What is your brand? You have one. We all do—brand is how our community perceives who we are and the work our organization does.
Administrators often let their brand develop haphazardly. But the most respected brands—the ones that communicate educational excellence—are intentional.
Defining Your Brand
Your brand is your core message. It states the non-negotiables to which you are unwaveringly committed. For some districts it’s achievement. For others it’s college readiness. The more clearly defined your values, the more pervasive and credible your brand will be.
A hallmark of a strong brand is common language—a consistent message embodied and expressed by each person in your organization. Consider crafting a memorable phrase that pays. At the Oceanside Unified School District, for example, former Superintendent Larry Perondi’s phrase was “Kids First.”
Shaping Culture to Match Brand
Your brand is only as good as your organizational culture. Your brand is what you value above all else, and culture is the expression of that brand.
To ensure your culture reflects your brand, follow this simple axiom: Experiences shape our expectations—expectations shape our expressions.
Begin by evaluating the things people say and do in your schools, at the district office, and throughout the community. These are your expressions.
Let’s say your organization values excellence—good qualities in high degree. You would expect to see excellence embodied at every level. You would see teachers attending professional development, parents engaged at meetings, students thinking at higher levels, and realtors praising the quality of education in the community.
In this example, the expressions reflect the organization’s non-negotiable values. They reflect a brand of excellence.
Next, discern what the expressions say about expectations. Our expectations shape our expressions, which are the synthesis of our perceptions, perspectives, mindsets, and beliefs.
In a district defined by excellence, for example, you would notice that decisions are made and problems solved through a mindset of excellence that permeates classrooms, staff rooms, and board rooms.
Expectations are not willed into being. Our expectations are shaped by our experiences.
Every activity, every interaction immerses people in what you value. At Quantum Learning, we teach that “everything speaks.”
When a district’s meetings respect opinions, encourage solution-finding, stay on topic, and are well organized, attendees experience excellence. When classrooms buzz with curiosity, teachers acknowledge effort, and everyone feels safe and supported, kids are enveloped in an experience of learning worth revisiting.
If what you see and hear in the community and throughout your district is incongruent with what your organization stands for, you’ve got work to do.
Educational Excellence Starts with You
Our first inclination is to address expressions directly. But in the model we’ve presented, you build your brand by changing the interactions people have with and within the district.
This is accomplished from the inside out. Brands are built from the organization’s culture out to the community and from you out to the organization. You are your brand.
Everything you say and do can add credibility to your brand. For example, Larry Perondi nurtured his brand through Quantum Learning’s 8 Keys of Excellence, which help him repeat his values consistently and often.
When you’re intentional with your brand, the positive effects will last for years to come.
Images from Ben Russell, Deval Patrick, and Tim