In The Power of Branding, Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo define branding as, “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.”
Tell Your Story
As a classroom teacher, there were a few ways in which I differentiated my classroom from others:
- My students were regularly engaged in project based learning.
- My students consistently used various technologies in meaningful ways, such as to demonstrate a deeper understanding of content, to display their work for an authentic audience, etc.
- Parents were continuously made aware of the learning that was taking place, as the classroom website was updated on a daily basis, and I was always posting student photographs and work to a Picasa Web Album. (At times I experimented with Twitter and Instagram, but as a teacher they never become my “go-tos.”)
Since becoming an administrator I have continued to champion the importance of schools and districts leveraging technologies (amongst other avenues) to connect with stakeholders. And, because most of these stakeholders are already on social media, taking advantage of these mediums has become the popular means to “meet them where they are.” I should also mention, much of my efforts in this area have been inspired by the work of Tony and Joe.
About a month ago I noticed my older brother, Spencer, had signed up for Twitter (and tried to keep it a secret). Aside from heckling him with a handful of tweets, I took a look at whom he was following and saw one of the accounts belonged to my four-year-old nephew’s preschool teacher. (Yes, I have three adorable nephews: Nolan is four; Elliot is two; Henry is about six-months old.)
After digging a little deeper, I discovered Nolan’s teacher had informed parents she would be using Twitter to provide them with glimpses into her classroom. So, after giving her account a follow, I too have been able to join in on the fun and the inevitable “Awe!” whenever a photograph of Nolan pops up! (Often times, I am saving these photographs straight to my iPhone and messaging them to my mother along with a, “Have you seen these ones yet?”)
So, what’s the significance here? (aside from photographs of my beautiful nephew at school)
A few hours after scrolling through the preschool teachers Twitter feed for the first time, I realized this was also the first instance in which I was on the other side of the story. In other words, I had spent my entire career (and especially the last handful of years) doing my part to connect schools and districts with stakeholders, but…I had never actually been the stakeholder. That being said, some thoughts and questions:
- The school and district stories we tell, without us even knowing it, can extend well beyond the immediate families of our students. This is great!…Is there are way to “keep track” of with whom we’re connecting?
- As an uncle (without children), there is nothing in this world that makes me happier than my nephews, and a little peek into Nolan’s time at school brings me so much joy! Now, I can (somewhat) understand how parents feel when they come across school photographs of their children on social media. Having experienced these emotions, I am now even more convinced we need to be telling our stories.
- Nolan’s teacher is undoubtedly thoughtful regarding the photographs and captions she posts (see above for an example) as they paint clear pictures of the valuable learning that is taking place. (In his latest blog post, Tony touches upon the importance of this intentionality.) While this attention to detail may seem obvious, it is easier said than done, and there is a significant difference (and emotional reaction) between posts that tell a story and posts that simply clog up our feeds.
In the End
The bottom line…
Until you experience a school’s story as an external stakeholder, you can’t imagine the emotional impact of a few photographs and captions.
And, with the tools we now have at our disposal, we simply can’t afford to not be leveraging social media to make a difference in the lives of our students and their families.
How does your classroom/school/district leverage social media to connect with stakeholders?
Connect with Ross on Twitter.