How to Become the Storyteller-In-Chief for Your School

brand-building conversations


When polled about public perception of K-12 schools in the United States, attendees of the recent edWebinar, “Transform Your School’s Brand by Becoming a Storyteller-In-Chief,” offered mixed results. While there are some positive stories, many seemed to think that there isn’t much faith in public education. Trish Rubin, founder of Trish Rubin Ltd. and co-author with Eric Sheninger of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning, explained that much of the issue stems from how school leaders tell their story and communicate their brand.

First, Rubin challenged the attendees to think about why brand matters to education. She wasn’t talking about logos or typically generic mission statements, though. What she meant by brand is the emotion, the gut feeling that someone has when they think about your school. Classrooms are no longer ivory towers where students are educated in isolation, she said; they are places where children live and learn for the majority of their lives. Teachers are trying to build a community, and the perception of that community is vital to getting support from the school members and beyond.

Emphasizing the rise of social media, Rubin next talked about how community members are sharing these perceptions and their stories about school. Educators need to be tuned into the “camera culture” and the value of pictures in presenting their brand. If the school’s educators and administrators aren’t doing this, other constituents will without any influence from school or district leadership. Even if the school leadership is putting out news stories, the pictures from the constituents will be the controlling message.

how to go from brand to brandED

Before any message about the school can be shared, however, educators and administrators need to start with themselves. Who are you as an educator? What value do you bring to the students, the teachers, the school? Educators shouldn’t just rely on themselves, though. Ask others how they perceive you and see how your perceptions compare. In addition, before schools start trying to share their brand, they need to understand all of their constituents and what they value. Without knowing your constituents’ needs, you don’t know what stories to tell that will resonate with your community.

Once a school is ready to take control of its story, the team should focus on three main types of arguments. First, concentrate on the ethos, which relates the spirit of the school. What are the unseen stories, the information that you haven’t shared yet that your community should know about? How can you relate the mission of the school by showing what you are doing instead of just listing events? Focus on telling, not selling, your school. And don’t worry about the “big story.” Create small moments that the community can latch onto. Then, move on to arguments based on emotion. What does you school offer, and what would your community miss if your school wasn’t there? Finally, you need to appeal to your constituents’ reason or logos. In other words, what results can you share that celebrate your message?

Ultimately, the goal is to create a collective culture where it’s not one administrator, teacher, or leader communicating your message, but distributed storytelling where, first a team at your school, then members of your community are sharing the same messages. Improving the perception of the brand of your school can help improve the culture, the performance, and the resources of institution. At every step you are building strong relationships that will continue the positive impact on your students and their learning.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Blackboard.

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This article was modified and published by eSchool News.

About the Presenter

Trish Rubin is the founder of Trish Rubin Ltd., a communications consultancy based in New York City. In her journey from a classroom educator to a business consultant, she draws from over 25 years of communication success in local, state, national, and international educational settings. Change process and innovation of teaching and learning for children and adults power her work and thought leadership.

A self-described “educationalist” with a passion for strategically developing powerful networks and authentic relationships, she has worked as a K-16 teacher, reading specialist, literacy coach, program developer, and central office administrator and now as an advocate for schools. Trish is also an engaging platform and motivational speaker. She currently is an instructor of Marketing and Brand Management for international business students at CUNY’s Baruch College, a member of the Baruch College Executives on Campus Advisory Board, and a networking amplifier for the New York City-based, innovative ad agency, sparks & honey. Trish co-authored the book BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning with Eric Sheninger.

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