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”.

Friday, January 01, 2010