“The School Brand”
Who is that girl on the Starbucks logo? While the consumers of Starbucks coffee might not be aware who she is, the image of this Siren is synonymous with a social event centered around a warm and familiar beverage. Now consider Google: merely viewing its colorful, jaunty letters elicits a connection to the information age. And then there’s Target. The bullseye so prevalent in its brand reminds us that whatever we need may be found under one valuable roof. These commercial brands tell their stories in a glimpse, and we are comforted. While some may scoff at the idea of branding a school, it may just be one of the most important decisions for educational leaders to make as they navigate the tumultuousness we face in education today.
As a school, the story of our ambitions and accomplishments is part of our tapestry. Telling this story can be achieved effectively through branding. As the leader of the Spring Lake School District, I wanted to influence the perception of our school by sharing its realities. I wanted to help brand HW Mountz School as the best elementary school in the world. Why should we overlook the opportunity to influence others’ perceptions, perceptions that might likely be based on misinformation gained through what is heard rather than what is witnessed? Branding our school seemed not only logical but perhaps paramount.
This indispensable strategy of the business world is key if we are to shake off the negative image the media portrays of public education. Who is better suited to partake in the process than those witnessing the successes? It is quite empowering to transform our realities into the perceptions of others. After all, it is evident no one else will do it for us!
In Spring Lake we accomplished our own re-branding by seeking and securing the services of a corporate brander, calling upon his philanthropic tendencies to donate his services, and giving him a platform to educate a new clientele. The result was an amazing day of reflection, affirmation, realization, and creation that resulted in a brand that speaks to what the group of stakeholders always believed the school did for the students and the community.
The parents, community members, and staff members in attendance were led through a journey that every community-based institution should experience. Our “sherpa” brought us through an exploration of the aspirational benefits and personality traits of the school through a series of activities that drove intimate discussion, heartfelt sharing, and close listening about what we all believe the children and community gain from our precious school. Our conversations, when synthesized and concentrated, would certainly counter any negative perceptions assumed by others. Through the power of the branding process, these conversations may now be announced to all through a consensus on one brand commitment. And this was truly the climax of the process: after a full day of spirited discussion, combing over adjectives and verbs, points and counterpoints, a member in the group made a statement and everyone paused, looked at each other, and said almost in unison, “That is the brand!” Our “new” brand? Team Mountz: Expanding the Possibilities.
The group was excited to begin sharing the brand and re-imaging the school. A unified message shared by a diversity of stakeholders is what a brand can do for a school district, and it is the first step every educational leader should take in protecting the reality of what our schools do and in combating the false perceptions so many do not realize they hold.
Editor's Note: Effective August 1, 2015 Dr. Bormann will assume the helm of the Rumson Borough School District.