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 (http://www.newmilfordschools.org/NMHS/hs_main_page.html). 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 http://www.educatorsroyaltreatment.com/2010/01/innovation-through-effective-leadership.html. 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:
Twitter http://twitter.com/NMHS_Principal
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=26475766&trk=tab_pro
The Educator’s PLN Ning http://edupln.ning.com/profile/EricSheninger
Blog http://www.educatorsroyaltreatment.com/eric-sheninger-principal/

( 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!)


Lisa Dabbs said...

Eric is doing Great Stuff! It takes a tremendous amount of heart and soul to do this work, AND the day to day policy and procedural duties required of a principal. This is the similar focus I took at every school (5) where I was the principal. However, sadly, in my 14 years as a principal, I found the path to be far easier when you are male, and/or Caucasian. I'm a dynamic, out going, strategic and targeted FORMER principal. I'm also a woman and Latina. My road has been one of having to hurdle one, challenge after another. (Having to work 10 times as hard, seemingly to prove myself. Which was never the case.) As I watched most of my male (mostly Caucasian) counter parts, sail through with flying colors. Always passionate about the goals for my school, research based, working in a collaborative leadership style, loving my kiddos and families,I was frequently shut down by disgruntled(sometimes openly jealous/hostile) parents, or admin. It broke my heart. So, I truly applaud Principal Sheninger, his philosophy and focus. I look forward to connecting with him and following his journey...Stay on the high road!

Jessica said...

Thank you so much for highlighting this principal from my alma mater! He really is a force to be reckoned with, and a leader in global education via the internet. He is definitely one to watch and follow in the footsteps of. As an aspiring educator myself, I can only hope to pick up on some trends from him and to reach my students the way that he has reached his!

The people involved with Clickable Print.org said...

What a joy to find this post and convo!

I think you are on to something very important. Marketing, branding and advertising have a sometimes deserved bad reputation among educators.

But the fact of the matter is that we are seeing the convergence of marketing and education. There is much to be said, but I don't want to clog this thread.

The obstacle is changing the mindset of teachers who think advertising is either bs or downright evil and the mindset of marketers who think education is kumbaya and love.

But I've seen much evidence that this is changing in response to new stresses and best practices.

However this is the first evidence of successful education managers -principals - embracing the insights earned in branding. Given that the future is here, only unevenly distributed, it portends that there is a very big change going on.

Trisha EdVentures said...

I'm very honored to know Eric...he embodies what I believe a Brand-Ed experience is about. I appreciate all this response and please email me directly: trish@theedventuresgroup.com!!! I would enjoy the converstation as I write my book!!