There are many lessons we in education can learn from the business world. Take the concept of branding. Since the advent of media, organizations across the globe have worked tirelessly to build a positive brand presence that resonates with potential consumers. A brand, woven into a combination of words, design, colors, music, video, and logo, represents a promise that is aligned to specific attributes with the goal of creating a memorable experience. If a company’s brand meets this goal, the likelihood increases that a consumer will purchase its product. Mega brands like Apple, McDonald’s, and Nike have long embraced this concept of branding and the result has been the creation of a clear identity.
Why Your Brand Matters
When it comes to education, people line up on both sides of the branding debate. From a purely business sense I would be against the concept myself. The purpose of school is not to sell and increase profits. This is something that we can all agree on. However, a school’s identity is extremely important in the eyes of the beholder, which in this case are key stakeholder groups consisting of students, parents, community members, local businesses, and educators. The idea of a promise to educate all learners and prepare them for success in a rapidly changing world is an expectation that cannot be ignored. If this can’t be promised then why would stakeholders support our schools or entrust their children’s education to them?
Identity matters in a digital world. Do you want this created for your school or would you like to be proactive in developing one? This is where the concept of branding has value and significance for schools. The overreaching goal of a brandED strategy is to develop and sustain positive relationships with all stakeholders. It is not about selling, but a consistent focus on sharing and telling your story. The bottom line is that if you don’t tell your story someone else will and the result could be an identity that does not align with your school’s mission, vision, or values.
Embracing these elements of brandED thinking by becoming the storyteller-in-chief can begin the process of developing a powerful school identity that resonates. I’ve come across several districts recently that have adopted the brandED mindset and have created a platform that showcases the amazing work of students and staff. They’ve created a brand that contextualizes the work they do on behalf of students, thereby strengthening their relationships between the school and the community. These future-thinking districts include:
Asbury Park School District, NJ
Weehawken Township School District, NJ
Fall Creek School District, WI
Monticello High School, NY
Port Clinton Middle School, OH
Strengthen your school’s identity with these simple tips:
Amplify great work that takes place on a daily basis by consistently using a multi-faceted approach that blends traditional (newsletters, email, phone, face-to-face) with digital- age tools (social media). With social media tools make sure your account pages are up to date (website links, avatars, profile information, etc.). It is also wise to educate your stakeholders on social media tools and how you will be using them to increase engagement.
Build trust through transparency. The benefits here are numerous including attracting families to move to your local district or in the case of tuition (private, parochial, independent) schools, make a greater financial investment. It can also help when it comes to referendums, passing the school budget, and engaging alumni with the hopes of donated time, money, and resources.
Focus on elements that align to a thriving school culture such as innovative learning, student achievement, staff accomplishments, college/career readiness, partnerships, unique traditions, and extra-curricular activities.
Empower others to be active sharers and avoid a gatekeeper mentality when it comes to sharing the story of your school. Encourage different departments, student groups, parent organizations, and extra-curricular activities to maintain social media accounts.
Regularly recognizing the work of educators and students in your school can be inspirational. The result can be greater levels of motivation and appreciation, which helps to develop a positive school culture. Develop a template to curate all the great work occurring on a monthly basis. The report can then be shared in its entirety or broken up into numerous blog posts.
In an education sense the identity of your school (or even yourself) is not only determined by the work, but also how the work is shared. It stands for who you are. Being cognizant of this fact allows you to be proactive in creating an identity that resonates with all stakeholders. Think about the identity that you, your students, and staff want. By using the tips above, engaging stakeholders in two-way communications, and taking control of your public relations, in time you will create an identity that truly depicts the amazing work taking place on a daily basis.
I will be presenting on this topic at the 25th Annual Model Schools Conference on June 25, 2017! My additional topics include: EdTech Tools to Transform Formative Assessment (Teachers) and Community Engagement (Administrators) and
Learning Transformed: 8 Keys to Designing Tomorrow's Schools, Today.
Each June, 5000+ educators come together at the Model Schools Conference to learn about effective strategies and develop an action plan for change. The participants come with different challenges, but focus on the same future-focused question: What do our children need to know and be able to accomplish to be successful in work and life?
I invite you to explore your answers to this question and many other topics with us next June!
Read more about BrandED thinking in Eric’s new book: BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning