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”.

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