Miscellaneous observations from an educational communicator’s perspective

The tagline that helped change the world I recently heard a lecture by Greg Mortenson, the co-author of Three Cups of Tea. Mortenson is a humanitarian who believes that building schools in poverty-striken communities is a powerful way to promote peace. I was intrigued when he mentioned the fight he had with his publishers about the book’s tagline. The publishers insisted the line should read, “One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a Time.” Unable to convince them otherwise, Mortenson let the book go to print. That first edition met with moderate success, selling around 20,000 copies. For the paperback version, Mortenson was able to convince the publisher to change the tagline to his preferred wording, “One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time.” Interestingly, the book then soared to the top of the New York Times bestseller list and remained there for three years. To date, over 4 million copies of the book have been sold.

The right tagline does matter, and as this example demonstrates, people crave positive messaging. As Mortenson says, “If you just fight terrorism, it’s based in fear. If you promote peace, it’s based in hope.” As we communicate with our audiences, perhaps we should borrow a page from Mortenson’s book. Covering the accomplishments of faculty and students who are doing research or otherwise engaged in works that improve lives will not only demonstrate your school’s value to the world, but will also make your publications more appealing to audiences.

Contributed by Domenica