Teaching Purpose

Teaching Purpose


I’m an educator.  I teach digital marketing as a subject; I teach purpose as the main objective.

I did not originally create this idea; I learned it from John Murry, professor of Social Marketing at the University of Iowa.  The concept is called social marketing.  It’s important to understand that social marketing is not social media marketing: social marketing is marketing with a greater purpose – intended to make the planet & society better.  Social media marketing is the science of marketing via social media (Facebook, Twitter, linkedin, etc).   

In my social marketing class in business school I was given the project of studying the Crisis Center of Johnson County, a community center that provides emotional or material support for anyone in need.  The point of the marketing class was to audit the Crisis Center’s marketing efforts and make recommendations to help them recruit & organize volunteers more effectively.  Our team of MBA students made recommendations & earned graduate level credits simultaneously.  This was an epiphany!  WHAT?  I can learn, gain graduate credits and help the community at the same time??  The notion of traditional education became absurd after tasting this delight.  There are so many organizations that need help and can provide education in exchange for helping them help the community that this model has stuck with me.  I’ve taught the past 4 years at the University of Iowa using Google Grants, which gives me the opportunity to teach MBA students important tools (digital marketing, Google AdWords & Google Analytics) while also teaching them the importance of giving back – and giving them the opportunity to do that.  The benefits of this model are summarized:

  • Students learn hands-on digital marketing without spending client money or risking client relationships (without the grants, Google clicks cost money & require a business to pay for the media)
  • Students gain the opportunity to give back to their communities (this teaches purpose)
  • Nonprofit organizations gain free traffic and consulting for their digital marketing. 
(have a positive impact on the world)

The importance of this is significant: research shows that people gain motivation and happiness in people’s jobs using creative cognitive thinking when they exhibit:


  • Mastery of tasks (hands-on proficiency)
  • Have positive impact (purpose)
  • Are allowed to do this (autonomy)


These elements are all provided by teaching with Google Grants.  The following charts underscore the need for this sort of hands-on approach to education.  The learning pyramid shows that active learning is the most effective approach compared to the most often used passive learning techniques:


Source: http://fitzvillafuerte.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/learning-pyramid.gif

This chart shows the relative effectiveness of several different types of learning:

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 10.58.25 PMSource: https://www.dropbox.com/s/u4pglxw4xhs2ew5/Measuring%20ROI_Webinar_12.1.15.pdf?dl=0


As another example of the type of result educating with purpose can produce: I ended up becoming so passionate about my work with the Crisis Center I decided to attend a 6-week training course to become a crisis counselor.  I then staffed the suicide hotline and helped calm people down who were considering suicide or just needed someone to talk with about their problems.  I found the work to be incredibly meaningful; I was able to directly and immediately help people by using my calm demeanor, innate empathy and soothing radio voice.  Adding volunteering as a crisis counselor to my already-full plate of full-time school and part-time work as a web developer was not easy – possibly the most exhausting time of my life – but I cared enough about it to go after class and get out of bed on the weekends to do it because I found it meaningful.

This experience also taught me that people will give more than they have if they are personally connected and invested in the subject.  

Through my volunteer work I have also earned some press, an award and accolades from the organizations I support.

I firmly believe in the value of teaching purpose in any subject.  The intent and impact of your actions are important — not just the product.