based on developing good relationships. Our partnership started with a general discussion of ways we might collaborate. About 6 months later, the ID AARP Assoc. Dir. asked if we would work with them on LTC workshops around the state. They had specific topics they wanted addressed. Their state resources were fewer than ours. We did the seminar organization, implementation & evaluation. They provided funding for us to hold the events in hotels or similar facilities, pd. for refreshments, and provided direct mail marketing. We had 75-150 attend in urban areas and 25+ in rural communities.

Joanne Littlefield: I think Wal Mart is very interested in providing nutrition information -- they have talked to one of our specialists here about an extension presence.

Michael Gutter: Joanne - engaging employers in general is another good strategy

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Joanne, they liked us so much, we have an open invitation to return

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: WalMart would be a great place for nutrition education...

Faith Peppers: WalMart is also a great place for financial education.

YouTube Videos

Michael Gutter: In Okaloosa County our Saves campaign and 4H have partnered to create a series of YouTube videos that are being marketed virally, through a FaceBook page, YouTube itself

Michael Gutter: the videos are on several different topics and each topic has a video aimed at teens and one aimed at their parents

Michael Gutter: The link to those videos can be on

Jane Henderson: What marketing strategies have you used to successfully market to rural audiences?

Valerie White: How well do those internet-based videos and pages reach the low-income and/or low-literacy audiences? And rural audiences?

Janet: What is the expected goal of the YouTube videos---awareness of resources, increasing knowledge, changing behavior?

Michael Gutter: Janet, these are really about awareness

Michael Gutter: creating simple AHA moments - they are even meant to be funny...

Michael Gutter: Valerie - we are still analyzing the Google Analytics but Okaloosa is a small town to begin with - you can check out the FaceBook page though as it has growing membership

Social Networking

Julie England: I read an article in the Journal of Ext about using Craig's List. An agent in Alaska was thrilled with how it worked. I tried it for a couple of classes but the only response I got was from people selling something or trying to scam me.

Michael Gutter: Julie - that is interesting. I think you can put no solicitations allowed on a CL post

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Julie, in addition to Craig's list you can use other social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook

Michael Gutter: I also am surprised by how many people are finding me and others on FaceBook, Twitter. But the challenge with Twitter is keeping up, maintaining Tweets so that people have something to follow

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: The issue with Twitter is that you have to use it as a focus point for content. For example, Maggie uses Twitter to link to her Backyard Garden blog or the actual shows on the university's I-Tunes

Julie England: Have you had success with Twitter and FaceBook getting people in seats at programs?

Michael Gutter: Julie - I believe Elaine Courtney has for sure

Michael Gutter: Jan - I agree what types of carrots work best for all of you?

Michael Gutter: I am finding it is increasing traffic of people asking me questions

Joanne Littlefield: I read somewhere about someone who also had success advertising Extension programs on Craigslist...

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Julie, so far, we haven't been pushing programs through Twitter, but rather trying to drive audiences to specific web sites

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: there is an agent in Cook Co Illinois on twitter who tweets about programs and other events---I'm guessing it's getting bodies to his programs

Marketing Extension

Jan Andersen: I don't know how widespread this is, but I still meet people who haven't a clue what Extension is or what we do. I usually get a positive response when I say Do you know what 4-H is? Then I respond that Extension is the same organization that runs 4-H. aha, so you must raise cows or something?

Michael Gutter: jan - i know in some instances people give savings bonds sponsored by local FIs for succesful completion of a class. Bankruptcy education is another example

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Jan--that's an ongoing marketing issue Extension has to address if we are going to stay relevant. I think we all face same challenge in our own states

Jan Andersen: So what did 4-H do that allowed them to be so recognizable? Do we need to create a similar subset of Extension for FCS programs? Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: The new national marketing effort by ECOP will help boost CES recognition in general...

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: The same company that worked with 4-H brand identity is working on the national ECOP branding effort. Michael Gutter: Terry - any hints as to how

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: Michael, yes. The firm has already done an audience analysis

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: Using volunteers is an excellent promotional tool.

Jan Andersen: Just a thought--are we trying to do too much? Are we trying to implement too many programs across the country? For example, there are many, many financial-education programs that have been developed (partly because of tenure issues) that are basically the same thing. Should we adopt one program nation wide?

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: eXtension is one way to look at that Jan...

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: There is also, for example, MiTTNet, the new effort to help with current financial problems

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: an effort of not trying to duplicate programs from state to state when one could work nationally.

Michael Gutter: Marilyn - I agree cross marketing is great. We are organizing a database across education entities so that CCCS can refer people to our classes, we can refer to theirs, and the same with all of the non-profit partners. It was a big incentive to get everyone to join our Florida Prosperity Partnership

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: You'll hear more about MiTTNet in the next few weeks.

Michael Gutter: in Madison WIsconsin I know they built an entire year round financial education center around a VITA site. In fact, I know many people do heavy marketing at VITA sites

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Michael and Marilyn, EDEN also uses a database to collect educational references w/out duplicating Glenn Muske: Good question Jan. But until tenure issues are resolved, I don't know if just one will work or not

mbischoff, UIdaho: Carol Young in KS told me she used the America Saves bandwagon to state-wide market financial education programming year-round. Michael Gutter: Marilyn, it does work well I think to do so. Saves campaigns are Social Marketing efforts in many ways so we need to leverage efforts like that

Jan Andersen: That might be the goal of eXtension, but I'm not sure that individual states see it that way yet--I think many still see it as just another place to market their own programs.

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: Glenn has a very good point and everyone is wrestling with how to get credit for nationally collaborated work

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: mbischoff, Alabama consumer science folks also use America Saves. It a good program

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Terry, do we push the meta tags to eXtension authors as a way to get credit

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: We have meta tags...not everyone uses them...

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: or knows how to tag

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: The use of social media for marketing is also something you might consider...especially in the area of personal finance and money management.

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: We're finding that many, many folks are using these media and interacting with content as a result.

Faith Peppers: For many of our urban programs, we find it more effective to take the program where the people are rather than bring them to us. We have done food safety programs at local supermarkets on Saturdays, attracting 300-500 people in 2 hours. We've also done agricultural and environment programs at Zoo Atlanta with huge success.

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: Also, supporting a strong Ask an Expert feature locally and nationally is also a way to reach new audiences...

Glenn Muske: Terry - I know eXtension did a scholarship white paper. Will there be a round table discussion at the upcoming meeting to see how it is really working on campuses? I thought about submitting such an idea but ran out of time.

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: Glenn...haven't seen a roundtable proposal on the scholarship of eXtension but I'm sure there will be at least some discussion; there will be many deans/directors/administrators at the meeting.

Jan Andersen: Let me clarify--when I said they are all the same I was referring to content. Of course each state has added a little different twist to the presentation, but if one looks the table of contents alone it would be very difficult to distinguish one program from another.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: In Lee County, AL we went to Wal-Mart with food safety and diet and nutrition. On a Friday, we attracted nearly 300 people.

mbischoff, UIdaho: Terry- In order to get untenured or young faculty involved in eXtension, there needs to be better recognition of the scholarship involved.

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: Very true Marilyn...we keep plugging away at that one.

Michael Gutter: I completely agree

Jan Andersen: Oh well, ongoing problem, but I do have some ideas for a truly different approach, at least to financial education.

Ideas for Marketing at the Home and Garden show

Martha Filipic: I need ideas... we have a huge home and garden show here in central Ohio each February, but Extension doesn't participate. I think it would be a good way to raise awareness of Extension to an urban audience. Does anyone else have a presence at Home and Garden shows? If so, what seems to work best?

Terry Meisenbach, eXtension: How about getting your Master Gardeners to help with a home and garden show presence?

mbischoff, UIdaho: Martha- We promote Extension personal finance programs by exhibiting at the annual State Treasurer's program called Smart Women, Smart Money. We use a spin wheel with money questions at our table to get people to stop. We have giveaways if they try a question on the spin wheel. We also give them a brochure about upcoming Extension $ programs.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Martha--I think that at most of Home and Garden shows here in Alabama, Extension has some presence whether it be county or regional staff or the Master Gardeners groups. It's a great way to get name out. Extension is also active in many Earth Day activities Faith Peppers: We have the Southeast Flower show here every year that is huge. Our Master Gardeners are there with an Extension exhibit and do a plant clinic, and promote our horticulture programs, as well as recruit visitors to the Master Gardener Program. One of the days we have our TV/Radio gardening personality there and he's always a big draw.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Martha along same lines our Forestry and Natural Resource folks participate in a number of the Hunting/Fishing Expos

Faith Peppers: Martha, I think the most important thing for promoting Extension at the garden shows is to have something interactive. We've also done demonstrations on building rain barrels and those types of things.

Carol, Virginia, Maggie, Glenda: Also Extension has a presence at many farmers markets. Master Gardeners answering questions---food safety agents talking about preservation, you get the picture


Faith Peppers is the Public Affairs team leader for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences. She coordinates CAES public affairs efforts and is the news director of the daily on-line news service - Georgia FACES. She holds bachelor and master degrees in journalism and communication education from Georgia State University in Atlanta. She has taught journalism classes and media training at Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, and often conducts workshops for university and industry groups. Before joining UGA in 1993, she spent more than 10 years as an Atlanta newspaper reporter, public information officer and marketing specialist. She has won numerous regional and national awards for writing, editing, media relations and marketing and is an often-requested speaker on media, marketing, crisis and public affairs topics.

Following several years in retail, Virginia Morgan returned to school and in 1992 received an Ed.D. in Human Resource Development from Vanderbilt University. Later that year, she moved to Auburn and joined the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) as an extension specialist and coordinator of the visual resources unit. She was named co-leader of Extension Communications in 1999. In 2007, Virginia changed roles to become Extension’s lead person for disaster education, assume greater responsibility for Alabama’s role in eXtension, and collaborate with the Assistant Director for Program Development. She has served in a leadership role in the Imported Fire Ant CoP since its inception, and in the Disaster Issues (EDEN) CoP since 2007.

Glenda Freeman is a communications editor in the Publishing Unit of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System at Auburn University. Her work for eXtension has included developing marketing materials and editing articles and FAQs for the Imported Fire Ants CoP, helping lead the revision of the eXtension Style Manual, and developing a plan to reconcile state produced publications with eXtension. As a member of the Association for Communication Excellence, Glenda has won numerous awards, participated in presentations, and held leadership roles, including her present position on the board of the Journal of Applied Communications. Alabama Extension honored Glenda with the Superior Service Award for her contributions as an editor and to the organization as a whole. A native of Oklahoma, Glenda is a former newspaper reporter, freelance feature writer, and university publications director. She is a graduate of Northeastern State University.

Carol Whatley, Ed.D., is Director of Extension Communications and Marketing for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn universities). Before beginning her career with Extension at Auburn University in 1990, she taught English there and at AU at Montgomery and owned and operated a writing/editing business, The Write Place. Her work with eXtension has included being on the leadership team for two CoPs, engaging her department to serve as the marketing team for the Imported Fire Ant CoP, editing FAQs, and collaborating in presentations that promote and describe communications’ involvement in eXtension CoPs. At Auburn, Carol served as president of the Alabama Extension Specialists Association and as chair of the Faculty Handbook Committee. She has won several awards for communications products and served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Communication Excellence.

Terry Meisenbach is eXtension’s Communications & Marketing Leader and responsible for all aspects of internal and external communications for the initiative. Prior to this role Meisenbach served for nearly eight years as the Communications Director for USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES). Before joining the Federal government, Meisenbach was at the University of Nebraska for 18 years where he served as an Extension communications specialist and publishing coordinator within Communications & Information Technology. He was also associate professor of Agricultural Communications in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and held an adjunct professor appointment in the College of Journalism and Mass Communications. Meisenbach has a Masters degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Journalism and a Bachelors degree in Journalism from Kearney (NE) State College.

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