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.

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