Why be Fragmented in 2017? Unifying School Brand is your PD New Year's Resolution

 'Tis the season for making New Year's resolutions ranging from calorie counting to writing your great American novel. (And yes, my own novel, a YA read, is currently on my desktop next to my Weight Watcher tracker!) But whatever progress on the personal word and weight front I make going forward, I have a true resolution keeper for you in the 2017 school year. Make a new brand promise: disrupt the diminishing energy of a divided school agenda. 


Stop fragmenting a school's identity and build a unified school brand. Put that on the top of your list. Look at any winning brand in today's market. The success of that brand with their loyal audience comes from clear, connected messaging. Let's see this proven business brand element live in our schools in a unifying way. Look at increased competition brought by charters and vouchers and you will see the need to define your school is a priority. A unifying brand creates contagious community commitment: we know what we are about and who we are. We stop the fragmentation madness. Any decision we undertake as a school community is made with the brand of the school at top of mind. Turn attention to stopping the fragmentation of a school identity and you put a school's communication on a diet while you create storytelling power-- you address weight and word of messaging that gets the brand on a unified track to satisfying audiences. In our book, BrandED, Eric Sheninger and I offer practical strategies that help make that resolution possible.


The fragmented identity of your school is weighing down the exchange of clear communication  It's 2017, and after our 2016 election process, we see the continued power of targeted delivery of engagement-- in even 140 characters. A connecting brand voice is missing in your school improvement plan if your school messages are fragments.

A school without a brand unifier is trying to be all things to all stakeholders. In that fragmentation, a school's power to communicate efficiently diminishes. The array of agendas, initiatives and mandates that are part of a day to day delivery of service needs a unifying umbrella. How do we keep those seemingly disparate pieces in focus? We develop a compelling thread of content and activity across our initiatives that shows why we do what we do for our kids. We deliver that message every day across select digital, social and traditional face to face engagements.


Address the school IMAGE, make a brand PROMISE and attain new RESULT. Stop doing the same things over and over for little result. Innovate in our fast moving world of communication with a solid school brand presence. Understand the weight and the word issues in your current communication platforms. Create a powerful, deep connection to school brand using a map, a BrandED Strategic plan. Take on a PD journey to school strategic development. The BrandED plan unifies and defines--and you and your team co-create it in the new year with a map based on 5 elements--BrandED Drivers . 

Make a commitment to brand part of your New Year Resolution for Professional Development. Lose the word weight and gain communication storytelling power through a bold BrandED professional development experience that skillfully brings about a unique, unifying school brand . You and your team may just write the great American story of BrandED success as you brand build together using the power of BrandED!  Cheers! 

The Storyteller and Steward of BrandED Leadership


For leaders adopting a brand professional presence, the role of Storyteller-in Chief is a comfortable way to employ successful business brand tenets that fit in our transparent, digital school communities.  Eric Sheninger @E_sheniger spoke recently at a tech conference about the power of this role. Sharing the authentic stories of all the good going on in schools is important to getting the attention of your audience. When educators develop a BrandED mindset that is a asset to their professional growth, something deeper happens as a leader deliberately shares the journey of BrandED with a community.  In that way, the Storyteller also becomes the "Steward" of the unique school brand.  As a BrandED Steward, a leader not only tells the story of the school, but guides the authentic process of communicating brand value to stakeholders in ways that keep the community focused and the message growing strategically .  School leaders as Stewards of brand employing BrandEd leadership tools for continuous growth,  understand the return on relationship that this  professional investment brings.

Leaders like Eric can guide the implementation of BrandED strategies through their  stewardship. Stewards feel the responsibility to lead that comes from an ethic of  sharing your authentic professional brand and  creating a school brand  . A BrandED Steward uses the curated and created stories of the brand to advance  culture, performance and resources that bring school improvement. The BrandED leader guides in a collaborative fashion, and  sustains the brand message in a community. Storyteller and Steward are relevant roles for a modern day educator in a digital age.


The Near Future of Education: Watch for the Signals!




This past week I had  opportunity to visit the digital agency, Sparks and Honey (www.sparksandhoney) with my Marketing Strategy students. Thanks to CEO, Terry Young, we were hosted at one of their uniquely innovative daily-- yes, daily, one hour briefings on cultural content as the company shares the sparks of our world across five themes reflecting cross industry global topics. Pretty heady for a rainy Wednesday.

In the company of 10 of my marketing students, we watched,arena style, their innovative approach  to design thinking ablaze on a NYC business morning on “buttoned up” Madison Ave. The briefing reminded me of sitting in at USAToday in their editorial meetings. But this was 2016 different.

This daily briefing is the energized, fast paced short visual presentations from platforms all over the world, You tubes, apps, websites, etc and engaging twitter length organizational feedback/ conversation around the 30 or so views on all sorts of worldwide cultural data. The team refers to these sparks as SIGNALS, the content cues found in the massive online  environment that create creative worldwide cultural connection for change---These are the ideas that may cause us as marketers--or as simply as humans-- to stop and say “Hey”!-- Say “Dude”!-- Say “Whaaa”? ---Say “Yeah”! They are REMARKable sparks of interest… REMARKABLE as mega marketer, Seth Godin has pointed out is the foundation for a good brand buzz... But, these are the early early smoke SIGNALS that shows what the near future is asking us to notice-- To put that signal into our busy brains for future reference. (For me, it included the possibility of gifting a friend with a $60.00 purchase of a uniquely grown melon with a naturally grained logo-ed Hello Kitty logo! Say “Whaaaa”???)


OK, aside from  culturally bizarre notables ,what did this visit tell me about the near future of education? SO much...for so many blog posts.

Watching my students was key. These aren’t youngsters, they are post grads and they are multi-skilled global students, and I saw  they were excited to see this kind of workplace, and yet a bit anxious. They knew that even for themselves as young millennials, who can be facile, this transparent, connected world of work will demand more from them. Sparks and Honey is a place that brings IT, Creatives, Quants, Designers, Writers, Marketers, Self-starters, Collaborators, Dreamers, Doers, Futurists and In-the-moment-ists ( I think I invented that word, sorry.) together.  It's a window on the world of collaborative work. The agency is a signal in itself.

THAT is one  charge to education. To continue to build school communities that reflect this design model of connected, collaborative learning where we can ready the Gen Z's.  Break out and breakaway educational thinkers at all levels of the organization must create places that exist that embody goals and objectives linked to educating our near future workforce, a workforce that will be impacted by the complex changes that Signals will bring to their lives --the signals move into a reality in the snap of a digital finger.

I know it's possible. I know from seeing so many connected educator communities that are growing worldwide online, I know from writing a book about brand in education with Eric Sheninger, and I know from the look in my learners’ eyes. The power of transparency in the digital world brings conversations quickly  to the upper registers of cognition. Collaboratively designed communities fire and SPARK  thinking. And the HONEY that results?...sweet learning.


The Near Future of Education can be sweet when sparked with innovation and design thinking. In creating a BrandED community as we suggest in our upcoming read, BrandED new school strategies will bring relational behaviors that can spark and sweeten our young learners' school journeys the signals, school leaders--- and make a few yourself this year as you close out the school term and eye the near future of fall 2016-17 school year.


Are you a BrandED "Edtrepreneur?" The Original Lead Educator


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”  –Steve Jobs, Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, Apple


Entrepreneurs do what they love. They are dreamers, but they also are doers. In Adam Grant's newest book, Originals, How Non-Conformists Move the World, he shows that despite entrepreneurs out of the box image, they actually measure risk carefully. Successful entrepreneurs make things happen with their passion and their original thinking. What does this mean for educational leaders?

Some educators have had the experience of building a company and know that start-up journey. Most leaders in education don’t have that in their resume. Making something from nothing is exhilarating and frightening at the same time. Taking on an original innovation like BrandED and the journey of Brand building can be daunting for a school leader-- but maybe thrilling. Taking on an entrepreneurial mindset as a BrandED  can cast educators in a new light.


Education is dealing with image problems today according to a recent white paper, Teaching the Next Generation. As millennial students graduate from college fewer see the education profession as viable. (Hiller T. & Erickson Hatalsky, L. 2014).  They characterize it as restrictive,  and regard it as a profession that attracts average people.  This is isn’t flattering or true since there are myriad examples of creative innovative practice that fuel education that are entrepreneurial in nature. Rarely do people see past the view of a school organization beyond stereotyping of the old ivory towers. Assumptions about being average fade when BrandED thinking and the flow of commitment to sharing the school brand is taken up in an entrepreneurial educational spirit.



Skillful educators of today are starting to notice  brand strategy as an innovative leadership behavior. The digital world offers access and tools to develop creative, innovative and entrepreneurial thinking that is a cultural game changer for school leaders.  BrandED activity has that entrepreneurial feel. In today's new world, thinking like an entrepreneur is part of any organization--including schools... and even corporate circles. Google rules in the business space with its employee opportunities to be innovative and entrepreneurial. It's the expectation in their workforce to present new thinking that benefits the brand. There are many other companies who value the innovators who work in their departments and divisions. Some companies are using the term “Intrapreneurs” to suggest that original thinking is appreciated, sought after and honored incorporate settings. ( Balmaekers, H.  2012).  This leads to a thought.

"Can school leaders who love what they do  become-- “ 'Edtrepreneurs' ”?


 BrandED leaders who behave in the ways of entrepreneurs are "edtrepreneurs" (Rubin, T. 2016). They are can use original entrepreneurial thinking through using brand principles that brings measurable results to school improvement in three ways: Improved culture, performance and resourcing.

An educational leader inspired with an original, innovative approach like BrandED can tap into creativity and power start-up juices in the school organization. That’s the spirit of  BrandED “edtrepreneurship”. Despite the stresses of standardization, school leaders can experiment with creative entrepreneurial frameworks that develop a culture to innovate. Pursuing an excellent brand strategy as a goal will open the door to innovation. MIT Sloan advances a Six point framework for leaders who wish to grow such a culture for innovating with a community. Their framework includes attention to organizational values, behaviors, resources, processes, successes,and climate which are part of building a BrandED innovation. ( Roa, J. & Weintraub, J., 2013). While you wait for @E_sheninger and my own effort in this lane to hit the shelves, do a self assessment for becoming a BrandED school leader. Reflect on your entrepreneurial positioning. See yourself and those on your team as EDtrepreneurs.

Think Edtrepreneurially : What will you love about being a BrandED leader?


Business and Schools as Resource Brand Partners: Who do you Know?

Are you a Business who wants to add to your Corporate Social Responsibility Profile? Are you a School Leader/Manager? You both can be a part of New School Resourcing through Brand Building. Business and Education can establish new partnerships in the digital age.




I spent years in leadership positions in schools and have spent the last ten years working with business leaders, building their brand.  When I was in school positions, you couldn't bring up the business world in topics about professional development and school improvement. Nobody wanted to hear what business could teach us.  Today the business world of communication is flattened by transparency and we can see the value they can bring, and the isolationism of the ivory tower in schools has waned. All of it due to digital media and what Tom Friedman calls a "communication mashup". I'm committed to bringing those worlds together.   Brand can do this. In business, I learned from colleagues about the  “1,000 people who Know You” rule,  a mass marketing technique. It can easily be massaged as a guide for developing relationships in a brand campaign. 


As you begin, focus your effort on serving a small part of the school community. That's called "segmentation" in business branding,  Ask what their needs are. Identify and Satisfy. And keep them happy. Your most loyal fans are already with you as you lead. As you begin to tell your own brand story through social media, and digital contacts, these people will be your biggest supporters and they will work more to advance the brand cause.  These people have reach to  their own influencers. They have links to businesses that have volunteer programs where manpower can be enlisted to offer services to your school. Business also has budgets for donations. Identify your core group to start your BrandED. Create the movement with these fans and benefit from their word of mouth inbound marketing impact. Twitter makes it easy to enlist the 1,000 People you Know Rule!