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Candidate Education and Outreach:

Strategies for Driving Volume

 

What certification promotion strategies will help drive a high number of participants, and therefore, lead to a successful program?

The keys to mitigating test volume risk and ultimately driving an increase in demand are ongoing marketing, candidate education and outreach. In terms of promoting a new certification program, effective association communication can have a significant impact on stakeholder acceptance and comfort of use. Furthermore, to allay candidate fears and minimize questions, an effective communications campaign can directly address member concerns and promote sustainable program interest. Some recommended outreach initiatives include:

  • Educational presentations, which should focus on benefits achieved through certification. The slide deck or presentation content can cover test material, exam structure/format, system navigation, test duration, question review and more. The presentations might also give members a glimpse of the "look and feel" of the test. These sessions may be delivered during committee or board meetings, or via other mediums such as web conferences.

  • Written material, which may take the form of articles, collateral or online content that discuss the reasons for industry certification and benefits to association members. Colorful sheets containing visual "snapshots" can pictorially explain test navigation and set expectations. Effective materials that focus on core test topics and present information in a concise format are most effective in promotion.

  • A targeted public relations campaign will help promote the value of computer-based delivery and benefits to non-member candidates, reaching a target audience outside of traditional member communications. The campaign may include tactics such as media relations, speaking opportunities and online (blog) commentary.

  • A website campaign, which may include a webcast explaining the certification exams and demonstrating sample questions. The interactive, step-by-step webinar might walk candidates through a sample exam, showing members how to navigate the test and familiarizing them with the layout and content. The campaign may also include a tutorial on operational procedures associated with computer-based tests, including online registration, member and non-member scheduling processes and site administration policies.

  • A "Test Drive" tutorial, such as Prometric's Test Drive. Tutorials provide test candidates with a real world, end-to-end practice run before the scheduled test, in less than one hour. During the Test Drive, members preparing for the certification exam will experience the scheduling and registration process, walk through the site check-in procedures, meet the test center staff, become familiar with the physical test center environment and sit for a live, brief sample test with generic content. The goal of Test Drive programs is to familiarize certification candidates with the entire testing process, allowing them to focus 100% on mastering the subject matter and obtaining industry certification.

  • Testimonials, or "lessons learned" from other candidates who've already had the testing experience. For associations launching new certification programs, consider using reputable members as part of a beta program, who can in turn testify to the benefits achieved through the process when officially rolling out the certification exam. Other perspectives to gather and share with candidates can be from partners or administrators.

  • Post-test feedback. Not only can this type of test-taker survey provide positive antidotes to share with prospective candidates, it can also be used to improve future versions of the exam and associated test administration processes. Executed via the Internet, telephone or mail, or organized through test-candidate focus groups, survey respondents can provide feedback on registration, scheduling, site administration, security, content, navigation, functionality, score reporting, fees and overall satisfaction.

Taking any or all of these steps to promote association-driven certification exams to both members and non-members will prove to drive participation volume. While all associations strive for high-performance initiatives, of course, the overall goal of certification exam promotion is to keep candidates informed of how it will positively impact their success as an industry professional. Candidate education, awareness and ultimate support is essential to effective certification program achievement.

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