Gaggle Believes Real Student Safety Saves Lives

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Discover, Science of Story September 9, 2016

Gaggle Believes Real Student Safety Saves Lives

Andy Swindler
Conscious businesses prosper through purpose-driven people-first practices, but many still struggle to tell their courageous stories. I help connect the dots.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few months to get to know Rob Yoegel, Vice President of Marketing for Gaggle. I talked about them a bit when describing the second of five steps of The Science of Story process, how to why (discover: part two). Here’s a deeper look into Gaggle’s story and their Why of Real Student Safety That Saves Lives.

ANDY: Can you tell me about Gaggle?
ROB: Gaggle is a 17-year-old educational technology company that originally provided safe student email to K-12 schools. Over the past decade-and-a-half, technology had changed, and so has the company. Now, we provide safe solutions for students using popular products like Google Apps for Education and Office 365. Our goal is to help schools create safe digital learning environments.

ANDY: I’m wondering in 1998 how prominent even email was in schools. Was that considered a pretty new idea to try to provide digital communications among students?
ROB: For sure, which likely was one of the reasons why the company was successful. And it’s still new today. There are schools and districts around the country that don’t provide email to their students for a bunch of different reasons, including the safety aspect, which is where we help.

ANDY: What are some of the broad categories when it comes to safety?
ROB: Schools that provide any type of technology need to have an acceptable use policy. That policy includes conditions about using proper language, which is where we start. We then move to more serious issues that require the immediate attention of someone at a school, a district, and in some cases law enforcement.

ANDY: You create all kinds of content, including blog posts, videos and other resources. It’s obvious that they are created to educate your various constituents. Does that also go beyond what your technology is able to do?
ROB: Absolutely. That’s so important. For instance, we don’t target teachers or parents as buyers of our products, but any purpose-driven company that doesn’t serve the needs of a broader audience is doing a serious disservice and, to me, really isn’t purpose-driven.

ANDY: Let’s talk a little bit about culture.
ROB: One of the things that I’ve been probably most impressed with since I joined the company almost three years ago is the passion of every employee. I think, to do what we do, you really need to have an attitude like, “All these kids are my kids.” You wouldn’t want your child to take a misstep like some of the ones we see. That’s what gets us up in the morning, or at least gets me up in the morning. More than one-third of our workforce is remote. When we all get together, there’s a real family atmosphere.

ANDY: That’s awesome. How many people are there in the company now?
ROB: About 70 people, with around half of our staff working from our headquarters in Central Illinois.

ANDY: That’s impressive. You maintain not only the purpose-driven approach to the product itself, but have that kind of culture with more or less half of the staff remote.
ROB: Thanks. We try to always have our Why and the purpose-driven culture come through in everything that we do. For instance, our Safety Representatives have contributed to our “Real Students. Real Stories.” video series. Their manager, Kathy Boehle, who was featured on an episode of “Darknet” on Showtime earlier this year, regularly shares stories during company events and staff meetings about how we’re positively impacting children and saving lives. There’s usually not a dry eye in the room, and that shows the impact that we’re making and the purpose-driven mentality that we have behind what we do.

ANDY: How do you measure your impact?
ROB: Well, I don’t think any business — regardless if your selling widgets or your saving students’ lives — doesn’t measure the impact that they’re having based on revenue and growth. That said, we also think that saving one student’s life is priceless.

Gaggle: real student safety saves lives

From a marketing standpoint, it came as a surprise to me that lead generation doesn’t need to be a big focus because we know who the people are who we want to reach. It’s public information. For me, it’s more about awareness, engagement, conversion and retention. I have to focus more on those areas than I do on introducing our sales organization to somebody who they don’t know as a qualified lead for marketing purposes.

Real Student Safety That Saves Lives” wasn’t something that we came up with overnight. I struggled, quite frankly, with our Why and then we actually had a superintendent tell us that we saved students’ lives in his school district. I like Simon Sinek’s video, but I think when you look for your Why, it might not come as easy as he makes it seem. I don’t think every business has an easy Why, and should be prepared to look for it from as many people, both inside and outside of the organization, as possible.