With brand partnerships, Discovery Education creates digital learning environments

Discovery Education's Lori McFarling speaks to Lindsay Stein about the organization's plans to transform classrooms with interactive content

Talk about how Discovery Education is partnering with brands
There’s a huge migration happening in education toward the creation of digital learning environments as these transform student outcomes.

According to Merola Research, students whose teachers had one or more years of teaching experience and used Discovery Education Science Techbook scored higher on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test than students whose teachers had similar levels of experience but had not used Science Techbook.

There are a number of Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits, foundations, associations, and agencies that want to engage in education, but may not know how or have the connections or credibility. We create meaningful partnerships with those groups to give back to local communities.

We talk a lot about how investing in education is smart for businesses. Many companies are looking to augment traditional campaigns or marketing efforts to encompass a component that looks at how to drive social impact and engage consumers. For us, that’s the cornerstone and we leverage our expertise and reach into schools. We service more than 38 million students and 3.5 million educators – and create meaningful branded content experiences that deepen engagement in an authentic way. 

Can you talk more about your work with communications agencies?
We give firms the opportunity to differentiate their clients. It’s a new and unique platform to give their brands meaning. We’re seeing a lot of activity in the PR space, but it also includes marketing and branding agencies. We talk a lot about how we can support firms and help them build brand equity, and education is the perfect place for us to do that. We work with everyone, from Edelman to Ketchum to more traditional media agencies, such as Starcom.

There is a huge need in education. What we find is that, typically, the only things that get funded at a district or school level are things students are tested on, but there is a lot that students need to be exposed to, whether its workforce readiness, health and wellness, or online safety. We facilitate the partnership between the public and private sector, where companies can give back and engage with constituents, while driving social impact.

Can you give examples of companies you work with?
We work with a lot of brands, such as Google, Toyota, Chobani, and 3M. For example, we’ve done a lot of work with Chobani in the branded content space and have helped tell the story of farm to fridge, how ingredients are sourced, how to make healthy decisions, and also what it means to be an entrepreneur in the US and what skills students need to be entrepreneurs. 

We used this opportunity to tell the story of Chobani’s founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya. In May, we put together a cool virtual field trip for students where they could hear his story. We also included Lauren Bush Lauren, former model and founder and CEO of Feed Projects, Amanda Zuckerman, cofounder of Dormify, and Josh Hix, cofounder and co-CEO of Plated.

We had almost half a million young people nationwide participating live in this virtual event to hear these people talk about why entrepreneurial skills are important. It was also a great way for these partners to make their brands more relevant to an end user. 

How does social play a role in Discovery Education’s outreach?
Educators are prolific users of social media. They use it to engage with one another, network, and share ideas. We look at social as a key part of what we do. Whether it’s engaging participants or community members through our social platforms, our focus is on how to create meaningful brand experiences that drive user engagement. We’re not just creating content to push out, we’re also giving young people an opportunity to be content creators and share pieces on their social networks.

We also have one of the largest education communities. The Discovery Education Network is a grassroots organization of about 1 million educators. They have a prolific social network among themselves where they champion and share these unique brand content experiences with agencies.

How do you empower young people on social media?
It’s everything from contests, challenges, and competitions to engaging them on platforms they use every day around topics important to them. Young people are socially minded and driven, so we want to give them the tools to tell their own stories.

We have a partnership with Toyota on its TeenDrive365. We know teens listen more to friends than their parents, so we created an initiative where they are empowered to tell stories about the importance of not driving while you’re distracted.

Students create the messages and we partner with them to produce the clips and put them on our network. It’s about finding unique ways to give young people a voice.

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