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Series: Building Your Birth Business: Improve Your Online Presence

December 18th, 2014 by avatar

By Janelle Durham, MSW, LCCE

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 8.41.49 PMAs we move into the new year, you may be considering starting your own independent childbirth education or birth related business.  Maybe you already have such a business already established but are looking to take it to the next level. Today’s post is part of a new series: Building Your Birth Business. Check out the first post in the series, “Online Marketing for Birth Professionals – A Beginner’s Guide here.

 Perhaps the organization you work for would like to grow their offerings geared toward families in the childbearing year.  Janelle Durham. MSW, LCCE, a birth and parent educator, working for several programs in the Pacific Northwest has put together this beginner’s guide to improving your online presence.  This resource can help you to get started in establishing your name and business on the internet, and how to make yourself “findable” when people are searching for you or the type of services you provide. – Sharon Muza,  Science & Sensibility Community Manager

What is online presence?

For the purposes of this article, here’s what I mean:

  • If people search for your business / organization by name, will they find you?
  • If people search for businesses like yours online (your “competitors” or colleagues), will they also discover you?
  • If there are people who are in the right demographic for your services who might benefit from your services someday but aren’t looking for them yet OR people are searching for information related to your work: will they stumble across your name from time to time, building “brand familiarity” so when they do need services, they think of you?
  • When people read about you online (on your site or elsewhere) will they get a good impression? A bad impression? Or a confusing mix of information?

How important is online presence?

The internet has become one of the primary ways that people find information. 93% of American adults age 30 – 49 use the internet.  57% of adults access it on their phones. Of people age 30 – 49, 82% use social media.  63% of Facebook users use it every day.  And they use it to find available services in their area. When searching for a physician, 66% look online (internet searches and online directories), 38% use the physical yellow pages, and 4% newspaper. When searching for a restaurant, 82% look online, 17% in the physical yellow pages, and 14% newspaper. (And I must note, the source of this data is heavily invested in physical yellow pages. They don’t share the demographics for their data, but I would guess that if limited to the 30 – 49 year old age group, the numbers for internet use may be even higher, and physical yellow pages and newspaper much lower.)

social mediaAnd internet users are not just searching for physicians and restaurants. Expectant parents and new parents are also searching online for information and support services. I work with a childbirth education organization that is very established in the community, with lots of community partnerships. When we ask our students how they found our classes, 75% were from professional referrers (care providers, hospitals we contract with, doulas), 3% were from family or friends, but 21% found us online through web searches or through links to our website. If you are a new business without lots of local referrers yet, you would likely see an even higher percentage of your clients coming in through the web. And if you advertise online, that will help you connect with even more potential clients online.

Tips for Improving your Online Presence

Here are some tips. Some of these steps would take you minutes to complete. And most do not require any technical knowledge.

1.  Have a website

If you don’t already have a website, just search online and you’ll find plenty of basic tutorials to get you started. DON’T go and hire a developer to build you a very complex site that you can’t maintain yourself. DO choose a DIY software that’s easy to work with and inexpensive to maintain so that you can keep it up-to-date easily. (I use WordPress.com and would recommend it but there are plenty of other good options.)

2.  Put essential information on your website

Make sure all the basic information someone would need to know about your business or services is on your website somewhere. For example, list your location! You’d be surprised how many sites fail to list the location of the business, or list the neighborhood without listing city and state. Don’t assume that people know what your services are – define them! Learn more about essential content here.

3.  Include important keywords on your site

Put yourself in the shoes of a potential client. Imagine they are doing a web search for services like yours. Think of all the words they’d be likely to type in. (And synonyms for those words.) Then make sure those words appear on your site somewhere. Learn more.

4. Write an effective page title and description

When you look at search results, you’ll notice each listing has a title for the page it links to and a brief description of what you’ll find there. What title and description is it displaying for your webpage? You want to make sure it’s the best it can be. If you are able to edit the HTML code for your site, you can write your own meta-title and page description there. If not, you can change the content of your site to affect the title and description. Learn more.

5. Claim your business

If you “claim your business” on Google, Bing, and in any important local directories, it makes it easier for those search engines to find you and places your listing higher in the results. It’s really easy! Learn how.

6. Check your web presence

You need to know what happens when someone searches for you. What do they find? Use a browser in “private mode” where it doesn’t remember what you’ve searched for before. Then type in the terms people would type in if they were looking for you. Learn whether you appear on review sites and in internet directories, then check those sites to see what they say about you. Learn whether there are other services with names similar to yours that you could be easily confused with. Think about what you could put on your website to differentiate yourself from them. Learn more on how to search and what to search for here.

Optional ideas

Add related content to your website

You might choose to only have the basic info about your services on your website. That’s totally fine. But many people choose to include articles or a blog on topics related to their services. This could help people find your site when searching for related information. For example, a birth doula might include articles on morning sickness, or choosing a care provider, or things to buy for baby. A potential client might search for that info, find your article on it, and then look around your site more to learn more about who you are and what you do. Also, if you do write that content, encourage other people to link to it.

Network with others

Talk to your employees, your colleagues, your clients, your students, other professionals in related fields, and so on. Encourage them to include a link to your website on their website; encourage them to share your Facebook posts; ask if you can guest-write an article for their blog, invite them to re-blog your posts. More links to your site from other sites help improve your web presence.

Establish a presence on other social media

Create a Facebook page! (That’s the dominant social media at this time for the 30 – 49 year old age group.) Consider also: google plus and LinkedIn if you’re aiming at older, educated professionals, Pinterest if you want to reach women (moms especially), Tumblr, and instagram for the 25 and unders. Twitter for very wired folks. Learn more about the different platforms here and their audiences here and here. To learn about setting up accounts in any of these systems and maximizing your visibility, just do web searches.

Also, be sure your various accounts are linked up. For example, for my WordPress.com blog More Good Days with Kids, whenever I post something it automatically puts a post about it up on my Facebook page, Google plus, Twitter and LinkedIn. Really the only one I actively maintain is the Facebook page but I know links are appearing in all those places.

Get started now

Most of the social service providers I know got into this work because we want to do direct work with our clients. Most don’t want to deal with marketing, or think about websites. But if you think your services benefit parents, then the best way to reach and benefit more parents is to take a few minutes to improve your web presence. If you don’t think you can do all the steps listed above, at least do one!

About Janelle Durham

Janelle headshotJanelle Durham, MSW, LCCE. Janelle has taught childbirth preparation, breastfeeding, and newborn care for 14 years. She trains childbirth educators for the Great Starts program at Parent Trust for Washington Children, and teaches young families through Bellevue College’s Parent Education program. She is a co-author of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn and writes blogs/websites on: pregnancy & birth; breastfeeding and newborn care; and parenting toddlers & preschoolers. Contact Janelle and learn more at www.janelledurham.com

 

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Series: Building Your Birth Business , , ,

Series: Building Your Birth Business: Online Marketing for Birth Professionals – A Beginner’s Guide

December 11th, 2014 by avatar

By Janelle Durham, MSW, LCCE

As we move into the new year, you may be considering starting your own independent childbirth education or birth related business.  Maybe you already have such a business already established but are looking to take it to the next level. Today’s post is part of a new series: Building Your Birth Business.

 Perhaps the organization you work for would like to grow their offerings geared toward families in the childbearing year.  Janelle Durham, a birth and parent educator, working for several programs in the Pacific Northwest has put together this beginner’s guide for the options available to reach your target audience of expectant parents through online marketing.  This resource can help you to get started in designing and placing ads and then tracking your success. – Sharon Muza,  Science & Sensibility Community Manager

Introduction

This guide is designed for non-profit organizations or individuals that serve expectant parents or young families (though other programs may also find it useful). I know there are a lot of folks doing great work, but we all have limited advertising budgets, and it’s hard to get the word out sometimes. We try things like a print ad in the newspaper once a year for $250 and hope that gets us some people.(But ask today’s parents if they read the newspaper.. I’m guessing the answer will be no. Most of the people who see your newspaper ad will be past the age of child-rearing. They’re not your target audience.)

social-media-marketingWith today’s online marketing, there are much more effective ways to spend your ad dollars that allows you to put your ad in front of a very targeted audience of young parents in the places where they look everyday (Facebook, online search engines, and YouTube. To see statistics on who uses social media, click here.)  Here’s an overview of your options, with links to more details. (And, of course, once you have the basic vocabulary and ideas I share here, you can do online searching to learn lots more about all these topics.)

Facebook Ads

71% of people who use the Internet use Facebook. 63% of Facebook users visit Facebook every day. (source) This is where parents’ eyes are looking!

Facebook ads allow you to place an ad right on the user’s “feed” – not off on a sidebar that they’ve learned to ignore. They can just read the ad, or they may choose to click on it. (You choose what happens when they click – they could click to like your Facebook page, or the click could link to your website.) You only pay if they click on your ad.

Facebook ads let you target your preferred customer or cient. For example, I can target my ad to people that Facebook has determined are: women, 24 – 44 years old, living in Bellevue, WA or within a ten mile radius (but excluding Seattle) who have purchased baby food, toys for young children, or clothes for young children. Facebook says that’s a possible audience of 5800. For $10, I put an ad in front of 995 of those parents, 23 clicked through to our website to learn more. That’s 43 cents for each person who came to our site to learn more – good bang for your buck! How to place ads on Facebook.

Facebook Boosts

Facebook also allows you to “boost” a post. So, you write a regular post on your business page and all your page followers see it. Then you pay for a boost to put it on the feeds of people who don’t yet follow your page. For $10 I boosted a post about local classes to local parents. It displayed to 1745,  and 36 clicked through. Cost 28 cents a click. How to Boost.

Your ability to target your demographic is more limited with boosts than with Facebook ads, so I prefer ads. I do like using boosts to promote a link to a video. (see below)

Google ads and Bing ads

The big picture is: you create a short ad. You choose whether it will display on search networks, display networks, or both. Then you define what kinds of people to show it to (geographic region, etc.). Then you define “keywords.”

For “search network advertising”: When someone in your region searches for those keywords, then the ad will display. For “display network” your ad will appear when people are looking at related content, even if they didn’t use your search terms to get there. When I ran ads on Bing, for $10, the ad would display to about 500 people, and about 25 would click through. On Google, $10 would display to about 1500 people, but only about 9 or 10 would click through. If you were just trying to get your name out there, Google may be a better bet, because there’s more “impressions” (times your ad is shown.) If you really want people to click to your site to learn more, Bing may be a better bet, because more will click through. Or, you may choose to run a low budget ad on both networks to reach the widest variety of users.

I personally prefer Facebook ads to search engine ads, because as a user, I find I read Facebook ads, and I totally ignore search engine ads. Also, Facebook allows me to target more specifically. However, if you think people will be actively searching out programs like yours and you have a really good sense of what keywords they would use, search engine ads are certainly worth doing. Learn how to place ads on Google and Yahoo Bing.

Promoting a video

You may choose to make a video to promote your program. If you do, then upload it to YouTube, then embed it somewhere on your website (check the help info in your website tool to learn how to do this.) Then promote it.

On Facebook, you can put a post with a link to the video, and then boost that post. (My $10 test ad displayed to 1700, and 62 clicked through.) On Google Ads, you can create a “video campaign” (learn how and learn more). Ads display on YouTube. (My test ad displayed to about 950 people, 24 clicked through.) Or you can set up your ad (“promote your video”) on YouTube directly. (Learn how.)

Check your web presence

When you spend money on internet advertising, most of those ads will take people directly to your website to learn more about your program. PLEASE make sure your website is the best it can be, free of grammar and spelling errors, graphically pleasant  and contains all the essential info they would need! Learn more here.

Is it working?

When you spend money on an ad in traditional media (newspapers, mailings, radio ads), it can be hard to tell: how many people saw the ad? How many were your target demographic? Did they take any actions after seeing the ad?

It’s easier to get those answers for online advertising. All the services listed above will give you all sorts of statistics (analytics) on how many people saw the ad, how many clicked through, what portion of the video they watched, and so on. This helps you decide whether the ad was money well spent.

It’s even better if you can take this to the next level. Many websites allow you to see your statistics. So, for example, on a day you ran an ad, you can see not only how many people clicked in from your ad, but what they did once they got to your site. Did they click on links on the page? Did they look at other pages? How much time did they spend on your site? There are also some external tools that can track statistics, like Google Analytics.

It’s even better if you can do “conversion tracking” which shows more specifically what a user did on your site after clicking through from an ad. These articles might be helpful to you: How to Track Facebook Ad Conversions and Understanding Conversion Tracking.

Staying up to date

The world of internet advertising is always changing, so if you want to be effective, update your website and your marketing strategy on a regular basis.

In this overview, I’ve shared what I learned this summer about online marketing. I need to say that the online world changes very quickly, and the processes might not be the same and you might not get the same results in September 2015 as I got in September 2014.

Have you had any experience with online marketing for your childbirth education or other birth business?  Please share your successes and learning moments with us in the comments section. – SM

About Janelle Durham

Janelle headshotJanelle Durham, MSW, LCCE. Janelle has taught childbirth preparation, breastfeeding, and newborn care for 14 years. She trains childbirth educators for the Great Starts program at Parent Trust for Washington Children, and teaches young families through Bellevue College’s Parent Education program. She is a co-author of Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn and writes blogs/websites on: pregnancy & birth; breastfeeding and newborn care; and parenting toddlers & preschoolers. Contact Janelle and learn more at www.janelledurham.com

 

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Lamaze International, Series: Building Your Birth Business , , ,

A Tale of Two Births – Comparing Hospitals to Hospitals

December 9th, 2014 by avatar

By Christine H. Morton, PhD

Today, Christine H. Morton, PhD, takes a moment to highlight a just released infographic and report by the California Healthcare Foundation that clearly shows the significance of birthing in a hospital that is “low performing.”  This is a great follow up post to “Practice Variation in Cesarean Rates: Not Due to Maternal Complications” that Pam Vireday wrote about last month. Where women choose to birth really matters and their choice has the potential to have profound impact on their birth outcomes.   – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

An Internet search of “A Tale of Two Births” brings up several blog posts about disparities in experience and outcomes between one person’s hospital and subsequent birth center or home births. Sometimes the disparity is explained away by the fact that for many women, their second labor and birth is shorter and easier than their first. Or debate rages about the statistics on home birth or certified professional midwifery. Now we have a NEW Tale of Two Births to add to the mix. However, this one compares the experiences of two women, who are alike in every respect but one – the hospital where they give birth.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 5.15.04 PM

 

The California HealthCare Foundation has created an infographic drawn from data reported on California’s healthcare public reporting website, CalQualityCare.org. In this infographic, we meet two women, Sara, and Maya who are identical in every respect – both are the same age, race, and having their first baby, which is head down, at term. However, Sara plans to have her baby at a “high-performing” hospital while Maya will give birth at a “low-performing” hospital. “High performing” is defined as three or more Superior or Above Average scores and no Average, Below Average, or Poor scores on the four maternity measures. “Low performing” is defined as three or more Below Average or Poor scores on the four maternity measures.

Based on the data from those hospitals, the infographic compares the likelihood of each woman experiencing four events: low-risk C-section, episiotomy, exclusive breastmilk before discharge, and VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section) rates (the latter one of course requires us to imagine that Sara and Maya had a prior C-section).

First-time mom Sara has a 19% chance of a C-section at her high-performing hospital, while Maya faces a 56% chance of having a C-section at her low-performing hospital. These percentages reflect the weighted average of all high- and low- performing hospitals.

Screen Shot 2014-12-08 at 5.15.22 PM

 

The readers of this blog will no doubt be familiar with these quality metrics and their trends over time. Two of these metrics (low risk C-section and exclusive breastmilk on discharge) are part of the Joint Commission’s Perinatal Care Measure Set. The other two – episiotomy and VBAC are important outcomes of interest to maternity care advocates and, of course, expectant mothers.

Hospitals with >1100 births annually have been required to report the five measures in the Joint Commission’s Perinatal Care Measure Set since January 2014, and these metrics will be publicly reported as of January 2015.

Childbirth educators can help expectant parents find their state’s quality measures and use this information in selecting a hospital for birth. In the event that changing providers or hospitals is not a viable option, childbirth educators can teach pregnant women what they can do to increase their chances of optimal birth outcomes by sharing the Six Healthy Practices with all students, but especially those giving birth in hospitals that are “low-performing.”

You can download the infographic in English and en Español tambien!

About Christine H. Morton

christine morton headshotChristine H. Morton, PhD, is a medical sociologist. Her research and publications focus on women’s reproductive experiences, maternity care advocacy and maternal quality improvement. She is the founder of an online listserv for social scientists studying reproduction, ReproNetwork.org.  Since 2008, she has been at California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative at Stanford University, an organization working to improve maternal quality care and eliminate preventable maternal death and injury and associated racial disparities. She is the author, with Elayne Clift, of Birth Ambassadors: Doulas and the Re-emergence of Woman Supported Childbirth in the United States.  In October 2013, she was elected to the Lamaze International Board of Directors.  She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, their two school age children and their two dogs.  She can be reached via her website.

Babies, Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, Do No Harm, Evidence Based Medicine, Guest Posts, Healthy Birth Practices, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Medical Interventions, New Research, Newborns, Push for Your Baby , , , , , ,

Series: Journey to LCCE Certification – Mission Accomplished!

December 4th, 2014 by avatar

By Cara Terreri, LCCE

 photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

If you have been following Cara Terreri in our Series: Journey to LCCE Certification, you know Cara was last seen hard at work preparing for the LCCE examination.  I received good news from Cara yesterday, and wanted to share her update with you.  Please join me in congratulating Cara on successfully passing the Lamaze exam and receiving the credentials “LCCE”.  I would like to congratulate all of you who also received news of your passing score.  You should be proud of your accomplishments.  If others would like to explore becoming a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator, please check out our certification page on the website for information on how to start. – Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

The final days

At the culmination of nearly two years, the longest part of which was the last five weeks waiting to hear news, the results are in… I passed the exam and am now a Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educator! Though I felt confident in my knowledge and abilities, self-doubt crept in during the weeks leading up to the exam. I amped up my studying and review time in order to feel more sure in my knowledge. Walking through the door of the testing site, my nerves took a back seat and I felt ready.

My test experience

My test-taking experience was, overall, positive. Many of the questions were reasonable and fair, and for a good number of them, I quickly found the answer. For other questions, however, I really had to closely read the question and think hard about my answer. I could always narrow it down to two answers – it was those last two that really tested my knowledge! The testing system allows you to “flag” a question if it’s one you want to go back and review. Two hours into the exam, I was finished answering questions. I was more than thankful for the additional hour to review the questions I had flagged. For two questions, I felt strongly about sending feedback to staff, a feature available to me during the test.  This feature made me feel like the test was truly created to be fair and open to my feedback. When the test results were released, I was pleased to see that a question had been eliminated, and I was hopeful that it might have been one of the questions I flagged.

Lamaze core values

cara lcceLamaze prides itself on promoting evidence based information and the LCCE exam is no different – questions are created fairly (not intentionally tricky), and cover a wide range of in-depth information that a competent and effective childbirth educator should possess. As someone who writes on behalf of Lamaze for parents everywhere, and as a budding educator and doula, holding the LCCE credential is invaluable. It provides added credibility, yes, but perhaps more importantly, it holds me accountable. Ongoing education is so critical in our field! Throughout the years since working with Lamaze, I’ve come to learn so much about the organization in comparison to others. It’s the level of dedication and commitment to education that encourages me to grow further with Lamaze as my foundation.

What’s next

Now that the exam is complete, the real work begins! Since moving and settling into a new community, I now am ready to create a business plan for 2015 and begin teaching locally. My earlier professional goals centered around doula work, but until I can solidify extended child care, that will have to wait. Teaching classes, however, is very doable and it’s also something I truly enjoy.

Did you also pass the exam?  Share your good news in our comments section and let us know what your next steps are!  Where will you be teaching?  What type of classes?  Let us knw! We want to celebrate with you and wish you all the best as you start your work as an LCCE. – SM

About Cara Terreri

Cara began working with Lamaze two years before she became a mother. Somewhere in the process of poring over marketing copy in a Lamaze brochure and birthing her first child, she became an advocate for childbirth education. Three kids later (and a whole lot more work for Lamaze), Cara is the Site Administrator for Giving Birth with Confidence, the Lamaze blog for and by women and expectant families. Cara continues to have a strong passion for the awesome power and beauty in pregnancy and birth, and for helping women to discover their own power and ability through birth. It is her hope that through the GBWC site, women will have a place to find and offer positive support to other women who are going through the amazing journey to motherhood.

 

Childbirth Education, Guest Posts, Lamaze International, Series: Journey to LCCE Certification , , ,

Series: On the “Independent Track” to Becoming a Lamaze Trainer

December 2nd, 2014 by avatar

By Jessica English, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA)

Last month, LCCE Jessica English began the path to become an independent trainer with Lamaze International, as part of the just opened “Independent Track”  trainer program.  This new program helps qualified individuals become Lamaze trainers – able to offer Lamaze childbirth educator trainings which is one step on the path for LCCE certification.  She’s agreed to share her trainer journey with us in a series of blog posts; “On the Independent Track to Becoming a Lamaze Trainer”, offering insights at key milestones in the process. If this is a program you are interested in, look for information in 2015 on how to apply for the 2015 cohort.- Sharon Muza, Science & Sensibility Community Manager.

When I first saw the invitation to apply to become an independent trainer with Lamaze International, my heart leapt! As a doula trainer, I’d long wanted to extend my training work to include childbirth educators but I’d heard the process to become a Lamaze trainer was complicated. The announcement that landed in my inbox said that there was a new, simplified pathway to becoming an independent Lamaze trainer. As I prepared to launch a new business venture that included many facets of my skill set: DONA birth doula trainings, childbirth classes, business training/coaching sessions and more, it seemed so clear that becoming a Lamaze trainer fit right in with my path. Yes! Count me in!

© Tanya Strusberg

© Tanya Strusberg

I was “in” wholeheartedly, but I still needed to apply and be approved. The application asked about our qualifications and our vision for a Lamaze program. Several days before the application deadline, Laura Ruth in the Lamaze office told me that they’d already received a lot of applications. My nerves set it! The closer the deadline came, the surer I was that becoming a Lamaze trainer was the right path for me; I hoped the review committee would agree.

The wait to hear back was blessedly short. Less than a week after I submitted my application, I heard back from Lamaze International that I’d been approved as part of the first cohort of independent track trainers. How exciting! I immediately started laying plans to travel to Washington, D.C. for the “train the trainer” session, praying that my November doula clients would either have their babies before I left or wait for my return. I also needed a sub to teach my own Thursday night childbirth class.

Thankfully, three babies came in nine days, I found a fantastic sub, and I headed to D.C. with a clear calendar. (Thank you for aligning, birthy stars!) I arrived Wednesday night and met my roommate, Trena Gallant from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Before our official training ever began, our informal education started with the opportunity to share stories and techniques as experienced educators and (doula) trainers. My LCCE heart was already bursting!

I’d been curious from the beginning about who would be in the training, and it was fun to watch the room fill Thursday morning. Several of my fellow DONA-approved birth doula trainers were in the group, there were a handful of other folks whose names I recognized, and I saw a few new faces. The 12 of us hailed from the United States, Canada and even Australia. Everyone participating in the training was an experienced educator, and we had several accomplished Lamaze trainers and leaders in the room to help guide us as well. I was excited know we’d have the chance to connect throughout the weekend.

The morning began with ice breakers and climate setters with our experienced facilitator, Tom Leonhardt. Once we all felt comfortable together, we dove into the science of adult learning. Even as an experienced educator and trainer, I enjoyed the chance to reanalyze how adults learn. One of the things that I love about Lamaze International is its emphasis on evidence-based information, and this training was no different. There’s great science on adult learning, and Lamaze ensures that your trainers understand how to use that science to help new educators create great classes. I appreciated that the training itself was highly interactive – implementing the same proven techniques we were discussing. I picked up some new ideas and other information was reinforced. I was able to explore my own teaching style and its strengths and weaknesses. An expert facilitator, Tom guided us and brought us back to task when we ventured just a little too far down an occasional rabbit hole.

Saturday was spent on additional teaching analysis and introduction of the primary objectives for our Lamaze curricula. Another reason I adore Lamaze is that they lay down core objectives for educators and then allow each LCCE to teach in his or her own way. I discovered that the trainer process was similar. Each trainer will complete a needs assessment for her community, region or country. We are tasked with using a planning table to detail content for each objective, then listing our teaching techniques and evidence-based resources. In part because all Lamaze International training seminars qualify for nursing contact hours, the process of getting your training program accredited is rigorous – just another reason that Lamaze is the gold standard in our field! I could see the work ahead.

On Saturday afternoon we broke into pairs and developed an assigned training module. Each team delivered its 20-minute teaching session beginning Sunday morning. My partner and I volunteered to present first, which allowed us to fully enjoy the rest of the presentations without any thoughts about our own session. What a delight to watch so many incredible educators work their magic! I think we all picked up techniques and language from one another. We reminded ourselves again and again that we were training educators and not parents. That was an interesting shift, as we’ve all been teaching families for years or even decades. We glowed with the praise from our peers and humbled ourselves to received constructive feedback on what could have gone better. What an excellent model for us to follow as we prepare others to teach!

Saturday ended with an exploration of best practices in dealing with challenging participants. I love that Lamaze International wants us to explore these issues with new instructors! Being a great childbirth educator is about so much more than just understanding birth. The science and art of teaching are critically important to our work and Lamaze International is devoted to helping to build truly great teachers around the world.

As I said goodbye to my new colleagues Monday afternoon and wound my way through a weather-challenged journey home, my thoughts turned to next steps. As my new venture- Heart | Soul | Business ramps up, I’m carving out time to work on my Lamaze curriculum. Branding and marketing are on my mind as I solidify plans to combine birth doula workshops, childbirth educator seminars and advanced business trainings to help other birth workers thrive in this heart-centered work. My background is in marketing, public relations and business administration, so that trifecta of trainings feels like the perfect combination!

A variety of questions remain for me. Which cities need childbirth educator, doula and business trainings? How can I help to even further distinguish the Lamaze name in an increasingly crowded marketplace? What are the pieces of a kick-butt curriculum that will help grow strong, confident educators who can make a difference in diverse communities and in their own unique styles? What will it be like to work on that curriculum with Lamaze International’s amazing lead nurse planner, Susan Givens? I’m strongly committed to continuing to teach families and attend births in my home community, but how will those commitments balance with an increased travel schedule?

Stay tuned, friends. I’m diving in and I’m excited to have you along for the journey.

About Jessica English

jessica english head shotJessica English, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), is the founder of Heart | Soul | Business. A former marketing and PR executive, she owns Birth Kalamazoo, a thriving doula and childbirth education agency in Southwest Michigan. Jessica trains birth doulas and (soon!) Lamaze childbirth educators, as well as offering heart-centered business-building workshops for all birth professionals.

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