Tell your story or someone else will…

It’s the end of the school year and in my spare time I’ve started to prepare a bit more for some teaching engagements I’ve got this summer.  I’ve got the opportunity to teach two separate week-long courses.  For both courses, I’m attempting to engage other educators in innovative learning experiences centered around digital leadership.

One aspect of digital leadership that Eric Sheninger focuses on in his book titled Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times, is called branding.  If you consider the amount of time, energy, and resources companies invest in branding, the reason why it’s important for schools to invest in branding starts to make sense.  Corporations invest in branding because they have a story to tell and they want to form the right story in the minds of consumers.  Digital tools have given school leaders access to free, easy, and convenient ways of reaching their “consumers”.  Isn’t it time schools started to tell their story?  Why not invest in these free, easy, and convenient ways of getting your school story out to the public?  All schools are carving out their story every day.  Unfortunately, in most cases, those stories are carved out in the newspaper or on the evening news.  Or they’re carved out by angry parents venting their frustrations on social media.  Are there schools providing students with innovative learning experiences?  Absolutely!  Why aren’t they sharing it?  Parents shouldn’t have to ask their child “what did you do at school this week?”  The culture of fear, management, and compliance has prevented more schools from investing in building their own brand.  Below you’ll find some methods of building a school’s brand that I’ve gathered from innovative leaders effectively building their school’s brand.

  • A student-run Twitter account is an easy way for students to take ownership of building a positive brand for their school.  Twitter is a social media network based on sharing small bursts of information with an unlimited amount of people.  Using a school hashtag or class-specific hashtag, all the awesome learning experiences can be shared out using a student-run Twitter account.  Stakeholders can also be kept up-to-date on school-wide events or results from sporting contests or academic achievements within the school.  A school hashtag can be created to allow other users to share quality information via the school hashtag.
  • Out at Bettendorf, Iowa, Principal Jimmy Casas allows a Twitter stream to be shown daily on a big-screen television in his school cafeteria.  The Twitter stream shows all tweets including the school hashtag #BettPride.  I once asked Jimmy what happened when an inappropriate tweet showed up on the stream and he replied “we use it as a teaching moment.”
  • Teachers are encouraged to keep a blog archiving all the great learning experiences occurring in their classrooms.  These blog posts can be shared through social media channels to keep all stakeholders informed about what’s happening in their classrooms.  This is a great way for teachers to build their own classroom brand.  Again, if you’re not telling the story of what’s happening in your classroom, that doesn’t mean there is no story.  It just means it’s likely not the story you want being told.
  • Text-message based services like Remind101 or Celly are great ways to communicate your school brand to all stakeholders.  These services provide a safe environment for all communication by keeping all cell phone numbers private.  Imagine the increase in communication that could be had by investing in free services such as these.
  • Podcasts or video conferencing can be an easy way for leaders to promote the brand at their school.  I’ve seen administrators that host a video chat each week from their school to share and talk about the amazing experiences that went on during the week.  These video chats are posted to the school’s Youtube page.  Occasionally videos are posted of students engaging in these experiences or student-created videos are posted that summarize their experience at a school event.  Podcasts are audio or video clips that can provide a similar experience to stakeholders.

Every school has a brand that captures the mission, the norms, the traditions, and the values of the school population.  The more transparent schools can be about the brand they are promoting, the better the consumers can be prepared to answer this question: “Why do I send my child to that school?”

This post was inspired by a post that appeared on Eric Sheninger’s page on May 15, 2014.

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