What do successful continuing professional education programs have in common? Are the qualities one expects to find in successful programs the ones that have actually helped them climb to the top? How are those success-ful programs similar to one another?
In continuing professional education (CPE), does success mean increasing registrations; increasing revenues; increasing market share; measurable outcomes; brand loyalty? Perhaps, but not necessarily, and surely not entirely.
I recently taught in an institute for CPE leaders. The group represented profes- sionals from a variety of disciplines and practice settings, including higher education, associations, and the private sector. Some organizations were quiet large, some quite profitable, and some quite sophisticated. Yet the educators shared a universal condition-the feeling of being marginalized. That is, no matter what the quality of their work, the CPU leaders remained second-class citizens in their organizations.
Signs and Symptoms of Marginalization Anyone who has toiled in the field of continuing professional education knows the feeling of second-class stature. And it's more than a feeling: In higher education, the salary of the dean of continuing education consistently falls within the lowest five percent of all deans. Salaries aren't the only thing that's in the basement. In a recent survey, I found that in buildings where basement offices exist, eight out of ten contin- uing education departments were in the lower level, or at an off-site office.
What accounts for this situation? Might the problem be that CPE professionals who work in university settings are typically notmembers? Or that those who work in association settings are not trained in the profession for which they are supposed to offer training? Similarly, in the private sector, might the problem be that CPE is a secondary, "value-added" service?
Food for Thought Given the above, it is not surprising that whenever groups of continuing professional education leaders gather, discussion inevitably turns to what can be done to move from being known as the "coffee and doughnuts" people-the meet, greet, and eat folks. In our capitalist society, one solution to the problem is clear-become profitable. That is, if you don't want to be marginalized, increase your margin. Simultaneously, you will move your CPE program from its traditional status of cost-center to its more appreciated status of profit-center. In so doing, you help ensure your future.
To become a truly valued part of the larger organization in which the CPE program operates, the answer lies not solely in successful external marketing of our programs, products, and services, but in building support internally among key and numerous constituencies. Internal marketing will help keep your department away from the sidelines.
Marketing Begins at Home There are tools, tips, and techniques for getting your CPE program noticed internally. One tool that is particularly powerful is the annual report. An annual report provides an opportunity to tell anyone who will read it what your program has accomplished during the previous 12 months. Here are some elements you may want to consider in drafting your 1997 annual report:
* Letter from the director/dean of CPE.
* Information about the program (mission statement; historical overview; organizational relationship to parent organization; menu of programs; products and services; various accreditations).
* Main body encapsulating registration, programming, technology, marketing, and finance.
Consider listing your ten highest enrolled courses. Top enrollments are always an attention-getter, as are lists of your highest rated and most profitable activities. Also include historical comparisons of growth in number of activities, attendees, revenue, or patterns of repeat business. In the programming section, a description of the quality assurance system used can be particularly powerful.
Keep in mind that internal marketing is not just for the parent organization, but for colleagues and staff. Displaying their value to the larger organization will help relieve feelings of marginalization.