Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Why Educational Leaders Need a Brand Platform

Do I Need A Brand Platform?

Building a strong brand starts with a Brand Platform. A Brand Platform is the necessary framework to house ongoing efforts that connect branding to school culture and achievement. Based on new branding terms and definitions, you’ll need to study up! Since the elements of Branding flourish with communication, let’s look to the terms and speak the language.

Be the Brand-Ed EDUCATOR….

Part of being in the tribe is speaking the language. One of the early tasks for a leader who is building a branding tribe is teaching the processes of a branded community for quick use. Employ the same definitions business created years ago and hone the conversation about your brand.

Your school’s Brand Platform will be the home for new thinking, including new language, “brandspeak” definitions.

Building a Brand Platform
Tenets for The CEO, Chief Education Officer, of Branding

As you build your understanding of branding, learn about the value of a Brand Platform. The brand platform will focus the organization on building valuable relationships, like root of branding. Once the conversation about branding begins, a platform offers a familiar framework on which to build your school brand. The platform consists of elements, new terms that help create a clear, compelling message to focus and connect every employee's behaviors toward consistently delivering the brand value. A snappy tagline or mission statement is not enough; and, most importantly, a Brand Platform must be embraced throughout an organization.

Your brand platform is designed to align the way the organization interfaces, in every engagement, with the community. It a practical, usable tool guiding all members of the organization to support the brand through their words and actions. Credibility is the most important criteria of a brand platform. Without credibility, a brand is simply reduced to an empty slogan.
At its best, a robust brand platform speaks to the school’s distinctiveness, contribution, and possibilities for making a difference in the lives of students. Credibility as a brand is woven throughout the tenets articulated in the platform. As a strategic tool, a brand platform has a wide range of appeal to connect with a broad constituency of students, teachers, staff, and management.

Scheduling meetings and creating teams around the important features of the brand platform can build familiarity with language and processes of branding that have worked in business for years.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brand Ed: Brand Platforms for Educators

A Brand Platform focuses the organization on building value-added customer relationships.

Thinking about a platform for your school branding efforts will take you in several directions as you align management on key strategies to deliver value to customers, create a clear, compelling marketing message that results in more efficient brand communications,and provide a focus on connecting every employee's behaviors to consistently deliver differentiated value.

Creating an educational brand platform that has strategic value to an organization requires a process that is inclusive, that results in genuine outcomes that are inspiring throughout the community. Website polishing or tagline or re-positioning statement is not going to make it.

A school's brand platform must be embraced throughout an organization.It will define important brand behaviors and support clear, targeted communication about the brand's promise. A brand platform is designed to provide uniformity in the way the organization interfaces, in every way,and also is a practical, usable tool to guide all members of the organization on how to support the brand through words and actions.

Credibility is the most important criteria of the brand platform, period. it a brand platform is reduced to another empty slogan that will eventually, sooner, rather than later, become irrelevant.

According to business experts, these are the 6 elements of a platform:

Brand Vision – A forward-looking statement that describes the brand in terms of its relationship with its targeted customers.
Core Values – Core values are an expression of an organization’s principles and culture and provide the foundation for living the brand.
Brand Position – The brand position pragmatically defines the brand’s desired position among competitors in the category.
Brand Dimensions – The impressions of what the organization does, the distinctive qualities it delivers in every relationship, and the consistent qualities that every client can expect in every interaction.
Brand Promise – The crucial link to the day-to-day brand impressions that are delivered by an organization’s employees.
Brand Character – A personification of the brand that creates the imagery forming the bases of consistent external marketing communication.

Build a strong brand on the inside using these elements as a guide!

Monday, December 14, 2009

BRAND Ed: A Brand New Idea in Creating a Winning School

The development of new thinking, thought made visible as a finished written product, is the birthing process...and I have had three children, and written several manuscripts, school programs, grant and published a book.

So I'm not surprised that as I write, I'm getting closer to the message...and I am actually renaming it! Well, the three kids' names, with the exception of my son, Zachary, were always changing before they arrived!!

So now with a little help from far off friends.. I am now losing the MAd Ave brand....and heading to the brand that follows:

BRAND-ED and combining it with BRAND NEW...which I think is closest to what I want to say, and that can be communicated quickly for a reader...the Brand is developing. And the book proposal getting clearer...cutting away at the fog!!!

Meanwhile...saw this thinking today and like the message: The place for generations to collaborate on brand in schools includes the 2.0 landscape!

Millennials need to feel as though they are using their skills and expertise to their utmost capacity in order to be engaged in their job. Get them involved in leading the branding push to develop a 2.0 branding plan that fits into the total school brand development. They sure know it from developing a personal brand! The me 2.0 Generation!
Intern Bridge, the internship research and consulting firm responsible for the nation’s largest annual internship research project , suggests this...I couldn't agree more and will address this in my book, too!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Tip for Taking on the BRAND: It's Necessary


Is it really necessary? Is it worth the effort spent planning, meetings, trainings ?

Business speaks to brand about a ”market share”. The education business has a market in place, They have buyers. School customers are a robust group.

Aren’t schools different? Does a school really have to find clients?

You’re An Educator...but you may have to go a bit MAD.

As a MAD AVE Principal, where you stand on the above questions may be linked to where you sit. If you are in private education, you may already have a group of ”buyers” who traditionally seek your type of educational service. If you are in an academic institution, you attract a market for advanced study and degrees. In both those settings, the competition is getting increasingly fierce for tuition dollars, Weaving a strong branding or rebranding conversation to fit the competitive 2.0 world to your existing model, can strengthen a school’s unique profile, build enrollment, increase funding.

Now, if you are a MAD AVE. principal in a public school setting, you have a captive market. You have a residential community. Most residents have children they send to you for service. Or they may choose not to. They may have opted out, and are part of the private market, even as they pay school taxes. You may be losing the highest performing students to the private educator in your zip code. Having an excellent brand can help you compete and create that profile of high achievement, and win back the hearts and minds of today’s economically strapped parents of students you want to educate. They make good customers.

So, start the branding conversation. Maybe with someone who has opted out!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thriving with a School Brand

Why Brand in Today’s 2.0 World: From Biz to School to Personal Buzz

Is it really necessary? You are thinking that.

Is it worth the effort, the time, the negotiation, the meetings, the decisions. Is it worth it?

Why build a brand for my school ? It seems to have a market in place, the school community is right there.I don't have to find customers. So why would you want to build a brand?

Brands are part of the 2.0 world today. They exist in our constant need for communication. Schools, if they are to be successful, need to recognize that the days of the solitary one room isolated school experience are gone. Ask any parent who has received a text message from a child in a classroom:" forgot $ for yearbook, come quick with $", and you will know that the communication highway is like a crazy cloverleaf that curls loops through a school's setting, culture and atmosphere. Branding is a part of school life already because of the need to manage and monitor as best as one can, the reputation of a school. A reputation for excellence. So the elevator speech for school branding that can be buzzed by all is, "Branding secures the school's positive reputation throughout the entire community ,and increases loyalty of all who touch the brand."

There is a constant need to communicate the brand promise that comes to business, individuals and schools. And each entity works on improving the brand in today's modern world in much the same way. The reason for building a branding goes beyond surviving. It means thriving.

In a poetic sense, there comes a time when remaining closed off tightly in a bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom. So the brand campaign is the opening of that bud . It might not even be painful. When led with intention and vision, it can be an exciting journey.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Burn to BRAND: Thinking Branding History

A Burn to Brand: Think Brand History

A school leader who launches a brand campaign to support school excellence needs to be armed with a clear reason for taking up the charge. Otherwise, the response from the ranks might sound like a Greek chorus bemoaning yet another a new leadership direction.

You’re an educator!

The key to rallying support lies in educating the potential collaborators on your team. Teach why brands will be continually important in the future, and why a 2.0 perspective is good for a school community’s ability to deliver excellence. According to every social media pundit who is writing, Tweeting and blogging today, there will be increasing interest in fueling the iconic brand of an organization with the power of complimentary personal brands that are part of the workplace. People are branding without even knowing they are, so define this behavior and connect it to school excellence and it’s an easy sell. Without a doubt, the most credible and visible educational brands stand the best chance of continued success as respected school communities in a changing educational landscape. Leaders who see the implication of branding for the development of schools are creating new organizational models for schools of the future.

A forward thinking leader looks to the next decade and the innovative uses of branding, social networking and managing the content that comes with this territory. So in the words of a heavy hitting brand, “JUST DO IT!”

But first, a look backward is in order. A little history can provide context for the move forward. Knowing something of the history of branding, the beginnings of its life in connection to markets, can help a leader present the mission of branding/rebranding to a 21st century school community. A step back into the earliest part of the 20th Century is in order before a giant leap to branding 2.0 is accomplished.

According to research, the first recognized brand is the 19th Century British Brewery Bass & Company. (Don’t count out the Vesuvium wine carafes that were found in the ruins of Pompeii, however!) And since the root of the word branding is an Old Norse term “brandr” meaning to burn, the reason for branding today, lies in the hope that the brand can ignite connection!

Monday, December 07, 2009

MAD Ave Principles:Developing Your School Brand

Developing the Brand

The branding conversation a leader initiates has an overarching objective based upon building trust. A winning brand can only advance the reputation of the school, and winning brands are based on trust. Developing the brand is part of an educational leaders’ role in today’s world as it has long been for CEO’s in business. CEO’s stand behind the trust equity that have been built; and, trust has been a topic of interest in education of late. If trust is linked to accountability in schools, building a brand is needed today more than ever.

The standard test of trust in education is: “Have I kept my promises to you?

Leaders who develop a brand take an important journey that results in building a public expression of what MAD Ave calls, the “brand promise”, or the benefit that a brand will deliver, to all who connect with it. In an education, a school makes its brand promise in the same way a business makes their commitment. Solid branding assures a “buyer” a quality experience.

Educators who collectively and consciously work to create that connection to their community enhance their school’s reputation, positive identity and performance. A winning brand results! Building credibility and trust equity is something iconic brands have done for years. They build their organizational message from the inside out to assure trust in the brand is not breached. They work hard to keep the promise intact and unbroken. Sounds like a perfect plan for schools.

To do this, tangible and intangible branding elements must be developed and aligned by the school community. These elements assure that trust is part of each interaction with the educational brand. It’s a constant signal to a consumer that the school’s promised services can be believed and trusted. A parent sends a child to be educated in a school community trusting in a service. Increasing that expectation to a level of a winning brand goes to a powerful level when the collective impression of a school identity is positive to even those who don’t send children to the school. Leaders who recognize and build the intangible and tangible concepts of a brand can communicate a satisfying identity that fosters positive student achievement and a positive supportive community at large, a win- win -win.

In direct and subtle ways, a brand is developed to be lived by each member of the community. In order to create the brand, questions about who develops the concepts, how the brand is articulated, how the story is shared, and the message is delivered must be answered. How long is this brand building process, how is the brand protected once it is developed , how is the message spread in face to face and online promises are more challenges to thinking.

Sustaining a community of excellence by identifying a brand that everyone can live and promote can help educators in the “Twitter up” environment to communicate value and maintain excellence.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Branding Lessons:Understanding Branding for Educators 101

Understanding branding as a managing principle can improve every educational leaders’ skill set in our modern age.

Discussions of school identity and student achievement become energized and refined to completion through the MAD Ave principle of branding. The branding concept is vital to the modern age of digital communication in our school. Facilitating branding conversations in a school community offers any school leader the chance to create powerful new discussions on how iconic branding, personal branding, online behaviors, and educational messaging can be as, Tom Friedman suggests, “mashed” for new creative organizational thinking and isible result. Using new concepts, language and frameworks of branding, a leader can present unique solutions for grappling with the always present challenge of demonstrating excellence in schools. MAD AVE principles can be the foundation.

Educators need not feel at a loss for their lack of understanding the MAD Ave principle of branding. Just because corporations have been engaging in branding activities since early 20th century, doesn’t mean that even business can adequately define branding. Branding can look like a solid concept, but today, the concept of branding morphs constantly. Ask advertising professionals to define branding and you’ll get a stock statement or some generalities. The forecast for defining branding is at best cloudy with an occasional break of clarity. Yet the branding beat goes on.

So what do school leaders need to know to take on this MAD Ave view of organizational thinking?

First, be confident. Branding is about relationships and education is based on relationship building. It’s a right fit. But, branding value may be hard to describe due to the shifting nature of modern connection that we often seem to be chasing. Today, positively connecting people and building relationships through messages, images, and content is a challenge in itself, Be aware that branding will affect the world in some small way before you even finish reading this chapter.

Second, know that this is critical. Because the powerful social media movement exists, branding is one hot topic online and offline: facebook, myspace, twitter, all create branding opportunities, the chance to affect relationships, for their users. Adopters may not understand branding, but research points to a “high”, a flood of dopemine that rushes through the user’s system when connected to social networking system of the day, interacting with relationships and brands, iconic and personal. And if the experience lends itself to credible and genuine good feeling, than the branding experience is high and a loyalty to the experience is created. Isn’t that part of what schools look for? Over 50% of those users are women. And mature women are joining these social networks at increasing rates, and branding themselves as thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and experts. Men flock to Digg, Stumleupon to create and share content particular to their interests. Where is your school community’s place in this?

Finally, we live in the world of BRANDING. We understand and use brands, and the most powerful brand going forward, beating Coke, Walmart, Nike…is Google, warehouse of the world’s thinking. Chances are you are a loyal user, and have developed a credible relationship with the king of content and you share this with others.

Rather than lament the infringement on how branding influences the way we act, buy, think, talk, and learn. Rather than see it as a hostile takeover, educators can welcome this monumental change sweeping into schools. It comes in the form of the smallest student who not only carries the PBS Kids brand on his back, but on his computer bookmarked sites where h generates new learning. Let’s welcome it in the question, “Should your teachers be developing a personal brand online as educators and selling their branded lesson plans in the marketplace?” let's open our minds and arms to embrance and understand branding as a powerful tool to create teaching and learning connections, shared language, experience and positive attitudes about WHO WE ARE as educators...and why we should be trusted to deliver excellence in service that leads to achievement.

School agendas are dense and heavy with standards and compliances. A fresh direction--a new conversation on branding can help cut through those discussions. Educational issues can be better addressed when people share a common belief in a their own educational brand and invest in building relationships within the organization that advance that brand every day, no matter what issue is on the table. Every encounter among teachers, staff and managers and with the community is an opportunity to advance the winning brand.

The educational branding conversation must move out to the public-- the customers: parents, businesses, community members and seniors in order to show the PROMISE of the school brand daily, and how is offers each group value. Each yearly budget vote can be empowered to a positive ROI if the school understands, develops and lives a trusted brand. Once a brand that has been fully operationalized, it moves into every facet of the community through all sorts of channels, social media, print, word of mouth, and positive attitude follows. The brand, the identity of the school as a unique place of achievement that offers return on the investment for the community, is then understood.

Brand of the moment: AN EDUCATION

It's Saturday and I'm writing my MAD AVE book proposal to the tune of an education brand called...An Education. It is the soundtrack from a wonderful film called, yes---An Education.

The film takes place in 1961...same time frame as Madmen in the USA...and the fab soundtrack is my Brand of the Moment pick for a grey NYC day. It's a bargain at $9.99 at Itunes... The original work of Peter Englishby is woven throughout, as well as artists of the day such as Brenda Lee, Mel Torme, Percey Faith. It makes a great soundtrack for my work today. And I so loved the movie..I may have to see it again!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Branding. It’s a buzzword, and it’s everywhere. And it’s come to education.

In fact, branding begins long before the first day of school.

What used to be called “naming” is a human being's first experience with branding. It used to be simple. The newborn arrived and depending on the sex, mom and dad give a name so as to keep things from being messy when they bring the baby home to the other family members. But now a fetus is not just named, she can be branded in utero by anxious parents holding books of best baby names, long before her arrival. Shall they name her Apple? Isabella? Rain? Mary? No—nobody is Mary anymore. Get the difference? And wait, let’s send Apple’s sonogram out on her facebook fan page for our 5,000 friends to see. The world according to branding means going viral on sonogram screens, computer screens, and on everybody’s tongue.

So what is branding? Is it just about visibility on social networks?

Branding has been with us since the early 20th launch of the Morton Salt Girl or the Quaker Oats Man. But why does it suddenly seem so urgently important today? Important enough that dancing You Tube infants, kindergarteners, my space tweenagers, and White House party crashers have all personally branded themselves for millions to enjoy in this new communication age?

Branding is a serious topic. It’s about to take over education from the inside out, and it’s in need of definition and understanding. It needs an advocate in education. From where I sit in business today, branding has a place in the marketplace that can inform schools.

Two professional journeys, one in education and one in business, produces a guide for school leaders that opens up a necessary conversation about building winning school culture in new ways through a branding campaign.

My consulting perspective is informed by careers in education and business. I bring a different lens on marketing to business types and a different perspective on education to school leaders. When asked, I say..."I've really been in business all of my life, the business of sales”. I mean I've sold "education" in a diverse marketplaces across the country to students, teachers, parents, administrators, school board members, business people, politicians and the community. They’ve been my niche market. And both experiences have shaped my thinking. Lately, I’ve expanded that thinking to branding, but branding isn’t really sales. It’s deeper than that. Aligning school programs, initiatives, and standards can be approached through a branding conversation, beyond the superficial trappings of websites, logos and taglines. Talking about branding goes beyond making a pitch.

Worlds are converging around the topic of branding. George Costanza once decried colliding worlds on TV’s Seinfeld, but I see this collision as a boon, a powerful opportunity; the chance for a new winning idea to be spread that branding education could be good for school identity and student achievement. Thomas Freidman would applaud my view as an example of his “imagination mash-up”, a new bit of thinking for business and education. If worlds are converging, a new age is dawning, and it’s not Aqaurius-- It’s the age of Educational Branding.

So let the sunshine in and the branding conversation begin.

Understanding, developing, and living an educational brand is far from an empty exercise for school leaders and their modern connected communities. This book invites thinking about the value of branding in education. It’s written to inspire conversations in small meetings, over coffee in faculty rooms, in focus groups and in professional development venues. The branding conversation belongs in schools because it links to relationship building, trust and authenticity, the very values the educational community has advanced in curriculum and standards reform in the last decades.

So let’s talk about branding. And the good news is… the branding concept comes not from Washington DC policymakers, it comes from Madison Avenue Ad men…or Madmen, and they’ve always had their finger on the pulse of what the market wants.

If you are intriguiged by the buzz of MAD AVE principles for Branding, and their application to education, read on. At the very least ,it’s a good fit for your learning and professional development. I promise you’ll will grow new denrites as it expands your thinking about business and education. At its best, the Mad Ave ideas may help you initiate a discussion tthat will improve the culture of your school, the identity of your organization and the achievement of your students.

MAD Ave principles for school “principals”? Every Tom, Dick and Harry, Apple, Rain and Mary needs to learn them today.

And You'd be crazy not to.

The Reality of The Obama Brand

The misguided Michele and Tarique's excellent adventure crashing the White House dinner is a study of personal branding in the age of "reality" shows, celebrity wanna be's and balloon boys. Maureen Dowd's take from the NY Times...


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Showing your Level 5 Ed Leadership as a MAD Principal

Like it or not, Web 3.0 world has crept into every part of job descriptions and hiring of school leaders. Today's school leaders can approach innovation in this world of almost instant awareness through building a brand for their school, and at the same time build a genuine brand for themselves that distinguishes their professional value.

Jim Collins' Level 5 Leadership work fits into my view of MAD AVE Princples and my search for MAD Principals who want to introduce the ideas of branding into the conversation of school achievement and excellence.
A Level 5 leader knows meaningful organizational change on his/her leadership journey is accomplished by bringing out the best in others. A leader who takes on branding in education wants to poke at the human essence of what an organization is about and what that organization delivers in its brand promise. In fact, any principal who becomes MAD for branding possesses the capacity to be a level 5 leader. The experience of building a brand can be the training ground for level 5 leadership whose hallmark is the creativity and innovation that takes an organization from good enough to great.

Ok, some days educational managers feel like they have to don the superman or superwoman cape to face the challenges of leading a modern school, whose possibilities seem boundless due to 3.0. However, on the educational branding front, the cape...or the mantle can and should be shared.

Yes, it is the leader's vision, the leading from the front, that creates the desire for a brand that is unique and meaningful. Yet, to be at Level 5, Collins would expect one " flatten out" the challenge, and share the development of the brand. This separates the Level 4 Leader from the Level 5 Superman or Superwoman. Educational Branding development works best when the effort is launched horizontally across the organization. Leaders who draw on the talents of the many make the route from Planing the Brand to Living the Brand easier, more genuine and faster to achieve.

So start the process to being a Level 5 leader, by doing your homework. Find content you can share that can help you grow a team. Start looking to the MAD world of MAD AVE by reading and researching. Hubspot, social media today can help you on the roadthrough inspiring content that leads to confidently thinking about how 3.0, branding, and social media are a new part of your job description as a Level 5 MAD Principal on the BRANDING journey.

Don't forget to leave a comment!

Last Look Powerful NY Women of 2009


Color this brand awesome. In light of reading Gail Collins Book, as I blogged yesterday, here is a fabulous list of New York Women including Rachel Ray, of course...who are continuing to change everything!

Self Branding 101

Happy December 1st NYC!

New York Times Notable Books 2009 for Gifting

Color this brand...BRIEF...in the Tweet Age is it no surprise that the SHORT STORY is on the rise?

Blogging tips that will boost your conversions - Use your keywords - iMediaConnection.com

"If you want to spread the word...blog."