Take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have 4 marketing lessons from Edna Garrett and her student body.

“The Facts of Life” isn’t just an endearing 80’s sitcom that goes down in history as one of the only spinoffs to outlast the original show from which it spun, it’s also a surprisingly relevant guideline for modern-day marketers.  (This, incidentally, is coming from a marketer who read an embarrassment of “Facts of Life” scripts today.)

While Marc Cowlin, my PR cohort, was having fun looking up Mr. T quotes earlier this week, I voiced the somewhat controversial opinion that  Mrs. Garrett might offer an equally valuable and better articulated wealth of sage advice for us marketing types.

After all, Mrs. Garrett is primarily to thank for her shows’ staying power: from “Diff’rent Strokes” to “The Facts of Life,” her sage and impeccably-timed words of wisdom provided the backbone of many a well-intentioned episode, meant to educate and entertain my generation of sitcom-crazed schoolkids.  One of my great pleasures as a child was being allowed to stay up until 9 on a weeknight to watch Mrs. Garrett banter with those Eastland girls, host random 80’s celebrities, and shine in “Very Special Episodes” about touchy topics not usually discussed on network television at the time: censorship, teenage drinking, assault.

In short, I’m of the firm opinion that Mrs. Garrett is someone that can teach us all a few things about the facts of life, and as such I realized that her sage words of wisdom and those of the uniformed girls she lovingly mentored are just as relevant to marketers today as they were to the 9-year-old kid sitting on the couch sneaking a coffee cup full of peppermint ice cream before bed.  And so, I decided to make a list:

4 Sage Marketing Lessons (& How to Use Them) from “The Facts of Life”

Edna Garrett: Come on Natalie, you’re the editor of the school paper. Print headlines, write editorials, take it to the people, make some noise, make a lot of noise!

The lesson that Mrs. Garrett is giving us all here is that we must use our owned media to get the word out about ourselves.  This is critical for two reasons: one, because our own properties are the best place to position our brand the way that we want people talking about it; two, because the nature of modern, technology-driven marketing requires us to keep our content fresh and relevant.

TIP: To keep the content flowing on your own channels, consider adding a custom newsfeed to your properties.  This enables you to feature the articles that position your brand favorably, and it gives you a primarily passive way to keep fresh content flowing so that your customers remain engaged.

 

Edna Garrett: It was four books, four! And I’m not the only one who’s upset. Our librarian has been trained to make book selections and suddenly people without qualifications are overriding her decisions!

This quote comes from a Very Special Episode about censorship, wherein a group of Eastland parents are pressuring the school into confiscating books from the library.  Mrs. Garrett reminds us, wisely, to trust people with experience in their field.  Being in marketing – and most especially PR – means that you’re in a position that, when you’re doing your job well, produces an end-product that has a lot of eyeballs on it.  This also means that you’re going to get a lot more direct feedback from customers, clients and coworkers who have opinions… and sometimes, it’s your job as a marketer to simply trust yourself.

TIP: Yes, feedback is critical to crafting better campaigns… but whose feedback are you listening to?  Marketing, being a public-facing entity, typically gets more commentary from the peanut gallery than any other discipline within the company, so just remember to consider the source.   One way to gut-check your marketing ideas before they launch is to talk to other people – influencers, friends, coworkers – within your field.

Edna Garrett: [Mrs. Garrett is giving the girls their mail] And the rest is for Natalie.

Tootie Ramsey: *All* of those?

Blair Warner: Natalie… have you been writing to prisoners again?

Natalie’s impressive direct mail response rate is reminding us to know your audience as you know yourself.  Sure, Blair is pretty; sure, Jo is cool; sure, Tootie has her cute rollerskating schtick; but Natalie is funny, smart and a writer, and – by recognizing that in herself – that makes her a born marketer who can take on a cause and get people excited about it.

TIP: use a social listening tool to see what people are saying about your company.  This gives you a good idea as to how your brand is perceived out in the world, and it will help you consider how you might want to foster that story, or change it.  For more on how to use social listening across your organization, check out our social listening guide.

 Joanne ‘Jo’ Polniaczek: The store pulled one over on us so we’re going to pull one over on them.

Jo is a no-nonsense kinda girl, and she’s telling us to respect our customers.  We are living in an era as marketers in which there will continue to be an increasingly forced transparency between a brand and its customers, wherein a broadcasted and controlled brand story is balanced by a crowdsourced brand dialogue – and that is the core difference between traditional and social media.  The rise of content marketing has come about as brands evolve and adopt to a model wherein both creating and being part of a longer-term dialogue with customers has arisen out of necessity, and the good news for customers and marketers is that it requires marketers to think like people.  Engagement is another word for connection, and to connect with a customer in a meaningful way takes genuine respect for that customer’s time.

TIP: when you’re setting your content marketing strategy, revisit some good community marketing tips to make sure that you’re creating content with the customer in mind.

I hope this list has been helpful, especially for any of you who weren’t routinely exposed to weekly lessons from Mrs. Garrett, as delivered by a 12-inch rabbit-eared television tube.