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Continuing Education for Cause Marketers

What do you do, as a cause marketer, to keep learning?

How you answer the question of self-education determines things like: how successful your cause marketing campaigns are, indeed, how successful you are; your income and your lifespan. Researchers have even shown a correlation between happiness and education.

It’s almost axiomatic that more you know the more you want to know... and as Socrates pointed out, the more you realize how little you actually do know! If education isn't as often humbling as it it enlightening than you're probably not learning enough.

I hope this will be a conversation rather than a monologue or disquisition, so I invite you to comment on what you do to stay on top of your game as a cause marketer.

Business/General Interest
  • I subscribe to and read a number of business magazines so as to understand current issues, trends, economics and the like, as well as several news magazines. I don’t have a business degree so I feel like this reading has gone a long way in advancing my understanding of how business works and doesn’t work. I also read newspapers, but mainly online. I especially admire the reporting in the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.
  • Inspiration can strike almost anywhere, so whenever I’m in a waiting room I make a special point of reading magazines I don’t subscribe to or normally read. Sometimes that means women’s magazines, trade publications, hobbyist and special interest magazines, etc. It’s almost a lead-pipe cinch that when I read these kinds of publications I learn something I didn’t know, gain some new insight, or synthesize what I’m reading with something I already know.
  • When I find something that I believe has lasting value, I scan or save it onto an external hard drive. The same hard drive holds many thousands of examples of cause marketing campaigns.
  • I read Seth Godin’s and Guy Kawasaki’s blogs and I’ll pop into Techcrunch, and Gawker from time to time. Not because I’m a geek, but because I’m not.

Knowledge of the Wider World
  • I’ve all but given up on reading fiction. But in its place I’ve become an inveterate history buff, with a special interest in the ancient world… the Sumerians, Egypt, Greece and Rome, early European history, etc. And, of course, American history, too. There’s still a big whole in my education about Asian history which I must soon remedy. And I still looking to read a good book about the common history of the United States and Canada.
  • I’m a big fan of the coursework produced by The Teaching Company and The Modern Scholar. Both offer taped courses, allowing one to learn on the go. If I’m driving alone, I’m more likely to be listening to some of these recordings or to an audiobook than to the radio or a CD.
  • I haven’t fully availed myself of it yet, but hundreds of universities in North America and Europe are putting thousands of hours of lectures and podcasts online. Check iTunes and individual universities for specific subjects.
  • I’m kind of a sucker for the social science popularizers; Malcolm Gladwell, David Brooks, David Shenk, and others. Currently, I’m reading everything I can find on the topic of expertise studies. And, I'll read almost anything on Ben Franklin (see above) who was an autodidact almost without peer.
  • I also keep a notebook with me at all times to help me track ideas and thoughts. Like the saying goes, the only way to have great ideas is to have a lot of ideas. My notebook helps me not only track them all… good and bad… but also weed out the stinkers.

Cause Marketing
  • There are a handful of professional seminars and conferences that address the issues of cause marketing and offer training. In the United States David Hessekiel’s Cause Marketing Forum has supplanted IEG’s Sponsorship Conference, in part because the IEG treats cause marketing as a subset of sponsorship. In the UK, the granddaddy is Business in the Community's Annual Conference.
  • There are a few books at Amazon on cause marketing, but the ultimate book on the practice is still to be written. On my bookshelf is Cause-Related Marketing by Sue Adkins, Marketing from the Heart, by Sue Linial, Brand Spirit, by Hamish Pringle, Robin Hood Marketing, by Katya Andresen, Cause Marketing for Nonprofits, and Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding, both by Jocelyn Daw. I’m excited to soon add Cause Marketing for Dummies by Joe Waters and Joanna McDonald.
  • I actively read a handful of blogs from Katya Andresen, Joe Waters and Cone, Inc., on cause marketing, plus others on nonprofit issues.
  • While you can get online and offline graduate degrees and certificates in various aspects of nonprofit management, still missing is any kind of certificate or other advanced education in cause marketing. In my opinion this glaring deficit needs to be remedied.

Brain Exercise

You could make a pretty good argument that you can implicitly learn from games like Chess, the Asian game Go, Scrabble, as well as some number of video games and handheld like Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, and shloads of apps for iPhone/iPad, Android, and other platforms, all explicitly meant to help adults learn or otherwise give their gray-matter a workout.

But you may not need anything so external. An elderly aunt of mine kept her mind sharp well into her 90s not just reading the paper, but copy-editing it. She’d literally mark-up the daily paper with a red pen!

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