Contributed by Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo
In a time when discussions about education are dominated by standards, high-stakes testing, increased budget cuts, and educator evaluation systems, we believe the time has come for educators to refocus the lens on what matters most—students and learning!
How can we accomplish this goal? We must tell our collective stories so that we can flatten the walls of our buildings and brand the experiences unfolding in our schools. We must take control of the perception the community has about how we instruct children. We must share stories, emails, images, captions, blog posts, and videos that spotlight the teaching and learning that is unfolding in our schools and districts.
It’s critical that the brand is transparent to all members within the organization—they must all be telling the same story, one that they believe in and stand behind. During faculty gatherings, informal conversations, and various meetings we must ensure that the brand is communicated to the entire team. If we are going to effectively sell our brand outside of the school we must first ensure that the brand promise matches the brand experience—the most important component for our students.
The possibilities for how schools/districts can tell their stories are endless. In our new book, The Power of Branding: Telling Your School’s Story, we explore the importance of telling our stories, the necessity of building school/district brands, the role that social media can play in branding, and the tools and resources that can bring the story to life. The time has come for educators, students, and families to use their voices, take control of their stories, and begin thinking about how school and district communities can brand their space.
Branding is defined as the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.
Stop and close your eyes for a minute and picture the Golden Arches, or the Nike swoosh symbol, or the Apple on many of your devices—those logos cause people to react, reflect, and even evoke specific feelings and emotions. That is the power of branding. That is why telling the story of our districts, schools, or classrooms is a must—we want the community to know what is happening and we want them to feel a certain way about what is happening. We can control these reactions by devoting time to branding our spaces and telling our stories.
As you begin thinking about how you can brand your space and tell your story, consider the following guiding questions:
- Does the brand promise of your school or district match your own brand experience?
- What is your story? What do you believe in? What do you stand for? What do you want for your students and staff?
- If your staff was asked the questions above, would they answer them the same way that you did?
- If your students were asked the questions above, would their responses match your answers?
- If your community was asked the above questions, would they answer in the same way?
The issue we’re trying to address is the perception of what is happening in schools. Not everyone had a great school experience when they were younger, and these feelings often linger to a point that their perception of what it was becomes the reality they convey to others. That perception can change if your voice, and their new experience, is positive. The interactions you have through social media and face to face have an incredible impact. By focusing on the positive events happening in your building, the effect you can have on community perceptions is powerful.
We all have a story to tell. Don’t allow others to tell your story based on secondhand information or misperceptions. Devote time to this important aspect of your profession—creating a brand and telling your story.
Tony Sinanis is currently in his sixth year as the Lead Learner of Cantiague Elementary School in Jericho, New York. Cantiague was named a 2012 National Blue Ribbon School and Tony received the 2013 Bammy Award for Elementary School Principal of the Year. Joseph M. Sanfelippo is the Superintendent of the Fall Creek School District in Fall Creek, Wisconsin. Tony and Joe co-host the BrandED Podcast. They are the authors of The Power of Branding: Telling Your School’s Story, part of the Corwin Connected Educators Series. Follow them on Twitter: @TonySinanis @Joesanfelippofc