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.

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