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Professional Opinion

Branding 101 for leaders in education

An introduction to building your personal and professional brand in a digital world
Trish Rubin consults with clients in education, business and the nonprofit sector to build brand awareness. She is coauthor of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning.
Trish Rubin consults with clients in education, business and the nonprofit sector to build brand awareness. She is coauthor of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning.

Leaders know the necessity of upgrading digital devices. The longer we put it off, the more likely a system will fail. The upgrade is part of the modern digital world. The digital age brings a comparable call to action for administrators, who must upgrade their leadership brand.

Maintaining trust is a key reason for a brand upgrade. Our stakeholders—the students, parents and community—are digitally connected and savvy. It is a time of transparency—everyone in your community has a device and they will use it to define you in your role.

A digital brand upgrade allows K12 leaders to take charge and craft an authentic image.

The digital age is not the time to be humble. “Upgrade and define before being defined by others” is a mantra for today’s organizational leader. And, an authentic leader brand can inspire a community to a create a whole school brand that unifies.

Harnessing the power of brand

For years, business has used brand power for selling. In education, we call it BrandED. An educational brand positions schools in their best light, using strategies that communicate the school’s achievements beyond the view of test results or graduation rates.

Upgrading with digital social tools (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and the like) that were once used primarily by business is critical for our connected schools.

Brand spreads the word of the great things a school does every day. Brand is a power tool of identity. It creates feelings of belonging and a culture of loyalty.

In business, brand clarity leads to a satisfying buying experience and loyal customers. Schools must adapt this concept of positive educational experience that brings satisfaction and achievement.

Our schools are places where the social and emotional need to belong is key to well-being. A school leader who understands brand power is not only ready to “Just do it,” but is ready to “Just do it well, and share it!”  

Getting started

School brand building starts with the leader’s ability to create their personal brand. The leader must become the model of the movement.

Reflect on your own experience as a consumer so that you can identify your own satisfying brand experiences. (Are you Starbucks-loyal or part of the Dunkin' nation? Why do you belong to any consumer tribe?)

After recognizing the power of brand in your life, shift to making your own brand identity the engine for connection in your school—just as your favorite brands have created belonging and connection for you.

Start the brand conversation by identifying and advancing what brand means in our connected lives. Explain the power brand has as a vehicle of storytelling.

Start practicing your powerful ability to spread the good word about why your school is unique and remarkable.

Storyteller-in-chief

Relying on a one-way brandless system of traditional communication in newsletters, forms and static websites is obsolete. We are no longer simply conveying information as leaders, we are engaging our audience in a conversation.

Brand is about promotion.

As you take on the role of brand “storyteller-in-chief,” look to amplify real, ongoing stories and messages that can be shared by word of mouth and on digital channels. Your trusted emerging brand presence promotes authenticity and demonstrates a promise to deliver satisfaction to all who experience the school.

Don’t wait.

Brand is a “DIY” strategic upgrade that starts with you. Your model of your personal professional brand, informed by your own brand experience, can initiate a school brand project.

Leaders can craft their brand without a Madison Avenue advertising budget. They can model branding tools and strategies and inspire like-minded “brand pioneers” (the stakeholders mentioned above) to build the school brand.

They use the business world’s concept of brand to impact the educational community with the pride of a committed digital-age school leader.


Trish Rubin consults with clients in education, business and the nonprofit sector to build brand awareness. She is coauthor of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning.