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.