Friday, March 26, 2010

Jason Miletsky and the Brand-ed Experience

I'm pleased to announce that marketing superstar, Jason Miletsky, is talking with me about lending his voice to Brand-ed.

Part of creating the tone of the book is threading the voices of successful and savvy marketers and educators
around the question, Can a "Branding Experience" improve public education. Jason has graciously agreed to consider being part of the conversation. THANK YOU, Jason!

Miletsky is a successful author and CEO of Mango! Marketing, a marketing, PR and social media communications agency. He has authored a new book on getting yourself noticed and raising your personal profile using online and offline techniques.

My message of personal branding and marketing for school leaders fits with Jason's view of developing networks, another subject close to my heart for educators!

“People don’t realize how many opportunities they have, every day, all the time, to market themselves,” said Miletsky. “Whether you’re on the job hunt, looking for new clients, selling a product or service, trying to grab a bit of fame – even if you’re just looking for a date, it all comes down to marketing yourself better." It's my belief that school leaders need to hear that message and to act upon these principles to build an authentic LEADERSHIP BRAND that leads to improved culture, performance and resources for schools. Just ask my co-author Eric Sheninger, whose leadership brand is going to be featured today again on the CBS news at 5pm in NYC!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thinking Leadership Brand in the School Brand Experience

Once upon a short time ago there was an internet of web 1.0 which was pretty much a one way street of communication through static websites. Many of today's school leaders, were around for the birth of this technology in the nineties. Our fellow educator colleagues of today, those of the Gen X or Y generation, were students in the time web1.0 was born.

It hasn’t taken long for the internet to become participatory and to throw a generational range of career professionals together in its constantly churning wake. The interactive, “two way street” quality of web 2.0, may not have to house a generational divide. Web 2.0 can serve as a rallying point for educators of all generations who want to create connected communities of learning.

That’s what makes the Brand-ed philosophy a broadband for success. Generations of school leaders can now have rich and connected conversations about 2.0 on the many platforms on the 2.0 scene. Long time leaders and their younger colleagues .. who could have been their students... are now experiencing similar demands from the rapidly changing world of communicaton and technology. The marketplace for effective school leadership wants return,no matter how long a leader has been in place!

So, let's talk about how our rapidly changing world can advance learning through a "brand experience" approach to education. Today educators from baby boomers to Gen Y are planning the course for a whole new millennial generation And those students understand brand experience, and can thrive in environments that build relationships to make that experience positive. School leaders' participation in the web 2.0 world ,personally and professionally ,connects school communities to new opportunities for excellence.

Part of that change lies within a leader who takes on the view of "Leadership Branding". This could be a breakout move toward a brand experience when a leader uses web 2.0 to establish, not so much of a personal brand, but a professional Leadership Brand. A Leadership Brand communicates in an outward fashion about the leader...but also welcomes inbound connection to others...the two way street for school excellence may start with a professional's 2.0 Leadership Brand!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Celebratory Branding for School Leaders

After watching what seemed to be the longest Oscar Show I've ever seen, I was struck by branded thinking about how educators perceive going in a brand-ed direction. I'm developing thoughts about why educators might struggle with the idea of branding, especially since the concept has roots in the development of a Personal Brand.

Tom Peter's coined this phrase, Personal Brand, long ago and Dan Schawbel, "Me 2.0", author and personal brand expert has powered thinking and process toward achieving this goal as a means of developing value individually and for an organization. I think that where educators might get stuck. First, Tom Peters might look too business-like for most educators, though the leaders of school reform may have welcomed his thinking. Second, educators are more often the sort of people who are attracted to community, perhaps team processes, and find themselves often identifying with a group, rather than pursuing individual recognition.

Personal branding might look too egocentric for educators. They don't want to be seen as self promoting, As I saw last night with millions of others, most educators don't want to be "Thanking the Academy" for their achievements, then going into work to try to advance the greater good for a whole community. Seems contradictory to them perhaps.

But I believe that we can use personal branding to advance what is good for our schools, if we keep asking the question, "What's in it for the kids, what's in it for my school?" as we develop ourselves, our growth, and share our brand. I'm thinking CELEBRATORY...not CELEBRITY when it comes to building an educational personal brand that improves the entire school brand of the organization. Keep asking yourself as an educator," How can I celebrate the power that I have, define it, mine it and then shine it on the world so that my community is enhanced?" With that in mind, educators can brand through Celebratory endeavors that improve the culture of their community. They are not grandstanding celebrities of education, and it's not so much about ME but about getting to WE in a new energized way through unique communicating value.

Just this past week, my colleague, Eric Sheninger, participated in a further learning and personal branding professional development experience. PD can do that for educators, as it further defines their brand. And what he has done is open a blog that raises his personal educational brand, and enhances his community effort for his school. CELEBRATORY work...bravo Eric!

Define, mine and shine your personal branding light in education and be that celebratory leader.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Moira Forbes and Branding Women as Leaders

Yesterday at 85 Broads , a premier association of professional women in NYC, I had the honor of personally meeting Moira Forbes...yes that's in FORBES, and her Forbes Women Platform never sounded better. Moira is pictured on the right with the President of Semprae Laboratories (Zestra),my client, Rachel Braun Scherl. Moira spoke directly and passionally about a brand...The Women Leader who is at the helm during change..and these times are a-changin!

Moira spoke about the dramatic rate of change today, and how women must lead in a "rapidly changing state of change". Women's deftness and dynamic nature doen't make them better leaders..but different.

Leading and motivating, according to Moira, BEGINS WITH YOU! To me that's a call for a personal brand in leadership, which is one of my beliefs, and this goes to the educational leader...female or male!

How do we lead and manage change in our own lives and in our careers is something that bumps up against thinking brand-ed!

What do you think?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Guest Blogger:Alexandra Rubin Delves into Branding

Both my brothers became physicians and I, of course, wandered into a business where the undisciplined are welcome. -Carroll O'Connor

Hello, hello!

I wanted to start this guest blog entry off with a quote with the word welcome in it and I found this, which actually ended up being perfect. Perfect because I totally disagree!

Granted, Carroll O'Conner is from the "good ol' days" when you could hop off a bus in LA or NYC and off of shear talent and luck you could be a star. It is not that time anymore. My actor friends are exhausted from going to one open call after another and having nothing come from it because that equity actor with the great representation booked the gig. People are even trying to avoid becoming equity since the pickings are even slimmer than usual "because of the economy". And you just can't look at theatre as just an art anymore, kids. It's a business and you're the product.

This is something I knew abstractly in college but in the months since I've graduated I've truly come to realize what it means to have to sell yourself... not in the lady of the night way... yes, I know that joke was awful. I'm not a comedian.

In this blog, I'll share with you tips that I have picked up, share stories of how I failed abysmally or transcended into that ever illusive plane of success, and occasionally may tell a joke that you actually like.

The first piece of advice is to brand yourself. This means that you are creating an image that will become synonymous with you. When someone sees that logo or hears that quote, you come into their mind. This is, of course, obvious in things like running shoes or food. When you see that swoosh, you think Nike. When you hear "have it your way," you think Burger King. My branding device comes from a quote from Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar, "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff."

Now, after I decided that this would be my central branding device, I figured out how to use it. It started with my business cards. On one side, my card says "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff..." and on the back it reads "Alexandra H. Rubin (pn) 1. sterner stuff" and then has my information and a picture of one of my shows.

This branding immediately conveys determination, dedication, intelligence and strength. I am telling everyone that reads my card that I am sterner stuff by definition.

I carried this look and quote over to the signature in my email, my website, anything that had to do with my professional persona. I started this about a month ago and already I've had people quote my branding device back to me.

To find your personal brand identity ask yourself these questions:
What do I want to accomplish by branding my image?
(my answer: To present myself as a creative professional and intrigue and impress potential partners and employers.)
What do I want to convey to the people I am marketing myself to?
(my answer: strength, conviction, intelligence, dedication, determination, confidence)
How can I make my branding both verbal and visual?
(my answer: Use a strong quote that I can turn around to describe myself and an example of my work. I accomplished this by using a strong picture from one of the shows that I costume designed as the background for one side of my card.)

Most importantly, delve into yourself and really figure out what is amazing about who you are and how you can make people sit up and take notice of it. More to come soon but in the meantime...

Here are some other brands I dig:

Soul Pancake
This is a website by Rainn Wilson (Dwight on the office) in which you can discuss life's big questions with Rainn and the other members. What makes this so great is a) Soul Pancake is a totally unique name and b) he qualifies the name by subtitling it "Chew on Life's Big Questions". It is fun an witty which is exactly what the website is. He hasn't quite gotten the visual stuff down yet, it's all a mishmosh with Mike P. Mitchell's (admittedly awesome) artwork as background, but the name is pure genius.

HERE Arts Center
HERE Arts Center has created a hell of a brand for itself. Just by name it is instantly recognizable (also, Abbott and Costello would have a grand ol' time reviving "Who's on First" with its name). HERE is where you want to be. They continue their branding into their website with links like "See here" for what's currently playing and "Be here" for ticket purchases. They also have a great logo and font which they use on all their materials and is totally unique to them. Home run, HERE.

I'm With Coco Campaign
Now, this was really created for Conan O'Brien by fans who were upset about his forced early retirement from the Tonight Show, but it's brilliant. A simple line and a fantastic image that depicts Conan as a super hero/cartoon. It has humor and yet shows the strength of Conan and the passion of his fans.

And, a swing and a miss...

Charlie White
Okay, Charlie White has a serious point of view going with his photography. So why is his website so dull dull dull??? There's nothing interesting or unique about it until you finally find the light grey work "work" in the navigation bar and come across his stuff. With one word, he could have us hooked from the homepage but if I didn't already know what was there, I don't know that I'd venture around to find the goods.

Good night, all! Be brilliant, be happy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Student Achievement: Learn to be The Luxury Brand

Branding in higher education and private education is a high priority topic and always connected to developing business. In this challenged economy, revenue is still spent within these institutions in the pursuit of students and their education dollar. A public school may seek brand building for different reasons, but the features of the branding model used so successfully in these organizations can help public schools attract good students to the community and develop their achievement. Learning some of the strategies that have worked over time for successful brands in higher ed and in the private school communities can inform the new vision for brand-ed school success. It’s not fiscally possible or even organizationally imperative to develop marketing and PR centers in a K-12 organization to create value for a brand.

The higher eds and private schools have done themselves proud in developing a message that can be marketed for sale to students and their families. They have honed a pitch that has value for informing schools about branding. First, they have dug deep and developed a BRAND that authentically, powerfully and simply reflects the offering of the institution, and they’ve developed a brand promise that defines what the brand will do for the audience. They’ve thought about what differentiates them from others. They’ve given time to presenting their brand personality, how they deliver their service that is the story of success across many channels of communiation. They’ve leveraged the personality into an emotional connection with the audience. These organizations have worked on messaging over time so that the permanence of value is set in stone, though the brand may shift to accommodate changing times, the promise is solid as a rock.

Brand value simply lies the word Trust, which is already part of conversation about school reform. Trust is in marketing lingo a “Free-mium” and schools don’t have to spend to develop that.

If public schools take on branding as an initiative it will not be simply to attract dollars, although that can be a by-product of developing trust that makes for successful branding. Schools can look at a Brand-ed initiative and create a new way to talk the talk about pursuing student achievement, and that’s the real currency in public schools, and it is tied to dollars.

If communities examine the common approaches of the established educational institutions perceived as having successful brands, if leaders think about how successful educational organizations can inform the discussion of a public school brand movement, we can see the benefits of building a public school brand outweigh resistance.

Like it or not, effective branding is with us already in our schools, but in disparate and sometimes ungoverned ways. Take control through a platform of Trust and the develop the branding opportunities this powerful concept holds to improved student performance. Align existing and innovative culture, your plan for achievement and the development of revenue under a brand-ed umbrella. This has worked for years in colleges and private schools and can be adapted to your little red school house of 2010. And when you do so, you’ll be in the driver’s seat as a leader of a trusting community…and you’ll be driving a luxury education brand

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Build Alliances in Brand like the Brand Big Dogs!

Yesterday I blogged about some ways the Iconic brands, the Brand Big Dogs, build and sustain their winning brands. One of those strategies..building partnerships. Many schools miss out on the resources that come from building partnerships with other schools, with the community, and with business.

So learn from Burger King. Yesterday, the Starbucks nation was the foundation of my thinking because it spends very little to advance its brand, something schools can learn to do. This morning it's announced on WPIX TV that BK has invited a new partership...Starbucks!

Burger King will now sell select Starbucks drinks in their stores in order to compete with the Golden Arches whose cafe drinks have been successful to the max.

So grab a partner schools and start the brand dance!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

School Brand: A Brick and Mortar Beginning

Look across the branding universe today and what do you see? An endless universe of products and services vying for our attention. Standing out in the heavens are the branding superstars, the Top 100, the Power 25, the Elite 10. Some the brand names may jockey for position in the top ranks, but the players are usually sustained. Google, Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Coco-Cola, Amazon, Disney are among the perennial elite in this new decade. You have your personal brand favorites. There are others, and there are more on the horizon to challenge these giants. Who would have thought Google would be the number one brand a short few years ago? What was a Google?

As an educationist, the most interesting, and one of the biggest brands to learn from, is Starbucks. With over 3,000 outlets worldwide, it has one of the smallest advertising budgets among the iconic brand players. They don’t spend much on advertising. In a conversation about lending Madison Avenue branding techniques to build a school culture, its branding approach is more like an educational campaign that can serve to inspire cash strapped school ”outlets” everywhere. Starbucks has figured out what matters most in building and managing a brand. It has a good product that is reliable whether you are buying it in a shopping mall in South Jersey or in the airport in Tokyo where I get my” non-fato” latte. Starbucks worked tirelessly from the beginning to build its brand and to consistently delight and engage its market. It’s gotten quite a wallet share of the coffee drinking public to pay 4 bucks or more for a product one can get for a buck at a cart or a diner. Like it or not, it’s a brand new day.

When I think of the best schools I’ve seen on walk throughs, as an employee or visitor, I now see that I was experiencing the Starbucks experience in an educational sense. I didn’t refer to it as branding then, but I will now. What these best schools had were attention to marketing in the “brick and mortar” environment of the school. It’s the Starbucks brand model. The schools seemed to have developed a personality, they had a story to tell and it was visible in the halls and in the classrooms, and even in the teachers room. I’ve been in thousands of schools, and the feel of the best is akin to the feel that I get when I see the green mermaid sign and head for my skim latte in NYC. The schools have a human feel, there’s a subtle buzz of energy, people are comfortable, there’s a belonging factor even among strangers. The Starbucks staff want to know you, by name even, and they listen…and look you in the eye. The music, the messages, information is clearly presented and one doesn’t feel overwhelmed or sold, just supported by an environment.

As I write my book on branding I continue to see what once was thought unlikely to be likely...Branding and School can fit!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guest Blogger: Katie Brosious-- How CMS can Impact your School Brand

Thank you, Katie for allowing me to reblast your fantastic blog post. Katie is with AllofE. A Kansas based company that seems to GET it BIG TIme in providing websolutions that help educators think BRANDING!

Katie Speaks....

In response to both Eric Sheninger's post about the importance of branding in education, and Trish Rubin's blog, EdVentures in a New York Minute, about branding in education, I started to think about how, with a CMS, schools can use their district Web site to establish a brand.

The Importance of a Brand in Education

Although I will leave this part mostly to the experts (Thanks Eric and Trish!), I will say a few words about the importance of a brand in education. Education is a service. Education is just like any other service in that it must exude value in the business that it is in, in order to attract new students. In education, school districts must show academic value. Bad or good; clear or not, everything--person, place, or thing--has some sort of brand attached to it. It's what others think and feel about what you have to offer.

Why doesn't education take advantage of this? Especially K-12 school districts! Universities have come a long way, and seem to be working on establishing their own individual brand. However, many school districts do not put their best foot forward...To network, to evolve, to improve, and to show the world what they are accomplishing.

But how would they spread their message? It's not like school districts have the advertising budgets of McDonald's or Coca Cola. They have the label of 'school,' which implies education, but it's extremely obvious that no two schools are the same. Its important for schools to build their brand because school districts, more than any other educational institution, need to stay updated and in the know. Today's K-12 students are tomorrow's leaders. It is essential for schools to have a cohesive mission, a set of values, and a sense of pride within the district, which can be done by establishing a brand.

Branding on the Web

More and more, school districts are using social networking sites like Twitter to extend and enhance their brand. Some Twitter accounts are for the whole district, some just for a school, and some are from teachers, staff or administrators from the district. Each Twitter account is another point of contact for that district. It improves community outreach, makes the district more personable and personal, and helps to spread the district message. Social media sites like Twitter are great. And they're an extension of the district brand. But they just aren't enough. Even if a district has a great media presence, consistency throughout the district all-inclusive WEB presence is key.

Aside from social media, the school district Web site is often the most important point of contact for the school district. If community members want to know what time the football game is on Friday, the district site is the first source of information. The district Web site is like the Encyclopedia for that district. Students, parents and community members expect to have all of their questions answered simply by clicking over to the district Web site. It must support a cohesive brand and mission along with all other point of contacts for that district on the web.

Using ContentM K-12 to Brand your District

The best and easiest way to build a school district Web site is with a CMS like ContentM K-12. Not only will you be able to design and implement your school district Web site with ease, you (or anyone else) will be able to maintain it with a few clicks. You will be able to update your Web site in seconds when you need to (i.e., for snow day cancellations or delays). You can spread the word about your district's overall academic accomplishments. You can show your students' accomplishments. The best Web sites are dynamic and fluid; they are always changing as new things happen. School district Web sites should be no different.

Aside from being able to update and maintain the district site easily, you can use a CMS like ContentM K-12 at any level of your district, including individual school sites, individual classroom/teacher sites, Web sites for the PTA or Athletics, etc., extending your brand through all sectors of your district by keeping the theme and message fluid throughout each site. There's an eSchool News article about a school district that got it right. Recognizing the need "to leverage our entire digital environment, to bring in tools for all our teachers, principals, and staff to communicate with all our stakeholders, and to provide a way for our stakeholders to engage in communications with us," this California school district implemented a CMS to improve its communications with parents and the community.

After establishing a branding network for your district, you can use all those Web 2.0 goodies that will make your district look great and that students will love to view and create, building their exposure to technology as well as your own.

YouTube, Twitter, and Blogs, Oh My!

These tools are really underutilized and overflowing with potential. Our CMS offers these tools as part of our panel-based technology, so you can easily upload your Twitter feed or a YouTube video you posted. Kids love the Web 2.0 stuff because it's a break from the norm, and so do teachers and administrators, like the ones that I meet every day on Twitter. Instead of having students write a paper, why not create a blog discussion about it? Teamwork is a key skill, and blogs and comments promote it in a fun way. With a CMS, teachers can easily post the blog on their Web site and have their students contribute.

As another example of using Web 2.0 in the classroom, take a video camera on a field trip and interview the kids about their opinions on where they are. If you take them to a museum, what was their favorite part? And why? Better yet, let the kids ask the questions! Putting these videos up on your classroom site is a great way to get students involved in using technology and reaping the benefits, and parents will love it so they can see what their kids do all day.

All of these ideas will show your audience (students, parents and community) that you and your school district have a dedication and commitment to using technology. Even if you only posted these on your own classroom site, a classroom site is simply an extension of the district brand.

Why Build a Brand?

When my family moved from New York to Texas, my mom had to figure out where to send my brother, sister and I to school. However, just by looking at a few Web sites she easily chose a school district for us to attend, because she couldn't get a feel for what some district Web sites were trying to say, couldn't sift through the clutter, or just really couldn't get a feel for the school's goals or values. How else would you choose a school district from 1,000 miles away other than calling the school? I wouldn't want to be the school district to get overlooked based on a poorly designed Web site with no purpose. District Web sites mean more than some may think.

A brand sets you a part. It differentiates your school district from the next. It's an experience. Why not be the best? Your school district works hard to fulfill its potential. Don't fall short because your Web site doesn't perform, become a "Brand-Ed" school district.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Schools can Build a Brand Platform for Success!

Just like the Fashion Week event I attended last night to promote major designers brands, a school brand can shine!

Your school’s brand will be the home for innovative thinking that brings new language.

Education has its own language of Standards, PLC’s , IEP’s to name a few. Learning new terms to communicate the brand initiative is part of your early adoption of being Brand-ed. You’ll need new terms that are familiar to the branding and marketing set, but not to educators, so spend some time getting familiar with “brandspeak”. Adding concepts and their terms will easily become part of your own Brand-ed journey.

Begin by thinking that a strong brand starts with a “Brand Platform”. And soon you’ll know what a Brand Platform is and you’ll communicate it to your team, no MBA required! Innovation always brings its touchstones, and language is one of them. Since the elements of Branding flourish with communication, focus on understanding terms and speaking the language for sure communication. As you read more of the branding conversation online through rss feeds, you’ll build familiarity with use. One of the early jobs for a leader who is building a branding momentum is teaching. Employ the same definitions business created years ago and hone the conversation around your brand.

To sustainable loyalty to your school’s brand and differentiation from other schools, your school organization can embrace a brand platform. Because the appearance of the brands from the outside comes from the strength of the brand on the inside of the organization, building a strong brand on the inside starts with your commitment to building a recognized brand platform. As a strategic tool, a school brand platform has a wide range of applications. It can be articulated in different forums to appeal to broad constituency within an organization. A brand platform is communication.

• BRAND PLATFORM: The brand platform focuses the organization on building value-added relationships with the community. Once the brand is known, key strategies for delivering value to the community must be developed inhouse. The platform is about messaging the community regularly with the kind of communication that supports the school brand. Web presence, face to face presence, social media presence supports the brand platform. At the heart of the platform is the understanding by every employee of the school that they must consistently behave in ways that support the school brand. A brand platform is designed to provide uniformity in the way the organization interfaces, in every way, with the targeted market and also as a practical, usable tool to guide all members of the organization on how to support the brand through words and actions.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

M GIVE...funding the brand

Lately I've heard and gotten connected to people who are engaging with the non-for-profit world, and have heard from those circles about Pepsi Refresh Project and M giving that takes the idea of philanthropy to a micro giving level. Through texting your phone you will have the ability to donate small amounts of money to support your charity. As we know from our last election, those donations ADD up. I'd encourage educators to look into M Give, and to begin conversations that might tap into sharing a school brand with alum through these new ways of being philanthropic at any level!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Super Branding for Super Schools--The Win!

Today the faithful gather. The most watched TV event of the year. The faithful to football, the faithful to partying, the faithful to TV will gather to watch Saints battle Colts on a Sunday evening.Eating 40 million pizzas nationwide. An even those not interested in the outcome of the game will pause from their chips, dips and salsa to watch the Super Brand celebration, The Superbowl Commercial.

The brand icons have for years plotted, planned and pitched to massive audiences in stylized commercials priced at $80,000 a second, that are designed to win brand loyalty. There's two Superbowls going on, the game of sport and the game of marketing.

This year, one of the iconic brands will be missing from the lineup. Pepsi has passed on the high price of reaching its audience to take a new tactic, a flea flicker of its own making. The brand is going online to support its new sub brand Pepsi Refresh, and have chosen the internet to reach superbowlers with its community minded message of support. So smart. The brands are seeing that the channels for reaching the consumer and spreading the world are changing.

As schools think about the need to brand and deliver their Super messages of excellence to improve culture and performance, take note of the changing face of sharing the word that Pepsi is living. Social networking gives new value. A consumer doesn't get to simply hear the message, but engages with the message and helps shapes the message. This is a way for schools to engage their"clients" as supporters. Thinking about the value that a school offers and the possibility for the community to help shape the brand of the school is innovative and worthy of conversation. Refresh your thinking as a school leader on this Superbowl day will an eye on the game of communication.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

5 ways for Educators to Go Public with their Brand

I smile when I check into Linkedin and see the power educations with whom I’ve worked for years profiled online. It’s pitiful, really. Many of the best educators I know have half–baked profiles and 3 connections. Better not go on linkedin,com at all if that’s all you are willing to invest in putting your brand out to the world of work. is a basic place to develop your authentic professional brand, and a great web 2.0 introduction to connecting to other’s brands, the people who are like you. Twitter and Facebook, the other preferred giants of social media may eventually figure into your branding plan. But as I said, small sure steps!

• Once you’ve done the simple personal audit, confirm that advancing what you stand for, your brand, is a comfortable process for you, and something you can talk about to the public. Begin testing the waters with a little discipline. Becoming an early adopter of a social media site. is a good start. You are not simply dismissing social media anymore once you engage. Set up your profile, create a CV, absolutely post a professional photo. Start looking around to see who you know onsite and ask them to link their profile with yours. Visit every day. Join a few groups that align with your professional interest. Answer questions when your groups put out some interesting content. Grow your brand as a connected social networker as you introduce people to each other and to content and good ideas online.

• Read a bit about branding on a personal level, then ask yourself if this is a fit. Am I capable of this thinking? Can I live it, and comfortably talk the talk about myself so that I can teach this process to others? If you can, in a real time, public way. You might use your brand statement to refine what matters to you about branding and use the thinking as you start conversation in meetings about school policy, culture, and achievement.

• It is absolutely necessary for your brand to be part of developing the school’s brand promise, so think of ways to visibly show you recognize and live your brand.. Authenticity of brand and you effort to promote yours, helps you influence others about a Brand-ed view. Ask others what they think about branding, about how people view personal brands, children, teens young adults are all branding themselves personally. This innovative type of thinking as an exciting change for leaders as they think of bringing the brands of students and the community together in a school-wide brand.

• Attend organizations and meetings and bring up the branding conversation. You will be surprised at the positive and interested response you receive, especially from younger educators who have this branded and social sense already developed in their communication life. You will look very current and even hip. Not bad as part of an educational leaders’ brand!

• Work in your brand journal at the initial level of story. If your brand is one of resilience, for instance, tell the stories in your life that have shaped that view. The STORY of your personal brand journey is of importance to creating a Brand Ed community. This attention to story may form the beginning of a newsletter or personal blog that is part of building your brand.

Thinking about personal branding may feel a bit uncomfortable, but if approached as a communication vehicle, and as a way for the brand personality to lead to a better perception of yourself as a thought leader, it can only enhance the entire school’s perception. Using the social media to share this persona is an absolute first step for leaders. Get beyond the fact that someone may take issue with your brand. Believe me, there are ways to approach any difficult or negative issue about online branding, and that’s usually done through face to face contact which most leaders are very sure of handling. Discover, shape and share your brand with pride!

Monday, February 01, 2010

What the Connection? Brand-Ed to Branding

Schools are not branding expensive designer shoes or purses, but education. And that’s a luxury item too. Education is worth presenting to a market in that same shining light of value the biggest brands use to gather loyalty and support from their customers. In today’s age of distraction, a school leader has to get the entire school community focused, and yes…excited about “buying” the luxury of education. The platform for accomplishing this has a name that is different from the Madison Avenue strategy of Branding. For Education and Business camps to connect to your thinking, use the “Brand-Ed” term to get the ball rolling.

“Brand-Ed” means being open to appreciating, exploring and practicing tools you may have only heard about from the world of business and then, incorporating some of these marketing ideas into your personal leadership model. When you take on the notion of being “Brand-Ed, you are using a business based sales tool to improve school culture and performance. This may be a natural process for some, and not so easy for others. Take the Brand-Ed test right now to see if you can make the leap. If the connection of branding to being Brand-Ed works for you, you’ll answer yes to the following:

1. Does this Approach Matter to me?
2. Is this Doable for me as Leader?

If you can’t answer both with a positive response, you may need to put down the book! If you can answer yes to the first question only, reading further will persuade you that you can do this, and soon you’ll see the doable within your grasp. So, to make the personal connection, the first conversations about Brand-Ed could be with yourself as you answer those two questions with more than a single word answer. Take a moment to write down a few reasons why this seems to matter to you and why you feel it’s doable. You might begin keeping a brand journal. I use a small pocket notebook and write connections as I see them to branding and education. If you are going to present this new idea, your ability to be genuinely grounded in it is primary, and as a former writing consultant, and USA Today’s Writing Educator, I’ve know the value of making your thoughts visible.
Here’s some other questions to think about or do a quick google search on. Also, you might consider putting a question out on Linkedin if you are a member and part of any educational groups. If you are on Twitter, start looking educators who might want to engage in this type of thinking. Adding that thinking to your brand journal can create a wealth of information that you can use in your development stage of being Brand-Ed .

• What’s the connection to brand building of product and a school’s branding of its services?
• Why would schools welcome a branding conversation?

Think of your reasons for rallying around this cause:

• Are you looking to build community?
• Are you seeking a way to develop trust in your school?
• Is a new lens on student performance needed?

Also, you might consider putting one of these questions out on Linkedin, if you are a member and part of any educational groups. Adding that thinking to your brand journal can create a wealth of information that you can use in your development stage of Brand-Ed Any of these these questions can support your beginning brand-Ed journey.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Colin Firth on Branding

Ok, I just heard that Colin Firth is the Thinking Woman's Leading Man....Yes, I am THINKING that he is soooo amazing!!LOL Look what he said today about BRANDING...and his own experienced being branded as a Mr. Darcey type cast..."You get a brand attached to you whether you invite it or not..."

How wise...and thrilling that I could feature him on my humble never knows......! Ok...I'm going to watch the DVD as I write!!!

Brand-ed Buzz

Listen. The Branding buzz is everywhere.

Communication can change in a heartbeat today. Spreading the word is at the root of a firestorm of communication in our social media decade. How do educators grab the power of this current of communication for the benefit of their schools?

They Listen to the Brand Buzz.

Branding, once thought of as a tool for marketing wonks, is riding a wave of mainstream possibility practiced everyday by anyone who has a social media page or a website. Communication is king of connecting in any environment, business, personal or educational. And where there is communication, there is need for relationships, trust, and promise. That’s essentially what the business of branding is built upon.

And if you think of it… That’s just what education embodies: relationships, trust, and promise.

Move over Madison Avenue-- branding strategies for school leaders may be the most valuable tools in today’s educational manager’s communication toolbox.

It’s time for school leaders in a web 2.0 world, to build a two way street of communication. One outbound, for reaching out and touching the entire school community, and one inbound for attracting community support for the success of the school. How can a leader bundle the essence of school culture in relationships, trust and promise? Launch a Branding conversation in a school and make a simple start.

The divide between business and education can be shored using this marketing principle, and I challenge school leaders to accept this. From where I sit in business today, brand development has moved from Madison Avenue and fits perfectly in today’s educational reform conversation. As a lifelong educator, I see it as the new power tool. I’ve seen its successful use in business, and believe its value in education. Building a brand identity for school community, addresses building relationships, creating trust and the promise student achievement.

Listen. If you think this can matter to you and if you think you have the capacity to make it happen, then buzz about branding yourself. And Buzz about Brand-Ed. The Little Book of Brand-Ed helps you Understand, Develop and Live a winning school brand.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Personal Branding and School Brand-ED

Is your Personal Brand Part of Building your School Brand?

The journey to develop a brand for a school is one of small steps. How does it start? It may begin with the experience of a leader whose curiosity has been piqued by technology, by the social media buzz, or by her own children’s experience as they define themselves, learn about the world and build relationships online. Brand comes knocking out of communication, and we are immersed in communication, drowning in it sometimes! So brand awareness is a natural extension of communicating what a school is, and should be championed by someone who understands and accepts this concept it from a personal experience level.

If you have the notion to start a school conversation about branding, do a self-audit about personal branding and a bit of research. Using key words around personal branding, brand personality and the like may help, but my best referral in that arena is Dan Schwabel whose personal branding blog and books have mined the personal branding conversation for hundreds of thousands of people who are aware of the role that a personal brad plays in their professional lives, and these are not just marketers and sales people. But then again, you know we as educators are in sales.

How to Start?

It’s simple. Think of words that are key to who you are, to your values, and your actions. Start there. Ask yourself the question, “Why do these tenets mean something to me?” Ask yourself how do you show them? “Actions are Character,” according to an old saying, so how do your values become action?

Right away you might want to ask friends, family, students, the guy who you buy your coffee from in the morning about yourself. Ask how they see you? What do you present? How are your actions viewed as “character”, and ie, your brand.

Read Dan Schabel’s work on Personal brand and do it with an open mind. If you as the leader of a Brand-ed effort, can’t feel comfortable, knowing and acting on your own brand, then it’s not worth persuading a community to go there.

Going Public with your Brand

I smile when I check into Linkedin and see the power educations with whom I’ve worked profiled. It’s pitiful, really. Many of the best educators I know have a half –baked profile and 3 connections. Better not to do this at all if that’s all you are willing to invest. In later posts you’ll earn how to launch the process but the first step is getting your mind around it:

1. Will it matter to me to work on a public personal brand?
Once you’ve done the simple personal audit Ask that question. If no is your answer, then don’t push a school agenda. If the answer is yes, then begin testing the waters with a little discipline of actually LEARNING and not simply dismissing social media.

2. Is it Doable for me?

Read a bit about branding on a personal level, then ask yourself if this is a fit. Am I capable of this thinking? Can I live it, and comfortably talk the talk about myself so that I can teach this process to others? If you can, you are ready to work to sharing your personal brand in a public way.

It is absolutely necessary for your brand to be part of developing the school’s brand promise. It will mean authenticity of effort, and your ability to influence this as a change force, and the STORY of your personal brand journey is of importance to creating a Brand Ed community.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beyond the Logo, the Mascot, The Motto

Ever look at the top iconic brands? Of course you do. See them in an ad, on a billboard, on your screen? "Coke" flashes, you get thirsty. Your favorite sports teams logo pops up, your pulse quickens. You see a blue the color of Tiffany's and you break out in a sweat, if you're a guy, or do a happy dance if your a woman. WHY? How does a brand effect us so immediately?

All of these brands have established themselves through powerful emotional connection to you, the buyer. Straight to a queing section of your brain that creates a chemical rush of feeling...all positive. And that doesn't happen overnight. It takes a plan, it takes repeated experience with the brand promise, and satisfaction to build your loyalty. It's even coming to an augmented reality experience in your media room soon!

That's what psychology calls a "transactional memory" of experience that is built in the consumer, the client, the patient, the receiver of the message, that bonds them to the product. Think of the hours people invest in watching shopping channels that feature strong brand connection for the audience. "I'll watch for a minute," and hours later they are looking at an aging Joan Rivers like a best friend, and buying buying buying.

So use the school lens and look at your iconic presence. You have a website, a logo, school colors, a motto. But are you using all of these tools in concert to build an emotional connection to your school, the culture and the community?

Here's some homework from the former middle school teacher. Surf the internet and look at brands. First click on some of the big iconic brands that you like click Nike, Mc Donalds, BMW, whatever floats your boat, and you will feel a buzz. Your brain is stimulated and your heart may be racing. Go to some of the big college sites and see if they give you the same buzz....UCLA, Notre DamE, Penn State...again a buzz.

Now surf for schools, public schools, and see if you feel a buzz a spark. I'll bet you will see the cookie cutter and mission statements. Schools need a brand overhaul, an audit to bring the level of connection and commitment to an iconic level. And it can be done. And with little expenditure. You may need to brush off these existing tools, you may scrap them all together..but in the words of a famous brand...JUST DO IT!

Use the umbrella mission of being a school brand...of being "brand-ed" to build the emotional connection to your your alumni. And the result will positively impact your educational impact as a school leader.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Three Reasons for School Leaders to Learn from 2009 BRAND Giants

Can schools learn about brand from Ford Motor Company? Can a superintendent be inspired by BIG MAC? Would Domino Pizza have something of value for principals?

These three companies out of the top 100 brands of 2009 can inspire thinking for improved school culture and performance in three ways. Each of these companies saw problems, fixed them, and went on to rising brand recognition and increased value in the market. Something that the old message about Unique Sales Proposition would validate. And it can help a school leader create thinking about positive culture for a winning school.

What did they do?

1. STREAMLINE thinking about pleasing and reaching the clients. These companies put TRUST at the center of their connection to their market. They took marketing, PR and advertising as one mission...not separate jobs, and they were serious about interfacing with the customer, not just overloading them with messages that most people don't listen to! How can a school organization take this on to increase trust?

2. PARTNER with other entities. They seriously looked for strategic alliances in other companies, groups and associations that would shed positive light on their brand. The Golden Arches partnering with PETA and Green Peace? Yup...and it has increased brand value! What alliances can be made in schools that can do the same?

3. OPEN behaviors to the client and community. The world is becoming transparent due to the social networking environment. As scary as it may seem, the brands that were open to showing their processes, involved the clients in discussion, and gave people a reason to care, did better. Your market can sing your praises or dismiss you in a click of a mouse. Making connections in a consistent open way face to face and online can help a brand positively engage with the client. Are your customers buzzing about you? Is it positive?

Developing TRUST is at the root of a winning brand for schools as well as business. It's all about building relationships for a winning school. Give people a reason to believe. Develop and live a winning brand.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Guest Blogger: Eric Sheninger, The Value of BRAND in Education

Several months ago, I posted an article about a New Jersey principal named Eric Sheninger whom I had seen on the CBS news conducting the business of "BRAND ed" in his school by introducing social media to his History curriculum. I've followed him through the social media, and learned so much from watching him in that element. I asked him to be a guest blogger today on the topic of Branding as a strategy for educational leaders to improve culture and student performance. I will meet with Eric next week to see his school, meet him in person and continue the Brand Conversation as I develop my book. With thanks to this dynamic leader, here's Eric's response to a few initial qustions I posed regarding his understanding of branding.

What Does "Brand" Mean to you?

To me a brand promises value through the evolution of a unique identity that relates to a specific audience or stakeholder group. Value can be defined in many ways. Some brands promise durability, health, style, safety, taste, convenience, or savings. Brands are designed to stand out and ultimately influence the consumer in a fashion that builds trust in the product. Sustaining a sense of trust is an integral component of a brands ability to promise value.

( I like that and see the key words as TRUST,PROMISE to be as important in schools as they are to business!)

How Do you see its Value in Education?

In the field of education schools are considered a brand. They promise value to residents of the district in terms of academic preparation to succeed in society. Many families will chose to reside in a specific district if the schools have a track record of academic success. Specific variables that are ultimately imbedded into an educational institutions brand are state test scores, curriculum, teacher/administrator quality, number of AP courses, college acceptances, and extracurricular activities. By establishing a school’s identity or brand, leaders and other stakeholders can develop a strategic awareness of how to continually improve pedagogical and management practices that promise, as well as deliver, a quality education to all students. As a high school principal I feel that it is my responsibility to continually develop and enhance my school’s brand through innovation, risk-taking, building of relationships (students, teachers, parents, community stakeholders, institutions of higher education, businesses/corporations, etc.) and a commitment to the community. In my opinion this vision can assist all educators in establishing a brand for their respective schools that not only promises, but delivers value to residents of the district.

( Nice! This response speaks to starting the conversation, to introducing the concept, and sharing the language and processes that will put BRANDING in the center of a school reform plan!)

Do you have a Personal Brand?

I think everyone has a personal brand, but either does not realize or take it seriously. What you do in your professional and personal life does have an impact on how you are perceived and if you can be trusted. As a principal, I feel that my personal brand should reflect my commitment to the academic success and social/emotional well-being of the students of New Milford High School ( It is equally important the my “brand” reflects to my staff a determination to cultivate positive relationships. It should resonate with them idealistic principles such as support, modeling, listening, innovation, shared decision making, consensus, risk-taking, and life-long learning. I do my best to lead my example and sustain a personal brand connected to these principles. For more on this please see my latest blog post entitled “Innovation Through Effective Leadership” at Communication is extremely important in establishing one’s personal brand and social media has become the premier outlet for packaging and creating an identity. My personal brand from an education standpoint is constantly on display for the world to see. In my opinion, these outlets clearly illustrate my commitment to professional growth, learning, innovation, and student success. Listed below are some of the social media sites I utilize:
The Educator’s PLN Ning

( Great point. Eric knows about using the BRAND concept as a part of management plan. Integrity is part of that, and Communicating that through a personal brand is part of developing as a leader.)

Could Schools use this Brand model?

Schools can definitely use this brand model in order to focus efforts that continually address ways to improve teacher quality, curriculum, instructional practices, facilities, and professional development. All of these factors play a crucial role in increasing student achievement and engagement. The bottom line is that all schools should ultimately be able to promise value in terms of delivering a quality education while adequately preparing students for success in the 21st Century. A brand model can help to achieve this noble goal.

( I couldn't have said it better!)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Branding Schools Beyond "UNIQUE"

I had the pleasure to visit The Young Women's Leadership School, Astoria this morning. Laura Mitchell,principal, her professional colleague, Allison, and Tara Goulet, of The Young Women's Leadership Network, all welcomed me to a true gem of a school.
I'm interested in supporting the girls in this single sex school with pro bono work, and my own education was in a single sex school. And I did struggle with interfacing into a mixed environment in college of male and female, so I am drawn to contribute, if I have value, to this cause. Take in the fact that I'm writing a book about branding identity to connect to school reform and student achievement, and well, I'm over the moon as I write this post.

After a lively "get to know' you chat in Laura's offfice, she summoned my school guide, a wonderfully mature, 9th grader named, Samantha, who toured me through the halls and into the classrooms filled with young friendly girls at work, so I could experience the culture of the school first hand. We stuck to the two wonderfully energized floors that are currently housing the school., but, later, Laura escorted us to the floors above that will complete this amazing site. Science room, art room, library, dance enriching to know that this idea of TYWL School is thriving in the TYL Network.

But, about the brand. Well, I've thought about how tag lines, logos, and visuals support a brand. Naturally I asked my guide, Samantha to tell me what's her connection to her school..."It's so unique" she offered immediately...but I had to push her further. We all think our schools are unique. She spoke to the true value being the teachers, the young staff who guide and teach. They even call the teachers by their first names! (You mean they are people!! LOL) and she said that practice is a sign of "respect" we are getting to the real brand of that school.

So my thinking is ask the kids about the brand early...and don't let them give the company line...poke at what they say. That might be one of the first steps of approaching a brand conversation in your school.

What's your thinking???

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Branding for Schools in the ACTIVE VOICE

This is a guest post from Jim Mitchem that was part of Danny Brown's rss fee today for me.. Jim is a father, husband, copywriter and founder of the virtual ad agency smashcommunications, llc. You can find him at his Obsessed with Conformity blog, and on Twitter @smashadv.

I was struck by its implications for branding in schools. Building a branding campaign for school means stepping out of he passive voice and into the ACTIVE voice!!!

Here's Jim.....

One of the things I hear most often from colleagues who attempt to justify why big brands need to be involved in Social Media is, ‘Don’t you want to know what people are saying about you?’

Only, this is a very passive position. Reactionary. More like Public Relations than marketing. Then again, most of the people I know in Social are from the PR side of the house. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

In fact, there’s a lot to be said for keenly monitoring what people say about your brand. Marketers from as little as ten years ago would kill for this opportunity. And with the amazing data mining tools available today, you can monitor your ass off. It’s brilliant.

However, there’s another opportunity out there that may be even more valuable than monitoring. Engaging. Yeah, yeah, everyone talks about how engagement is the core concept of SM. But talk is cheap. Well, not really.

In fact, one of the fallacies of Social Media is that because the media itself is mostly free (for now,) that it’s somehow cheap.

It’s not.

To effectively engage in this space requires a strategy and a team. And that means allocating budgets. In other words, being proactive. So stop what you’re doing right now, and go into your marketing plan and carve out 30% of the budget right off the top and put it into Social Media. Because A) traditional marketing is dying (becoming less relevant), and B) engagement takes manpower. Lots of it.

Yes, you can maximize the manpower with the proper tools, but if you’re not prepared to invest in the people who will take your brand into the brave new world of social, you’re just monitoring.

Don’t be afraid of Social Media. It’s not brain surgery. But after centuries of doing things one-way, we’re now in the age of two way. And reciprocal dialogue doesn’t occur in a print campaign.

You want to hear what your target audience is saying about you? You can do that in Social Media. If you want to be more proactive than at any time in the history of marketing, you can do that in Social Media too.

Imagine having people contact you on Twitter about a problem they’re having with a product – and you actually help them. In public. With everyone watching. Now imagine what the person you just helped is going to say about you (in public) to other people who are probably a lot like them, and who therefore represent potential new customers for you.

Imagine people talking about you in public and referencing your blog directly, where even more intimate dialogue can occur and where you can further reinforce your brand’s promise of value.

Imagine that. It’s sick.

And it’s being done now pretty well by brands like Zappos, Ford, Southwest Airlines among a growing list of others. No, none of these brands have everything figured out here. But they do have guts, and have recognized the massive potential that exists in proactive reciprocal dialogue with their audience.

Proactive engagement. It’s the new Super Bowl television spot. Just ask Pepsi.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

3 Answers to Brand Presence: Be a Branding ACE

"Questions Knocking at the Door of my Mind." sang the richly toned voice in my church service yesterday at Unity NYC. My mind goes today to three of those questions that can inform thinking about Branding in Business and in Academia.

1 How Can Associations Help me to Improve my Brand Presence?
2.How Can I Create Authentic Ways to Create Interest in my Brand?
3.How Can I Engage my Brand for Sustained Results with my Market?

So let's take a bit of a field trip through the land of Brand Delivery where our first stop Is ---


Associating is the starting question and quite essential for setting the groundwork for a brand effort. When you begin any brand campaign, think about the vision of the Verizon phone commercial. The caller stands there with hundreds and hundreds of people over his shoulder. That's a network. And a start up company, an individual, or any large organization needs a base of strategic support. How do You associcate? Why? With Whom? Those Questions are knocking too! In a time of shrinking resources and budgets, rally help in alliances.lAs I work with clients we discover that Associating it absolutely important to the strategic alliances, joint venturing, and collaborative nature of building a brand army. So thin A as you campaign foor ASSOCIATING and start adding value.

Next Stop on the Tour ...:


Creating comes in all manner of form, and it's rooted in social media. Not simply knowing the 10 or more channels people can use to promote themselves socially from Face Book to Stumbleupon to Linkedin and Twittter. Add the value of Face to Face creation of a brand buzz with small and large meet ups, salon discussion, full blown events. Make this part of building a reputation. That's what a brand is....a reputation people trust. You have to be out there so people can decide to, in the old Ronald Regan quote..."Trust and Verify" your brand!

Final Stop to being a Brand Ace is ...


Yes, once the know who your fans are, your brand loyalists , it is a constant challenge for an entity to remain sustained, connected, vibrant and on the radar. Think of how the smallest brands to the most iconic brands keep their market or wallet share. Staying in touch and growing your network through your loyal base. Direct mail, email campaigns, fan pages, cloud campaigns. are part of this effort. Maintaining contact, keeping people appreciated, informed, rewarded all help to engage your communiity.

Any thoughts on how YOU have become an ACE at branding through ASSOCIATING CREATING AND ENGAGING?

Branding your "Starbucks" Classroom for Success

"It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see." Henry David Thoreau

So wasn't Thoreau a thoroughly wonderful Brand Visionary? On this NYC Sunday, let me think Branding as a classroom tool I'm tossing this notion into the discussion about Branding in Education...

" Is there room for Third Place Messages in the Writing Classroom?"

Starbucks does it with branding. The colors, the furniture, the baristas! That's what makes it possible to march up to a register in any Starbucks and proudly order a Grande mocha no whip skim latte without a blink! You feel supported by what you see and what people are doing in the space. It looks familiar. You are entering a No Risk Zone. It's so familiar, Make Yourself at Home should appear on the door! But it doesn't have to really, we know we are.

In a writing classroom, the same can be true. It can be the one place in school where students might feel the endless possibilities for their branding growth, knowing themselves. Like any iconic brand, make relationships real...Support students through familiar landmarks. Plan thoughtfully for creating a third place environment, a place where students feel capable, comfortable and creative. These are the Third Place messages that appear in the Coffee Culture world.

Using the "Cafe Kulture" brand for writing...

Teachers should adopt the term branding as part of pedagogy as well. By thinking visual branding, imagine what familiar sights and sounds can be part of your "Café Kulture" classroom?

Brand your classroom for Writing Success....

Design the space. Coffee houses are designed for movement and well as for comfort. Use the help of students to create the room arrangement, either before school starts or at any time of the school year. Students can draw up plans for physical arrangement of desks, bookcases. Treat this as a problem-solving piece. It's often best to have the kids take ownership of the room. It will send a message of shared control of the kulture.
Display the words of writers.
Use quotes and beautiful language that is found everywhere...charts, banners labels can surround the students . The message is clear. We value language and use it with intention in this classroom.
Use music to set moods. Research supports the use of music as an aid to thinking. You have your favorites, and open up the list to the students...give them control over what is played to help the thinking in the room during independent time...or even before a mini-lesson to jump start energy for thinking!
Provision occasionally with snacks. Treats that make the time feel more social. Every Friday: Café Day. Bring your favorite snack to enjoy as you writ and Routines...

In some coffee houses, you are asked to connect with the staff for a personal third place touch. You may be asked as you order to identify your favorite super hero...that's how you are called when your coffee is prepared, for example "Latte for Wonderwoman!" In your classroom, use a verbal anchor to get kids to attend to the pace of work. When it's time for a minilesson, say the VERY SAME thing each day...for example, teach them to respond to.."Let's rock" and the kids must say back..."Rock on!" That's a way to signal for attention...when Independent Writing follows... say, "Let's chill", for say "Chillin!" Using verbal cues can focus and generate attention.
Use of these strategies can help you to brew a Third Place feeling of a brand of comfort in your writing classroom.

About the Author
Trish Rubin is the president of The EdVentures group in NYC. She is a consultant and speaker. She is working on a book about the branding in school called "BRAND-ed".

Saturday, January 09, 2010

IS it Branding? Marketing? PR?

Schools across the country live with images related to their culture. How about yours...Are you a Saint? Are you a Tiger? Are you an Eagle?

I remember landing one of the best jobs I’ve ever held, midway through my education career.

I was hired as a reading coordinator in Gloucester Township NJ, and on the day I accepted the position, the principal, Joe Sweeney, a prince of a man, walked me into a huge empty gym. It was a hot July day, and he walked me to the center of the imposing space , pointed to an expansive red and white banner with an image of a proud looking Indian displayed. Sunlight streamed onto the cloth. Under the figure were the words, ”Once a Lewis Indian, always a Lewis Indian." He pumped my hand and welcomed me to the family, explaining that I was now and forever a Lewis Indian…I had tears in my eyes. Still I regard the experience at Lewis as one of the most rewarding time for myself professionally and personally.

The success I had at Lewis went to the community that grew out of the connected belief that we, teachers, administrators, kids, parents were together as Lewis Indians. Maybe not so PC in today’s climate, but even today 17 years past, I get a chill telling this story and when I see people who were part of that culture we still do feel connected. And it wasn’t the image as much as the underlying energy of purpose. It was clear to me that I was in a school that believed in fidelity to one another, and in my thinking that’s the brand.

My moment in the gym goes to thoughts of branding, marketing and PR. There was a relationship, a culture, that grew from the red and white colors, the image, the school song that touches visual elements of brand. Joe Sweeney’s dramatic touch went to marketing that to me in all my interviews. I wanted that job! I wanted to be in the tribe. Finally when I became a member, I proudly told the world that I worked in one of the finest middle schools around, a PR megaphone!

I believe all of these elements combine to bring the Brand Personality of a school into focus. Seeing how these elements successfully weave a texture of trust and fidelity is part of the job of everyone associated with growing and sustaining an authentic school brand.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Angelina Jolie and the Brand

I just read the headline...Anjelina Jolie gets fired for being too famous. Can your brand be too famous??? Apparently.

Well, schools don't have to worry about that as they develop their brands. More important for schools is to figure out how to inspire the community in a call to action around their brand as they develop it. Maybe a fun Friday thing would be if public schools did get so famous that they'd have to turn away students. Maybe their cool tag lines could do it...So think of a cool tagline for your school brand...or for Angelina.

Angelina Jolie.... Fame is me!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Adam Leitman Bailey Gets Results

I'm in In a meeting in lower Manhattan yesterday. I'd gone to interview Adam Leitman Bailey Esq, top real estate attorney, for my book Brand-ed, and there came a point where I wanted to lean forward and say," Hey, who's interviewing whom!". But it didn't matter because the force of personal and business nature that is Mr. Bailey isn't one to be controlled by an inquiring mind. No,he is not to be reckoned with as much as one to be inspired by. I just reveled in the New York story of my hour with him. And I thank him with this post.

As one of the "Super Lawyers", he could spend his spare time on the golf course schmoozing clients, but not Adam, whom I suspect must have cloned himself to be able to live his brand as he does so intensely and successfully! The brand he carries , both personal and professional, is lived with energy and dedication, Adam Leitman Bailey: WE GET RESULTS. It's that plain and that powerful. It's not only on his website, it's his very being...he lives and breathes his brand.

This is what I want from schools, to be so focused and clear on what they are about for kids. No jargon, no bs. And I know it's hard in a changing social and political world to find authentic ways to say what makes you UNIQUE, but it's worth a try to gather people around a brand and the live it together. It can bring community and caring to new levels. it can make people excited about what they do, where they live, work and play ,and how they win in their day...and their lives. It can help everyone perform better, the ultimate goal of schools today.

And Adam personifies the dream. The need for adults from all kinds of work life to come home to kids. If people did this for school, what currency would that create. If people looked over their shoulder and reached back with any resource available to help. Even without money, returning to a school to help, a school that gave you experiences that formed you as an adult has value. I think of my own son, whose school career had many strained moments. He couldn't wait to escape! But he is now partnering with his school in a project that has mutual benefit...smiles all around, great energy, and authenticity about what schools are there for, even beyond the brief time that we spend in them as students. A brand can bring people home.

So Adam talked about the fact that few schools enlist their alumni to come home again. He's doing that in New Milford, New Jersey, and has a forward thinking school leader as a partner. He's changing lives. Adam's waking , as he said in 2008 to a group of seniors, jumping from bed and clapping his hands, ready to seize the day. And when the day includes giving to kids, we all win.

I'm wanting to clone Adam Leitman Bailey because he can't do it all. Using Brand-ed might be one way to help school thought leaders bring the Adams of the world to the steps of their schoolhouses. And having a brand that reaches them is a big part of that thinking.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Personal Branding and Gen X/Y

Sitting in a meeting last night after working at my computer all day, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a gentleman and two women asssociates, whose average age might have been 29. Absolute energy! I felt lucky as I said to be there with them. And most of the topic of the evening, aside from best deals on apartments in NYC went to developing brand, personal and professional--marketing for a business and marketing themselvesl. Because these people are an age that I could have taught as middle schoolers in my former teaching life, I was struck by the type of skills they had and exhibit daily in their NYC jobs. Much of what they demonstrated went to communication. They all were well spoken, articulate and compelling. They all had different styles...brands, that they were advancing. And each of them, at very early ages, had held a number of serious jobs already, so flexibility was evident. They listened to each other. They offered connections, all social skills that they were exercizing as part of their personal band. All skills that had obviously taken them far in a short amount of time in NYC...and would propel them further.

I'd like to approach those skills with educators as absolute survival skills for the changing workplace in the new decade. I want to do this under the thinking of Branding because I think kids would listen to that and like it...and connect to what they are growing already on their social graphs that they are creating at home out of school. Looking at common standards and mining those skills of communication, forming experiences around them for students in school is of great importance. The ability to brand oneself at a young age as a valuable commodity in a time of amazing social change is the a premier skill, and every "soft" communication skill and hard core communication skill needs to be developed. The people I met with last night will be managing the 12 year olds in a new decade. Their leadership style will be different than ours, and the people they supervise different from them...but I think branding, relationships, trust building will help to smoothe the ever changing landscape of the workplace.

Class was in session last night in that meeting...and I was being taught by a new generation. I'd like to share that view with teachers of the 2010 middle school set.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Branding for Student Achievement

Are Branding and Student Achievement Related?

It may seem a stretch to connect Branding, a marketing concept, with school reform. But in my days at central offices, I was always interested in the studies about student achievement that were linked to outlier theories beyond drill and kill and attacking the standards to improve achievement. One of these outliers seemed to be the notion of trust, and the book Trust in Schools and the trust movement that developed in the early part of 2000 always held interest. Since branding is a concept that is based upon trust, my thinking as a marketer and educator is fired. Could there be a possibility that bringing a branding conversation into the educational setting help to improve student performance?

I’d like to think it’s worth talking about.

Bryk and Schneider (2002) cite growth and change as key components in the success of a school. A move to branding a school would be part of a bold change process. One of the major goals of branding is the continual building of relationships between the organization and the client. So starting a branding conversation that is aimed at client satisfaction, goes naturally to high performance. Building a brand is part of the development of a great school with high satisfaction and high achievement.

Trust is part of delving into brand. As an organizational effort, the exercise of branding the school can be a welcomed as a chance for developing trust among peers as participants.It affords the chance to contribute, listen, vision, together and build a unique brand to be presented to the public.

Trust figures into branding schools. If school improvement is powered by the genuine social and the cultural features of the school, trust is the grease that is necessary as leaders embark on new building initiatives to improve performance. The Branding initiative can lead to cooperative relations in schools. Branding is about trust. Educators forge the school brand to communicate the school’s identity. The mere process opens up the possibility for a strong base of social trust to be built among teachers, between teachers and parents, between teachers and administrators, and between teachers and students. A perfect ground for building a satisfactory environment for high performance exists through talking about the brand.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Is Your School Mission Statement a Brand?

Every school’s got to have a mission statement. Are you sure?

Well, yes, we all HAVE them. But do we NEED them?

A school’s mission statement “lives” on web home pages, on the first pages of curriculum guides and on school voter materials. Everybody’s got one. But, what does the mission statement really do? What does it mean to teachers? Kids? Parents? The Community?

I know what a classic mission statement says. They all seem to say the same thing. And the “birthing process is the same. The statement is drafted by a committee of over a meeting or two. Chances are the new statement is based on the old statement. The mission statement just needs sprucing up! It gets tweaked, and the committee moves on to the next task at hand. It’s posted on the website, in guides, and all’s right with the world. We have a serious mission!

Does anyone really read this stuff?

But, seriously, there’s a better way to show what the school is uniquely about. Something that goes to an easy to share statement about the relationship the school is building as a vision.

BE a Brand-ed Educator

Most Mission statements are cookie cutter variety, a one size can fit any school statement of educational excellence. In committee when we craft these we try so earnestly to create value. Very important. They still seem so predictable and banal in content, a composition of jargon strung together with high-minded tone. How often are they read? By whom? So what’s the point?

Case in Point…

“We stress the total development of each child: spiritual, moral, intellectual, social, emotional, and physical.”

OK…what school doesn’t believe this?

“The mission is to provide each student a diverse education in a safe, supportive environment that promotes self-discipline, motivation, and excellence in learning, and to assist students in developing skills to become independent and self-sufficient adults who will succeed and contribute responsibly in a global community.”

Sure, good buzz words here: diverse, excellence, global!

We serve the unique academic, physical, social, and emotional needs of students as they change from childhood to adolescence by creating and maintaining an orderly, trusting, and caring environment where teaching and learning are exciting and students are assisted as they develop responsibility. All aspects of the school's organization, curricular, and co-curricular activities are child centered and designed to accommodate individual learning styles so that all may experience success.

Indivualized is the key here, but can we say it plainly?

AND WHAT SCHOOL WOULD DISAGREE WITH ANY OF THESE? What school wants to develop irresponsible, less than excellent product.

Mission Statements will continue to be a part of the school landscape. So let’s move on to story at hand … the brand . Working with a Brand Platform in mind, you’ll think about vision, a Brand Vision. Go beyond the Mission Statement as a way to inspire people to think about building relationships! Imagine a statement that can be spoken easily by staff to kids and parents. That helps develop relationships rather than distance. No ivory tower jargon spoken here…we’re talking brand. Capture the energy of what the school is about.

A Brand Vision can be a partner to the mission statement because it’s going to talk to relationships. It’ll be stripped down and direct. It’s active and engaging. Check out your Mission Statement and see if It doesn’t need a new 2010 partner. Then start talking about a new vision.

Meet your Mission Statement

• Study your school’s mission statement. Is there anything in the tone that makes it different from any company that offers value to customers? Is there anything that would inspire trust, that would suggest a real belief in what the school is about.

• Look at some company statements online and see the same thing. Know you can do better with a Brand Vision statement

• Your mission statement may be well intentioned, but does it say anything real to you? Every company wants excellence in service, and every school wants excellence. What school doesn’t?

• Does your Mission statement really say what the true mission is, without the pladitudes.

• Are you using “buzz words” jargon that don’t really make an impression on the reader, or get them connected, excited or even believing in what the school’s mission is. Does it sound to grandiose or removed or just plain loaded?

• Look at other schools’ statements? Are they any different?

The Mission Statement is not going to go away. It’s traditional, and people expect that schools have them. The Mission statement has value if you see it as “what we think about education”. It will be there as window dressing, so live with it. But if you are a Brand-ed Educator, start thinking about new possibilities of connecting to your community through your school’s “Brand Vision”.