Sunday, December 1, 2013

Pillars of Digital Leadership Series - Branding

This post is the third in a series that will outline the foundational elements of my new book, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.  It is set to be published by Corwin Press on January 14, 2014.  Currently there is a pre-publication discount of 15% for any orders before this date.  Over the next couple of weeks I will introduce what I have come to identify as the Pillars of Digital Leadership, a conceptual framework for leaders to begin thinking about changes to professional practice.  My book will focus on each of these elements as part of a change process. It will illustrate them in action through the work of practitioners and provide implementation strategies. To view the entire series click HERE.

For this post I decided to turn to Trish Rubin, my education branding expert whose work and insight I highlight in Chapter 7 of my book.  Below are her thoughts on the importance of branding in education.  She has coined the term BrandEd as a means to impart the importance of leaders to establish a positive brand presence.  This specific chapter of the book will look at the role of social media in this process. 

Pillar #3 - Branding

Today's school digital leaders get excited about bringing business tools into their school organization. What I call being a BrandED leader is one foundational way to enrich school management in a digital age. Branding is a tool that has been part of strategic business plans for years. Brand attracts attention and influences audiences. A school brand needs to be positive and crafted to convey purpose. Bringing the process of BrandED thinking into the school's plan transforms and energizes.

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A school leader can create a more connected community by leading the charge to develop a school brand. Private school and college leaders have used brand thinking for years to message their faithful communities. They know the value of a clearly communicated school brand and have benefited from the support of a well-defined brand in political and economic ways. Bringing this thinking into your role as a leader isn't just about style, it's about substance. A strong Brand identity leads to better communication and influence, and in our digital world, influence can be gained at the stroke of a keyboard. Lead your stakeholders to purposefully create a deep identity for your school that uniquely defines the character of the institution.

It’s a do it yourself world, and you can do this without a Madison Avenue advertising firm. Building a school brand is a serious element of school business.  In our noisy digital world, clearly communicated identity is the key to the positioning of your school’s consistent positive presence.  A brand benefits a school's profile and even its purse! Lead your school to BrandED success by identifying the “ROO” (Return on Objective) that brand brings.  Lay out a short plan involving all stakeholders to build the unique school identity. Start by defining your own personal brand as you lead the process. Be open about the shift to brand thinking. Explain why you are investing in educational brand.

Schools must clearly communicate a consistent brand message to their stakeholders to reach standards.  This can be done using myriad communication channels, in real time and online. Your school brand may even come down to one word. Making a Brand facilitation plan is your first ROO target as a BrandED leader. Reputation management of any product or service is key to keeping faith with a loyal audience and brand is about trust and reputation.  Build a BrandED identity, and then set the next ROO: share that identity in a busy information age. Successful BrandED schools are proactive, despite the pressure of the daily digital scrutiny of their audiences. A strong brand grounds communication in what matters most to the school. Positioning a school for success starts with a leader's confident steps toward a BrandEd plan.


  1. What a wonderful paradigm to use the notion of branding in public education as well.

  2. Eric - thank you for tackling this topic. I have resisted the term "brand" and preferred another approach, looking at the aspects that make up this concept in terms of schools. Here is a post about it.
    Your adaption of the term is neat but the approach we used tied this into both communications and into quality assurance.

  3. I agree that it is important to communicate what matters most to your school and what your school is about, both online and offline. However, I find the term "branding" very commercialistic. Our school board has done this, however we have called it our mission and vision statement. Thank you for sharing your insights!

  4. In my opinion the word does not matter, whether it be branding, mission, reputation, or vision. The key point here is the message that we send and how well we use tools of the digital age to make sure that it resonates positively with all stakeholders.

  5. I agree that this is amazing to brand online and offline for schools. It is interesting to see how it has done better with education in the long run.