school leadership

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.


Don't Fear, Build an Appealing School Brand

I see some of the rhetoric around the upcoming election is based on fear. I'm already decided about my vote. Yet, in my mobile, I still get push notifications with short headlines that are  fearfully worded messages of impending political doom. Meanwhile, I am "courted" into spending just one more dollar  to support my candidate. I turn that noise right off, and recently it made me think of what some people: salespeople, lobbyists, even religious leaders do to motivate through fear. It's the complete opposite of a BrandED building view and what the best leaders do to persuade.

When you are building a school brand, emotion figures into the design process.This is important to the process, so click to share

In Brad Vanauken's business book, "Brand Aid", his words about brand motivation help leaders into a new leadership territory of the  brand building zone. As we learn more about adapting brand tenets for school improvement, we can use our educator's view to innovate with a careful eye on sticking emotional chords  Led by  a collaborative team, the school brand design experience, the building and implementation,  can be as creative and impactful as any cool ad agency can offer. As leaders guide people toward a discussion of brand promise, they keep the emotional connection to the brand they are building in mind.

it's not the time to create a tough forced directive tone. Move beyond the heavy tone that we now are exposed to regularly. Develop a school promise with claims that create authentic, positive emotional connection to the brand for your stakeholders. 

Words that support positivity in positioning your school brand will become the select categories for curating meaningful stories, online and offline, to promote  the good work of your school. Talk to your emerging community of brand supporters about positioning the school as a place of safety, a place of empathy, a unique environment, a place of competence, or a place of intellectual strength. Be a place that cares. According to Van Auken, these are the words successful marketers use to make connection. Leaders can adapt these words to our school brand work using them as guides to content that will show the positive story of the school. 

What will attract people to your institutional brand? These appealing stories you build  are significant offers that make the school unique. Told from  the perspective of our teachers, kids, staff, and parents they sustain a positivity that is needed in all school communities.. Showcased regularly, they begin the  storytelling effort lead by the Storyteller-in-Chief, the BrandED leader.

Fear not. Tell your story, build relationships, empower learning with brand.

BrandED Schools and That Perfect New HOME

             Betty Lee

             Betty Lee

Meet Betty Lee, a Brooklyn-based residential real estate professional .

I recently met Betty at a professional event focused on the use of social media tools for business. Betty’s unique journey using social media in the real estate business caught my attention. She was out there in the digital/social world! But she’d already caught the attention of online realty platform, Zillow, who highlighted  her creative business use of Snapchat in a recent article.

Zillow is cited in the upcoming book, BrandED, by myself and my co-author Eric Sheninger. Zillow measures the concerns of parents as they buy homes as part of their social “listening”. Zillow tells us that today’s millennial parents actively seek a school that performs. They use digital and social tools in their search. Parents want to see the same return on investment and engagement from their schools that that they get from their other providers of branded products and services when they go online. Buying a house is a serious buy, and consumer purchase behavior is hooked to the educational experience provided to owners of that new home who are often parents.

Meeting Betty got me thinking--and a lot of questions came to mind. Could using the powerful concept of school branding nudge a collaborative opportunity?  Could school leaders work with the real estate community as stakeholders in getting the word out about their unique school brand value? Could understanding what clearly branded schools offer help realtors talk to parent/clients about this most important consumer purchase? Could knowing the  brand value of a school be a valuable part of the home buying choice?

Betty provides some interesting professional insights and answers to my questions in ways that can connect BrandED school leaders who  build and share brand. BrandED leaders are looking for  social and digital connection to communities just as savvy realtors like Betty are  in this connected world. The information value of a well-crafted school brand to the public is important, and could create a win-win for schools and residential brokers and---for kids and their parents.

Let's hear what Betty Lee has to say...



You can't park your dream home next to your choice of school! Find a good match with BrandED thinking!

You can't park your dream home next to your choice of school! Find a good match with BrandED thinking!


The Benefits of Digital and Social Media Schools Stories to Buyers

 Betty believes that her clients are very diligent about researching schools. Having the transparency of a school brand would bring a new dimension to their search.  As someone who knows the power of social media from her own business, a school’s attention to sharing its brand on social media could tell a story about the mission and values that the school represents. This would also be a resource to professionals who could learn more about the good things the school is doing. 

According to Betty, potential buyers could learn the benefits of the school from the stories about the kids, stories that come through different social media school channels. The achievements the school community makes could be more easily shared.  In this transparent world, she suggests that an inside view of how the educational leadership organizes their efforts would also inform a buyer. There’s no more Ivory Tower! Schools could show the hard work around events, fundraisers, or even explain why they support certain events/organizations that could educate the community and buyers. These are all stories too and social media can be a platform where ideas or suggestions are solicited and a bigger picture of a school can be shared.  If parents of a school age child could see what opportunities there are with a school around conversations, and suggestions for improvements, it could also promote the school brand. 

Betty feels brand and digital transparency helps professionals too. Is there a new program, like a foreign language program? A digital brand presence would help professionals learn about this communicate that fact.  It’s a great tool to showcase the benefits of the school and to get more engagement on the part of parents who are making a big decision. 


Making Professional Sense about Schools

As a realtor, Betty is excited to see a movement for schools to share their brand. It helps her be a more informed professional. Even if a home is amazing and fits a client’s requirements, the buyers cannot pursue if the school cannot show value. Having a professional who understands the school’s brand presence can be an advantage.

Betty points out that as a real estate professional, agents cannot publicly support a school, but it would be great to know some key initiatives that a school is headed towards. Being able to see a school’s well-developed brand and its stories would make agents feel informed.  Communicating that value would be very helpful to clients because it would not be information that can be searchable on any standard platform site. It comes from the ability of the school to tell their story every day.

She believes her clients would welcome using social media to learn about the school’s brand if they understood the value. They are essentially going out to the public education sites or the school’s individual websites for information but are not getting the whole picture. The BrandED concept is different. Seeing a school brand presented with stories and connection is more personal.  Betty knows there are often school neighborhood listserves on Yahoo and Google. Those are a great resource for parents to get to know each other and there are always requests to speak to other parents who have kids in a particular school. But, in the end, Betty feels professionals can always use detailed information about a school setting and its goals.  It can only make them more value added professionals in the whole process of purchasing a new home.

















Bette Davis Didn't Jog: Three Truths to Run with to Build your Personal Brand

Agapi Stassinopoulos

Agapi Stassinopoulos

My  highlight  of last week was seeing the force of nature that is Agapi Stassinopoulos at a small business dinner  in the Village. She had manifested me there, but that's another story. The story is that we have common ground in knowing the respected Wharton School of Business powerhouse professor, Adam Grant. Being a big believer in Adam's theory of giving in business, I knew I had to meet Agapi. I'd already met her sister, Arrianna Huffington, and I was curious, of course, to see the woman who, in her own right, has made a difference in so many lives. 

Agapi defines Giving. Look the word up on Wikipedia. Her face should be there next to the word. Her energy could have powered the entire West Village. No one in the room, including the wait staff left that night without feeling that they mattered. As a leadership lesson, I took from this night, that I needed to be bold in an authentic way about asking for what I wanted so that I can be a better leader. The simple words of "How can I help?" and "Would you help me?" are all we need in making relationships that are win-win as leaders.


But I loved the Bette Davis line when she discussed the need for us to find the calm inside. "Calm is superpower! Stop running yourself into the ground for success. Remember who came before you...they possessed a calm. Bette Davis didn't jog, jog, jog!! Look how far she went." 

I live in a city that thrives on fast. Jogging? What about Spinning? Tindering?! So as I thought about the need to find that calm, Agapi led us to homework. Find the three words that are part of your truth, your calm, and try giving through those words. As I find myself in front of groups often as a speaker, I want to live my brand personality with those calm superpowers of truth. Here's mine. Find your own this week! And be proud of them.

My calm is rooted in a boundless, thoughtful  energy...

My calm is advanced by my curiosity...

My calm is connected to fearless desire to build relationships....

Please look to Agapi and her book of leadership lessons that are in the stories she shares in  "Unbinding the Heart", A Dose of Greek Wisdom, Generosity, and Unconditional Love. I read the book in a matter of days, and it has enriched my spirit, mind and body already! Love to share best practices in GIVING! 



Be a Disruptive School a Good Way!


By definition, the word disruptive can look extreme. It's defined as troublesome and unruly.

The word has other meanings that fit an educator's vision of school improvement. Disruptive means innovative and ground-breaking. Think of being the Uber of Education. See a gap and fill the need in a new and engaged way for your audience. Taking on a BrandEd leadership mindset makes a school leader disruptive. It gives people something to talk about... In a good way.

Way before the internet, I was part of the National Diffusion Network of the Department of Education. Without a website, without social media, we created disruptive, innovative grassroots practice across the nation. Of course, we didn't call it disruptive. Instructive, maybe!  It got me hooked on innovation. Today, in the 2.0 world, I've searched education #'s and Twitter profiles and google alerts looking for school leaders who are innovative.

Leaders like Patrick Miller @pmillerscdsb work toward innovative disruption by leading with authenticity. His content, written and curated, on Twitter inspires me, although I've never met him. I know there are many more leaders I haven't found yet that are doing the same, giving people the opportunity to create in disruptive ways , inspiring their teams to create better schools with the wide berth needed for innovative organizational thinking. I'd like to hear from them and invite their voices into the disruptive leader storytelling space . 

Outside the schoolhouse,positive disruptive influence surrounds schools in our new "Sharing Economy". We see the benefit it brings in a fast paced world of change. The Sharing Economy, also commonly referred to as “collaborative consumption”, encompasses transactions in which providers and consumers share resources and services from housing, to vehicles, to services and more. The car sharing models of Zipcar, the ride sharing of UBER are  disruptors. The entertainment giant, Netflix disrupted how we view TV and film. The Sharing Economy has come to education as well through disruptive platforms like Teachers Pay Teachers.  Sharing through digital channels in powerful exchanges with a variety of stakeholders creates a “Sharing Economy” in schools.

Individual school leaders are supporting the growth of a "Shared Economy". "MOVE PEOPLE", as Uber says as it positions itself as a disruptive brand. You, too, can spread the bug for being "disruptive' and innovative in an educator's Sharing Economy. 

Share your thoughts and your disruptive brand story with me.