Cheers for PD: Hold a BrandED Cocktail Party---without the Cocktail!


Since the publication of BrandED I’ve met thousands of educators  as I traveled these past months, speaking and training across the country, helping leaders to develop a strategy for their school brand. It’s joy to teach a brand strategy for educators that is deep, one that goes beyond a school logo and a static mission statement, a brand based on the power of the Storyteller-in-Chief. It’s a heady trip for sure, complete with the buzz of seeing others learn the new world of educational brand that can improve culture, performance and relationships. It’s an engaging thing---sort of  like an educator cocktail party.


I’ve met leaders who thank me and Eric Sheninger for giving them a framework and a guide. I've heard top leaders like Dr. Carmen Farina, Chancellor of Education for the New York City Dept. of Education, make a call to action to develop school brand that communicates and brings relationships to needy schools. Eric Sheninger and I wrote the book on school brand that captures research and strategy. Now with a training model in place, people are on their feet acting as Storyteller-in-Chief of school brand.


I’m struck by the acceptance of the "Business as Unusual” mindset we reference in our book. I think Eric and I touched a chord with people about expanding their professional learning beyond the usual course offerings and credits of typical PD. In one recent BrandED workshop evaluation, a principal thanked us for moving her out of her silo and into learning beyond her usual educator view of what makes schools better. We are in a hyper-linked world that allows us access to thought in all industries that can help us understand brand. It is a DIY world as we say in the book.


Recently I heard a savvy start up CEO say,” The future doesn’t care about where you get your experience, be bold enough to create your own unique learning in our new world and share it.”  As a Baruch College instructor teaching  Marketing and Brand, I own two advanced degrees, neither in Marketing and Brand, I’ve proven that bold point. “Business as Unusual” is the hallmark of today’s  PD for school improvement in a digital age of brand.


How do we support the ED leadership mindset to become a Storyteller-in-Chief rather than a CEO of Brand? One way we do it following the publication of BrandED is on our feet with our colleagues as we show them BrandED strategy, once the sole staple of business. And at one point of the training we go for “Business as Unusual" thinking. We offer our audiences a BrandED cocktail party... a cocktail party without the cocktail! A healthy educational buzz  results and our evaluations show elevated consciousness for learning more about brand.


It came to me when reviewing the TIPS for Chapter One (Pg. 58 of BrandED) for a recent session. We write that if you synthesize what makes brand important in schools and you write it on the back of an envelope or a napkin, you learn the value of “less is more” as you go forward to promote brand. You can capture your brand soundbite as you adapt business brand idea to school brand,  you can gather your brand bystanders and win over brand ambassadors. ( We give our energized participants a ten slide presentation "party favor" to help them make their first public BrandED connection after the cocktail party.)


Thanks to my ELI training colleagues, both former principals, Judith Wilson and Steve Cucchia, we bring the idea of a cocktail party to the day. We help leaders make connections to some deep thinking through synthesis by writing their pitch for using school brand. We get them talking about some deep structures like Pressures Schools Face, Biz Brand vs. BrandED, Considerations for Becoming BrandED, Assets of the BrandED Collaborative, and a favorite of many in the session (Figure 8.1 Page 237 in BrandED, Business Brand Model vs. Brand Leadership Model).



The conversations around brand heat up in this lively professional development session as we launch a cocktail party without the cocktails and share the buzz of building a school brand strategy using these touch points of brand strategy with educators who have identified their pitch for a unique personal professional brand. We prepare them for the party by working to develop a one word description of their own brand power that will introduce their new "Brand YOU" attitude and inspire their new role as Storyteller-in-Chief. In our BrandED Cocktail Party without the Cocktail”, our participants grab a name tag, write their one word brand identifier. My name tag reads “SPARK”, Judy’s is “MORE” Steve’s is “BEYOND". With BrandED book in hand, open to one section of the book that resonates with them, participants do a stand up cocktail style meeting, without the cocktail, but with plenty of interest in talking about the new ideas they see in BrandED. The room is alive with BrandED conversation and energy.



Holding a” BrandED Cocktail Party without a Cocktail” could be the first step toward a deeper BrandED book club for leaders. Think about developing your understanding of what brand is in the pages of BrandED. Grab your copy, find yourself a one word brand identifier as a leader and share the ideas in BrandED with your team, grade level, school or district. Schedule a BrandED Cocktail party without the Cocktail. Start talking “Business as Unusual” and get on the road to building school brand in the New Year.


Cheers to your new school brand direction!