The ethics of teachers acting as brand ambassadors

Teachers are increasingly being invited to serve as “brand ambassadors” for companies that produce products for schools and students, but these relationships raise some ethical concerns that all involved should be aware of. The benefits and pitfalls of these interactions with commercial brands are explored in a new research brief from the National Education Policy Center, Examining the New Phenomenon of Teachers as Brand Ambassadors.

Brand ambassadors receive compensation in the form of free products or other perks in exchange for using a product and, depending on the terms of the arrangement, promoting it in social media and other venues. For teachers in cash-strapped schools, these opportunities can give them access to useful classroom resources they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. But educators in these programs need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of using these products. For example, the use of some technological products may violate student privacy, and not all products stand up sound pedagogical standards. In addition, some ambassador relationships may violate ethical guidelines.

The authors recommend that educators familiarize themselves with state and district policies regarding commercial relationships before becoming brand ambassadors and that states and districts review their policies to ensure they are up-to-date and take into account the ways educators might use social media and interact with commercial brands.

Source: Saldaña, C., Welner, K.G., Malcolm, S., & Tisch, E. (2019). Examining the new phenomenon of teachers as brand ambassadors. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.

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