Scholastic aims at first class

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The new Scholastic initiative offers new teachers support in their new jobs
The new Scholastic initiative offers new teachers support in their new jobs

In preparation for the upcoming school year, Scholas­tic has launched a new program aimed at first-year teachers in an effort to target the brand to this coveted demographic.

The online portal, called First Class: Resources, Tools and Tips for New Teachers, is supported by every division of Scholastic, offering materials, support, advice and interactive features to help new teachers navigate their first year in the classroom.

The site also features coupons and special offers for Scholastic books and teaching materials. Teachers will be able to register to receive targeted newsletters on the site.

Nelson Hitchcock, SVP of cor­porate marketing at Scholastic, said that the company had two objectives with the launch of First Class: “Scholastic touches almost every teacher in this country, so any time we can reach teachers and introduce them to products and services that can help them do their job, we're thrilled,” he explained. “Plus, we have a mis­sion to serve teachers. So the site is also about helping teachers feel better about doing their jobs.”

Scholastic will leverage its multi­ple preexisting contacts in the edu­cation world to get new teachers to the site. Scholastic Book Clubs and Book Fairs, which maintain databases of teacher contacts and often contact teachers in the sum­mer before the school year, will promote First Class. Teachers that are already on Scholastic's e-mail lists will receive promotional mail­ings, asking them to inform new teachers at their schools. Scholastic is also improving its SEM efforts so that First Class will show up in new teachers' online searches.

“Scholastic has high awareness among teachers — that connec­tion is something we treasure and count on,” Hitchcock noted. “In the research we did for First Class and from focus group informa­tion, [we learned] that new teach­ers are Web savvy and aware of how to find resources. They look at every source that will help them do their job. So, with our using the appropriate SEM skills and marketing tools, we're trying to find them. But they will find us, if we don't.”

First Class is not Scholastic's first effort to reach out to new teachers, but the company has never attempted to do so with all of its corporate divisions united under a single banner. Hitchcock said this combined effort provides a curatorial advantage by bringing together all of the company's resources.

Scholastic will be closely measuring the site's stickiness — whether users return multiple times, use First Class frequently or stay on the site long enough to engage with the content.

Hitchcock said that if these rates are high, “that means we're delivering on the prom­ise that this actually does provide a service.” He added that cutting down on the new-teacher burnout rate was a key impetus in starting First Class and will be critical in measuring the program's success.

Scholastic and other publishers are not alone among companies looking for loyalty from teachers during the back-to-school season. These astute consumers also are coveted by office supply chains, as teachers work hard to stock their classrooms.

Staples' Teachers Reward Program offers teachers 2% back in rewards, up to $15 per quarter, when they spend $200 or more at Staples within a calendar quarter on anything except computers, gift cards and postage stamps.

“We know teachers constantly stock supplies throughout the year, but they particularly up their spend just before the start of term,” said Amy Shanler, Staples' director of public relations. “Many times teachers are spending their own money on supplies, so the more we can help them save, the better.”

Staples' Teachers Reward Program is managed in-house, and e-mail blasts are regularly sent to members about deals and special shopping days.

This year, teachers who shop on Teacher Appreciation Shopping Days — select Satur­days through September 15 — receive a free flash drive. Every $1 they spend counts as $2 toward earning rewards. Another set of shopping days is scheduled from December 15 of this year until January 15, 2009.

OfficeMax, the office supply retailer, also considers teachers an important target audience — however, that is not limited to the prime back-to-school season.

“Back-to-school is not a one-time conversa­tion we have with teachers,” said Bill Bon­ner, media spokesperson at OfficeMax.

The company's MaxPerks for Teachers is an ongoing loyalty program targeting teachers, in which members earn $10 in rewards for $75 of qualifying purchases. Teachers can also share their MaxPerks number with their classroom. Students and parents who shop can use their teacher's card, giving the teacher extra points.

“Teachers are important to us in several ways, because we carry a lot of the supplies that are used in the classroom, year-round,” said Bonner. “They're also an important part of the communities we work in.”

OfficeMax has an ongoing partnership with the nonprofit Adopt-A-Classroom, which raises money to help teachers purchase resources for their classrooms. Last year, it ran a successful cause-market­ing campaign called, “A Day Made Bet­ter,” which they will run for a second time on October 1.

Nearly 1,300 teachers will be surprised with in-class ceremonies on “A Day Made Better,” where they receive a new class­room chair as well as a box filled with nearly $1,000 worth of classroom supplies, including a digital camera.

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