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Professional Opinion

‘Telling, not selling’ your school’s story

How the ‘4Cs’ marketing principle applies to school branding strategy
Trish Rubin, former educator and now marketing consultant, wrote BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning. Follow her at @trishrubin.
Trish Rubin, former educator and now marketing consultant, wrote BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning. Follow her at @trishrubin.

While our students strive for A’s in the classroom, school administrators can focus on the “4 C’s.” This smart model from Jez Frampton, CEO of global marketing leader Interbrand, brings a tight structure from the world of business. It’s a tool for school brand builders who are on the path to “telling, not selling.”

So what are the education leadership 4 C’s?

Context

In a 24/7 world of communication, leaders can’t stop the flow of information, but we can manage our exchanges with the world. So, have your antenna up. Look beyond the wall of your school to learn and promote trends, topics, ideas, thoughts and research.

Jeffrey Collier, superintendent of the Au Gres-Sims School District in Michigan, hosts a regular podcast with City Manager John Stanley. Their “Huron Forward” podcast is the organic result of a series of brainstorming sessions. They harnessed technology within an existing communication platform to speak directly to their community stakeholders.

“By aligning our ‘communication arrows,’ we jointly broadened the scope of our celebratory story-telling capacity. We promote and share the amazing quality of life experienced throughout our area,” says Collier.

“Our podcast enables us to establish relationships, form partnerships and highlight proactive leadership concepts to sustain growth and ‘place-build’ our community as a destination to live, work and play.”

Customers

You might not think of the word customers when you open a new school, but Neerja Punjabi, principal of the James Grieve School near Toronto, did exactly that. Punjab, whose own three-word professional brand is “Resilience, Empowerment and Commitment,” embodies the brandEd philosophy I’ve discussed in past columns.

School leaders don’t need an MBA to raise the quality of their communication as they serve customers. Punjabi doesn’t shy away from making connections with those she is serving—and hopes to serve. Punjabi uses social media to reach out to families that haven’t moved into their new homes, as well as to some that are still house shopping.

Community engagement grows as she shares how the school meets the needs of students. Through Twitter, Instagram and the online newsletter creator SMORE, Punjabi’s message to her customers is that her school provides a valuable service. The Grieve school tagline says it all: “Where the best dreams happen when you are awake.”

Competition

Brian Creasemean, superintendent of Fleming County Schools in Kentucky, believes that building collaborative networks is a leadership skill. All district leaders face competition for budgets, resources and support.

Creasemean knows that looking at competition with a new eye toward opportunity comes from building networks with those who are like you and who are different. In a newly competitive world of education, there are many opportunities to collaborate with those who are sometimes seen as competition.

As businesses have learned, schools should partner for power. Forming relationships helps leaders grow and address improvement using new strategies and energies.

Capabilities

Mark Erlenwein, principal of the Staten Island Technical High School in New York, focuses on building student capabilities in a rapidly changing time. Forging partnerships with the professional workforce is a goal.

In 2017, Staten Island Tech had over 500 students, and nearly half of them participated in paid internships focused on their career interests. Erlenwein believes speaking effectively is an essential business skill, so this fall, all ninth-graders will take a class in oracy once per week.

We have a greater chance of future-proofing our education system if we identify, understand, implement and teach workplace capabilities. 


Trish Rubin, former educator and now marketing consultant, wrote BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships and Empower Learning.