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Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Value of Branding in Education

by Eric Sheninger, Principal at New Milford High School located in Bergen County, NJ.

The following is a guest blog post that I did for Trish Rubin's EdVentures in a New York MINUTE. Trish wanted to know my thoughts on whether or not branding has a place in education. Below is the entire blog post with Trish Rubin's comments italicized:

Several months ago, I posted an article about a New Jersey principal named Eric Sheninger whom I had seen on the CBS news conducting the business of "BRAND ed" in his school by introducing social media to his History curriculum. I've followed him through the social media, and learned so much from watching him in that element. I asked him to be a guest blogger today on the topic of Branding as a strategy for educational leaders to improve culture and student performance. I will meet with Eric next week to see his school, meet him in person and continue the Brand Conversation as I develop my book. With thanks to this dynamic leader, here's Eric's response to a few initial questions I posed regarding his understanding of branding.

What Does "Brand" Mean to you?

To me a brand promises value through the evolution of a unique identity that relates to a specific audience or stakeholder group. Value can be defined in many ways. Some brands promise durability, health, style, safety, taste, convenience, or savings. Brands are designed to stand out and ultimately influence the consumer in a fashion that builds trust in the product. Sustaining a sense of trust is an integral component of a brands ability to promise value.

(I like that and see the key words as TRUST/PROMISE to be as important in schools as they are to business!)

How Do you see its Value in Education?

In the field of education schools are considered a brand. They promise value to residents of the district in terms of academic preparation to succeed in society. Many families will chose to reside in a specific district if the schools have a track record of academic success. Specific variables that are ultimately embedded into an educational institutions brand are state test scores, curriculum, teacher/administrator quality, number of AP courses, college acceptances, and extracurricular activities. By establishing a school’s identity or brand, leaders and other stakeholders can develop a strategic awareness of how to continually improve pedagogical and management practices that promise, as well as deliver, a quality education to all students. As a high school principal I feel that it is my responsibility to continually develop and enhance my school’s brand through innovation, risk-taking, building of relationships (students, teachers, parents, community stakeholders, institutions of higher education, businesses/corporations, etc.) and a commitment to the community. In my opinion this vision can assist all educators in establishing a brand for their respective schools that not only promises, but delivers value to residents of the district.

(Nice! This response speaks to starting the conversation, to introducing the concept, and sharing the language and processes that will put BRANDING in the center of a school reform plan!)

Do you have a Personal Brand?

I think everyone has a personal brand, but either does not realize or take it seriously. What you do in your professional and personal life does have an impact on how you are perceived and if you can be trusted. As a principal, I feel that my personal brand should reflect my commitment to the academic success and social/emotional well-being of the students of New Milford High School. It is equally important the my “brand” reflects to my staff a determination to cultivate positive relationships. It should resonate with them idealistic principles such as support, modeling, listening, innovation, shared decision making, consensus, risk-taking, and life-long learning. I do my best to lead my example and sustain a personal brand connected to these principles. For more on this please see my latest blog post entitled “Innovation Through Effective Leadership” on The Educator's Royal Treatment. Communication is extremely important in establishing one’s personal brand and social media has become the premier outlet for packaging and creating an identity. My personal brand from an education standpoint is constantly on display for the world to see. In my opinion, these outlets clearly illustrate my commitment to professional growth, learning, innovation, and student success. Listed below are some of the social media sites I utilize:

The Educator's PLN Ning
ERT Blog

(Great point. Eric knows about using the BRAND concept as a part of management plan. Integrity is part of that, and Communicating that through a personal brand is part of developing as a leader.)

Could Schools use this Brand model?

Schools can definitely use this brand model in order to focus efforts that continually address ways to improve teacher quality, curriculum, instructional practices, facilities, and professional development. All of these factors play a crucial role in increasing student achievement and engagement. The bottom line is that all schools should ultimately be able to promise value in terms of delivering a quality education while adequately preparing students for success in the 21st Century. A brand model can help to achieve this noble goal.

(I couldn't have said it better!)

I would like to thank Trish Rubin for the opportunity to share my thoughts. You can follow Trish on Twitter @TrishBIH.

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