Winter 1990 // Volume 28 // Number 4 // Tools of the Trade // 4TOT2

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Use Creative Platforms for Better Marketing Communications


V. Glenn Chappell
Visiting Associate Professor of
Economics and Business
North Carolina State University-Raleigh

In a recent article, Boldt encouraged Extension personnel to develop a passion and enthusiasm for marketing.1 The marketing process calls for more than developing good programs and making them available to targeted clientele. Extension must also communicate with its constituents. What's communicated, however, shouldn't be left to chance. Communications should be planned to create awareness, stimulate interest, and ultimately produce participation by targeted audiences.

Marketing communications, such as a brochure or advertisement, can be enhanced by developing what's sometimes called a creative platform. The platform or blueprint contains five parts:

  • Objectives.
  • Target audience.
  • Major selling idea.
  • Other usable benefits.
  • Creative strategy statement.


Objectives tell what the marketing communication is to do. Will it be used to help establish, change, or maintain service and/or program personality? What will the communication try to persuade Extension clients about the efficacy of Extension programs and services? In short, objectives should describe in everyday language how the communication should affect the way the target audience will perceive the Extension System.

Target Audience

Extension audiences may differ in many ways - their needs, resources, locations, attitudes, preferences, educational attainment, age, income, and other characteristics. Extension educators may improve their definitions of clients by asking:

  • Who are Extension's clients?
  • What are their lifestyles?
  • What makes them good prospects for Extension programs and services?
  • Do they participate in similar programs now?

Major Selling Idea

Before developing a marketing communication, Extension educators need to think about the core client needs that Extension programs will satisfy. These needs provide the reasons why a target audience should participate in an Extension program or event. Once identified, these benefits or major problem-solving services become the ingredients for the development of the major selling idea - the definitive statement designed to convince Extension's prospective clients that Extension's programs and services are different and better than other choices.

Other Usable Benefits

As part of this exercise, Extension educators need to list in A, B, C fashion every client benefit they may want to use to promote the Extension System and its programs effectively. Describe how a program will benefit clients. Each selling point or feature of a program should say what it will do for the client.

Creative Strategy

Finally, in a brief essay, Extension educators need to explain the selling situation and explain how the marketing communication for a program and service will be used to convince the target audience to select the Extension System over other sources, or as a replacement for another type of program or service. Basically, this means getting inside the heads of the target audience and writing a convincing statement explaining the effect the marketing communication will have on them. The objective is to show how it will convince potential clients they're better off with Extension's programs and services than without them. The language used should hypothesize and speak in emotional terms. The Extension story should be told with a solid strategy relating how the objectives will convince the target audience to believe in the major selling idea and the other usable benefits identified.

In short, writing a creative strategy before writing a marketing communication forces one to organize ideas and set them down in black and white. If Extension educators work hard to make the platform work, it will result in a marketing communication that's easier to write and works hard to promote Extension.


1. William G. Boldt, "Never Miss An Opportunity," Journal of Extension, XXVII (Spring 1989), 8-10.