In many Western societies, children no longer attend their local school just because it happens to be close to where they live. Many of our students are chaperoned around by parents who are wanting to give their off-spring the best educational chance in life by herding them to the ‘best’ schools which are within a increasingly wide range. Increasingly, the ‘best’ schools are defined by politically motivated inspection regimes, league table comparisons, and examination results. Many schools are now in a pitched-battle competing to entice parents to send their children to their schools, at the expense of establishments that might actually be a lot closer to their homes!
Yes, market economics are now a factor within education, with many schools now being paid on the number of children on role, which hasn’t really changed much, but with parents now having a wider choice, schools need to be savvy in ensuring their role is over-subscribed each year to secure the required funding. Many schools have latched onto this by revealing the magic that goes on behind the school walls by marketing (yes – marketing) themselves through the online worlds where so many now habituate. Schools need to be savvy towards this, and branding themselves within the localities they serve is now more important than ever before.
For most educators, the thought of marketing and branding their schools will feel like an alien concept – most were trained to be teachers, not marketeers – but selling and telling the stories of the magic that goes on beyond the school gates is now critical. Eric Sheninger gets this, and he was propelled into US national lime-light thanks to sharing educational success stories on social media ending with a television crew appearing at the school to see the magic for themselves. The rest is history.
But this is a book review, and the reason for the long introduction above is to share the key message behind Eric Sheninger and Trish Rubin’s book, BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning, which encourages just that – share the stories to help build relationships from your school to the wider local or world community to ‘sell‘ the reasons why people should send their children to your school. Forget the inspectors, forget the league tables, let your own stories tell the story of what really goes on in your school, throughout the whole year. Like the old Eric, you might be sceptical about broadcasting about your school to a wider audience – you might not want to draw attention – but how else can others find out about the magic stuff that goes on in your school?
Eric and Trish offer great advice, stories and strategies throughout the book that could easily be developed in your local establishment, and consider digital platforms that are easily accessible to help build your branding. In fact, the book offers an impressive appendix (D) that lists a range of platforms that are worthy of exploration, including the purpose of these tools. They are not just gimmicks and fads, but important tools to help build your strategy and educational brand.
Yes, this book is written by an amazing US educator, arguably aimed at a US educator market, yet there are lessons which any school leaders can pick up if market-economics dictate your school budgets. As a BrandED leader, you need to think like a ‘edupreneur’, being brave enough to invite innovative behaviours that impact on your organisational culture and improve school. If you are unsure, and feel that you need to get permission to brand your school (or even just yourself) in a savvy manner, then this is the book for you. Tell stories. Read stories. Create stories. Build, be patient, and enjoy the fruits of your labour!