Table of Contents

Learning Campaigns

What is it like to be on the other side of the training? In other words, do your participants have a working world that lives beyond attending your training? In all of my experiences, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. In fact, often I have to account for not only meeting the training objectives, but also making sure there are several ways for the learned to access information and find various was to prompt them to engage with those tools, events,  and resources.  

The more we can access our learners, the more likely we are to be successful in our training outcomes. This week on the Train Like you Listen podcast, Amy Lou Abernethy, President, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Strategist at Amp Creative, stops by to talk to us about how we can use learning campaigns to increase learner engagement and promote a learning culture.

Transcript of the Conversation with Amy Lou Abernethy

Brian Washburn: Welcome, everyone, to the Train Like You Listen podcast, a bite-sized podcast of all things learning & development. I’m Brian Washburn. I’m the co-founder and CEO of a company called, Endurance Learning. And today, I am joined by Amy Lou Abernethy, who is the Co-founder and Chief Learning Strategist at Amp Creative. Amy, thank you so much for joining me today.

Amy Lou Abernethy: I am delighted to be here, Brian. Thanks for having me.

6-Word Introduction

Brian Washburn: “Delighted,” I love that word. Why don’t we start with a six word biography? Today, we’re going to be talking about just the idea of learning campaigns. If I think of my life in the context of this topic– learning campaigns– and if I could boil it down to the six words, I would say “tell me once, and I forget”. How about you, Amy Lou? How would you introduce yourself in exactly six words?

Amy Lou Abernethy: “I lead with my creative heart.”

Brian Washburn: I think that that is a really nice way to get into this topic. And it really speaks to who you are. I’ve seen you present before. I’m excited to have this opportunity to talk with you just a little bit about this idea of learning campaigns. But before we get too far into the conversation, the first thing I want to do is to make sure that you, and I, and everyone else who’s listening, is on the same page. What do you mean when you talk about a learning campaign?

What Is a Learning Campaign?

Amy Lou Abernethy: I think a lot of times, people in our profession, when they create a learning solution, or a learning product, or a learning experience, they think just of the thing– the container for the learning, the e-learn, or the workshop, or maybe the website, whatever it is that they’re designing. But when you start to think about the entire learner’s journey– and I divide it into four parts– when I want to design an organized course of action to promote a learning experience, I want to engage the learner in the learning event. I want to reward them for putting the learning into action. And I want to provide those channels for them to advocate or contribute to the learning experience.

So there’s more than just that one container. It’s the overall journey. And that’s what creates that campaign.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, and one of the things that I would always say when I was leading training teams was “I want this learning to be a process, not just an event”. And I like how you used the term “container”, which is different than “event”. Because I think that this idea of container offers for a bigger picture view of what learning can be. I use the word “event”, because I think of a training session, or a conference session, or an e-learning.

And you mentioned that it could be more than just an event, more than just something that people actually do. It can be something that they read, just anything that they can learn from. It’s similar. It’s more of an ongoing thing than just a one-off. In logical sense, it makes sense that we’d want to be talking about a campaign, something that’s ongoing. But can you talk specifically about what the benefit of a campaign can be?

What is the Benefit of a Learning Campaign?

Amy Lou Abernethy: Yeah. And I also want to make sure that we understand that you can have a learning campaign around a single occurrence. It doesn’t have to be something that is ongoing. I think sometimes we’re so caught up in a learning intervention that will fill the gap that our learners have– the skills gap or the knowledge gap. And we get this “if we build it, they will come” mentality.

But so many times, that learning is in a sea of a really busy, really complex workplace. And it just disappears. It doesn’t get the attention that it needs to get. We really need to think of the fact that we are vying for the hearts and minds of our learners inside of this learning event, as you call it, or learning experience, as well as to draw them into it, and then to get them to retain and actually use that information.

Brian Washburn: It’s funny to think that people have jobs outside of learning. Our world is learning. And so that’s what we want people to be doing all the time.

But it’s true. Employees are employed to do stuff, not necessarily to learn, but to do stuff. So there’s a bigger context that we’re talking about. When you’re designing some sort of learning experience that goes beyond just the “container”, as you called it, what do you need to consider to turn something into a campaign?

How Do You Develop a Learning Campaign?

Amy Lou Abernethy: I divide it into four parts. And I’m sure that there could be many other ways that you slice and dice this. But the first thing I think of is awareness.

Is your learner even aware that they have a gap? If so, do they know that your learning experience bridges that gap in a way that will benefit them? So that’s the experience bit.

Engagement– that is the learning itself, when they engage with whatever the vehicle is. Action– and that’s when they start to put that new skill, that new information, into action in the environment. I think of “can you remind or prompt them in their environment?” That’s where I think of things like that. Or “can you catch and reward them when they are putting that action into effect?” 

And then, the last thing I think about is advocacy, how that learner can really advocate for this learning experience, and if there are ways for them to contribute and engage with this whole ecosystem or cycle.

Are Some Workplaces Too Busy For Learning Campaigns?

Brian Washburn: And we talked about this previously, just in terms of, people are busy. They don’t just go to their job to learn. So for people who are listening right now and thinking, “OK, that idea sounds great. It’s great to offer more opportunities for people to experience this learning. But the people that I train are really busy. And I don’t really have access to them, beyond just that learning event or whatever container that that learning takes place within”. Is there any hope for them to be able to design a campaign?

Amy Lou Abernethy: Well, I hope so. Because I hope that their learning container isn’t so isolated from the regular place of work or experience of work that there wouldn’t be connection points. And I would really encourage them to consider all channels of communication that are available to them and to get creative.

Just really consider, where are your learners spending time? Is it on the company intranet? And are there channels within that intranet, where you might put a banner ad or a feedback channel? You know, thumbs up or thumbs down, we’d love to know what you think of this. Any sort of way that you can communicate and get either push or pull information from your learners.

Maybe it’s managers who meet in their weekly huddles. And you can share a slide. Maybe it’s a meme, a really funny thing that just gets people laughing and sharing within the office, or with the Slack channel, or whatever. Any space, any surface, any comms channel is fair game. Think of yourself as a guerrilla marketer. Just get really scrappy with some of your ideas.

Tools to Use in Learning Campaigns

Brian Washburn: Yeah, and so when you’re thinking of trying to reach out to people in different ways, I know that I’ve worked on projects where we’ve used things like Mailchimp. Or one of my clients actually has a texting, an SMS-based way to send out reminders and learning boosts of what people have been focused on. Are there any tools that you have used or might suggest that can help make it easier to create and launch a campaign?

Amy Lou Abernethy: So not actually to gauge the success of the campaign, but things like bots that you just explained, it’s so specific to the organization and the culture of what you’re designing for. It just really depends. I work a lot with technology companies that have just incredibly rich infrastructure and ways of communicating. But then, I also work with some very established and rigid corporate cultures, where it’s literally like a printed newsletter that we put little columns or blurbs in. So I think it’s so site-specific that it’s about knowing the culture and knowing those channels that are available to you.

How Can You Measure the Success of a Learning Campaign?

Brian Washburn: And why don’t we talk about measuring? You mentioned metrics. Is there a way that you’ve used or seen used successfully to gauge the success of campaigns like this?

Amy Lou Abernethy: Yeah. I think it’s important to have those KPIs, those key performance indicators. Sometimes it’s about anecdotal evidence. Because you’re moving so fast. And there are so few ways to get signal that you just look at correlation.

But it could be, if you’re trying to raise enrollment in a particular course, that’s easy to look at and measure. It’s usually a pretty manual process. There are really sophisticated tools for doing these sorts of marketing campaigns, but not as easy to get that signal within a company. So again, it’s going to be very site-specific. But you should think of how you’re going to measure this thing that you’re trying out, and confirm when something works, so that you can scale it, iterate on it, and abandon something if it’s a lot of effort with no payoff.

What Are Little Ways to Create a Successful Learning Campaign?

Brian Washburn: Amy Lou, do you have any examples that you might be able to share with people who are listening about a campaign that you’ve used successfully, and illustrating what this actually looks like, beyond concept in reality?

Amy Lou Abernethy: Yeah, I think that it’s really nice when you’re creating some sort of learning experience that has some media in it. Because you can cut down little snippets, little sizzle reels, little commercials that you can deliver, either via email or social media, or any internal company social learning channel. It also helps to take the content of your learning event and turn it into little trivia questions, things that you can popcorn out into the environment, either as awareness building or even reinforcement, to get people talking after the event. Little micro-learning moments are always fun and usually pretty easy to lift off the content. So those are a couple of ideas

Brian Washburn: Yeah. And I could see turning that into some sort of game, where you have a leader board, in terms of who’s able to answer these questions, or a question a week, and who’s the first person to respond, or things like that. It can help keep it front of mind.

Amy Lou Abernethy: I’m also just a huge fan of stickers. I think a sticker that has a core concept that people can put on a notebook, or on their laptop, or wherever, as an environmental prompt, is a really powerful thing as well.

Brian Washburn: Yeah, so when we talk about this, I think it’s important for people to keep in mind that technology can be cool. But it can also just be an analog solution that people can take advantage of and leverage. It doesn’t have to be high budget.

Amy Lou Abernethy: Oh, 100%.

Get to Know Amy Lou Abernethy

Brian Washburn: All right, Amy Lou, we are getting ready to close out here. But before we do, let’s let people get to know you just a little bit better through a speed round of torturous questions. Are you ready for these tough, quick questions?

Amy Lou Abernethy: I’m so ready.

Brian Washburn: All right, well, what’s your go-to pre-training presentation food?

Amy Lou Abernethy: Got to go with chocolate on this one, Brian.

Brian Washburn: I think that that might be the best answer I’ve ever heard for that question. So I think that you’re jumping ahead on our leaderboard here. How about what’s a piece of training tech that you can’t live without?

Amy Lou Abernethy: I am a sucker for Mentimeter. It’s been an old standby of mine for years. And I still just love that tool.

Brian Washburn: And to me, it is that polling?

Amy Lou Abernethy: It is. Yeah, it’s live polling. And especially as we’ve been delivering more and more things virtually, I just find it’s a great interaction tool. But I’ve loved it for years.

Brian Washburn: Absolutely. How about a book or a podcast that you think that folks in the learning field should be paying attention to?

Amy Lou Abernethy: I am always trying to figure out what’s going on inside of our heads. So I’m always looking for books that give me insight into how our minds work. And I read recently, Why Buddhism is True. It’s about the science behind meditation. And it really is about this modular theory of mind, which I find absolutely fascinating.

Brian Washburn: I think that’s really cool. We talk a lot about how the brain works, especially when it comes to learning science. But I love that take on the science behind meditation. Why do we wrap up here with any shameless plugs that you might have?

Amy Lou Abernethy: Well, I’m going to plug my company. Me and my team, we’re really passionate at AMP Creative about working with companies to design learning ecosystems that make everyone’s lives better. So you can come visit us at and learn more about us.

Brian Washburn: And if you’re wondering how that is spelled, it’s 

Amy Lou, thank you so much for giving us some time just to hear about this idea of learning campaigns and how learning can go beyond an event or the container. And it really should be a process. And that doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive thing. It doesn’t have to be a complex thing. But it does need to be an intentional thing. And so it was really helpful to listen to some of the insights that you have, as somebody who’s put something like this together.

Thank you, everybody, for listening to this episode of Train Like You Listen. If you’d like to subscribe. You can find us on Spotify, iTunes or anywhere where you download podcasts. And if you like what you heard, we’d love if you could go ahead and give us a rating. Give us a feedback or a comment. That would be wonderful too. Until next time, happy training.

This week’s podcast is sponsored by Soapbox.  Sign up today for a free demo.

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