TED Speaker Jia Jiang’s Advice to Education Marketers

#RejectionProof: TED Speaker Jia Jiang’s Advice to Education Marketers


As higher education recruitment and marketing leaders, we constantly hear “no.” We don’t have the budget, the time, the resources or the buy in. Nine times out of ten, we don’t even get the question out before we hear objections on why our ideas won’t work.

TED Speaker Jia Jiang presented the opening keynote on day two of the Converge 2017 conference. He was chosen to present based on his out-of-the-ordinary topic: Facing Rejection and Embracing it.

Jia gave a fantastic presentation. The audience was rolling as he recapped his 100 days of rejection therapy – Jia requested to play soccer in a random stranger’s yard, asked a Krispy Kreme worker to create the Olympic rings out of donuts and from his hilarious experiences, provided meaningful and impactful advice to anyone who’s ever been rejected.

Following the conference, he also hosted a follow-up workshop on rejection. Here are my top three takeaways from the workshop.

Define Rejection

At the end of the day, rejection isn’t as scary, hairy and frightening as we might think. The more you ask what rejection is and what it means, the less difficult it is to hear the dreadful two-letter word.

what's rejection

Prepare Your Pre-Rejection Tools

pre-rejection tools

According to Jia, we have three pre-rejection tools at our disposal. Let’s explore a rejection scenario using these tools.

State Your Why

Imagine you need to start a digital media campaign and establish a budget for your digital strategy to meet your goals for Fall 2017. You approach your marketing director or dean with the request. The challenge is that the new program you’re promoting is a masters of skydiving.

Acknowledge Doubt

You aren’t surprised when you receive a horrified look from the person sitting across from you. Calmly, you acknowledge their uncertainty: “I know you hesitate because this is an unproven model with a specific audience, and that makes us all nervous. But I know a digital strategy will help us meet our enrollment goals.”

Invite Help

You realize that no amount of convincing on your part will sway the decision in your favor. However, you also know from previous experience that your marketing director or dean makes decisions based on evidence and results.

Using the last tool in your pre-rejection toolbox, you ask, “Do you have time to attend a presentation in which an expert covers a model that explains ROI and what results we can expect based on other successful programs in the industry and answers our questions?”

Finally you get a head nod!

Don’t Forget Your Post-Rejection Tools

post-rejection tools

Even after an informative presentation, your request is denied. Is this the end? Not quite. Like your pre-rejection approach, you also have an arsenal of post-rejection tools.

Ask Why

You sit down with your marketing director or dean again to discuss his or her decision. Post-rejection, you’re feeling a little less nervous. Turning to the decision maker in front of you, you say, “Let’s talk about your objections to the digital advertising project for the new masters of skydiving program. Why do you feel that the digital advertising strategy won’t work?”

Ask How and Make Concession

Your marketing director or dean provides several valid reasons to support their objections. After listening carefully, you reply with a question and an idea: “If the digital advertising strategy isn’t solid, what might be a better way to reach our audience and enroll students? Is it possible to pilot the digital advertising program with 50 percent of the budget and test the strategy you suggested with the other 50 percent?”

Switch Up and Repeat

Your request is once again denied. Though you’re disappointed, you have one more trick up your sleeve before you walk out of the office defeated. With a smile, you say, “Thank you kindly for your time. I know that based on your enthusiasm, the strength of the program and ongoing testing, we will find a marketing strategy that works. Let’s continue to discuss the best options to market this program and enroll students.”

Final Note

Notice how the conversation didn’t stop at rejection? We continued to ask questions and dig deeper into the reasoning behind it. Finally, we conceded rejection (for now) and left the door open for future conversations. That wasn’t so scary, was it?

Watch Jia’s video and learn more about his tools for rejection and how we can apply his lessons to our everyday lives.

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Ann Oleson
Ann Oleson
April 5, 2017