Reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, I was struck by the story of something that happened to him in elementary school.  Jobs was, of course, a brilliant child and, not surprisingly, he was very bored with his education.  He entertained himself by playing pranks that caused increasingly more trouble as they become more complex and were able to fool more and more people. Finally, in fourth grade, his principal realized that something needed to be done.  Jobs was moved to an advanced class with a new teacher.

He described that teacher to his biographer as “one of the saints of my life.”

“If it hadn’t been for her,” Jobs said, “I’m sure I would have gone to jail.”

Imagine that. A teacher meant the difference between Steve Jobs becoming … well, Steve Jobs — and  a convict.

How many of you have had a teacher or coach that had a life-changing effect on you? Many people owe their success to a teacher.  So let’s break down why that could be and ask what it could mean for your business.

A great teacher has the power

  • To change your behavior
  • To inspire you
  • To make you see things in a way you never saw them before
  • To make you see something in yourself that you didn’t know was there
  • To infuse you with passion through her own passion for the subject

When a great teacher teaches, you don’t necessarily learn a step-by-step approach.  She teaches the principles and the concepts but leaves the details up to you.  The only thing that everyone comes away with that is the same is a commitment to that teacher and a love for the subject.  And that teacher, in the case of your business, will come to represent your brand.

Oh yes, and a great teacher can hold you in the palm of her hand.

Several months ago, I wrote on Social Media Explorer about how education is the new marketing and if that is so, then:

Teachers are the new marketers.

If you look at the most popular Ted talks, you’ll discover that many of the presenters are professors.  But whether they hold the job officially or not, you’ll recognize great teachers in the field of marketing, and in any other field, if you think about the criteria in the bullet points above.  Oprah, for example, whether you happen to be a fan or not, is a great teacher.  People in business you’ll certainly be familiar with, like Seth Godin or Gary Vaynerchuk are great teachers.

Great teachers are important because content is so important. You can’t just take content and put it out there.  You’ve got to take your content, add conviction, caring and passion, and communicate it in a way that makes an impact on people so that they will want to share it.

That’s why teachers are the new marketers. 

What if the Fortune 500 companies, (or your company) went to the top universities and found the most beloved, world-class educators of English or physics or psychology who happened to also be passionate about health or fashion or cars or wine (or your product) and hired those people to work in your company, evangelizing your product? Or, what if you found people with the qualities of a great teacher?

Take a look at this video from a doctor who is trying to sell people on the benefits of a particular form of preventive medicine.  If I were a health insurance company, I’d hire him and pay him a generous sum of money to evangelize this and possibly other messages about staying healthy in order to help keep the costs of insurance coverage down for my members.

Imagine what it would mean to your business if you hired a great teacher and gave that person an opportunity to develop and use media that reach well beyond a classroom? Who can you think of in business that fits the criteria of a great teacher and what else would you add to the list?

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About Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz

Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

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  • http://twitter.com/MorganBarnhart Morgan Barnhart

    Hey Ilana! Really interesting how much of a difference a strong mentor can be. I never thought of teachers as the next marketers but it really does make sense. All teachers have a separate passion outside of what they currently teach and because they’re already so skilled at teaching, they would be just as good at teaching any discipline, especially an outside passion. Awesome topic!

    • http://twitter.com/Ilana221 Ilana Rabinowitz

      Thanks Morgan. I really appreciate the comment! A great teacher is a creative and effective communicator and that skill is something that translates into many fields.

  • http://www.empowernetwork.com/sberrow/?p=2359 Sandra Berrow

    Enjoyed your post and I to never thought about teachers being  the new marketers as Morgan mentioned! I think you are so right, there is so much to learn in all aspects of marketing, in all trades and industries, as I am discovering myself. It’s a whole new world out there, and I love it!

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  • http://profiles.google.com/lorraine.roundpeg Lorraine Ball

    My sixth grade teacher, Mr. Reynolds, taught me the art of improvisation, how to think on my feet, and not let anything rattle me when I was making a presentation.  Of all the skills I have learned throughout my education, that is the one I rely on most.  Wherever your are.. thanks Mr. Reynolds. 

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