PMP:090 Why You Should Brand Your School with Marlena Gross-Taylor

When I was in junior high school, everyone on my basketball team wore Converse high-tops.

Photo by Oliver Hihn – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions

I’ll never forget mine: they were the color of golden-rod, and I was so proud of them that I never wore them outside the gym because I didn’t want to scuff them up. For a thirteen year-old boy at the time, Converse was the only brand to wear. But a few years later, when Michael Jordan came on the scene during my high school years, Nike soon became the new must-have shoe.

Sometimes I think about the brands I like to buy, but it’s easy to forget that schools are also brands. Because schools are learning communities, they are much more than products; at the same time, students don’t just attend our schools, they experience them. When is the last time you thought about the feelings people have when they experience your school brand?

Last week I heard a great presentation on school branding from Marlena Gross-Taylor, a Supervisor of Secondary Schools at Maury County Public Schools, outside of Nashville, Tennessee. She is also a dedicated and successful education consultant, speaker, coach, and presenter.

Marlena Gross-Taylor Interview

A Nashville transplant originally from southern Louisiana, Marlena’s educational experience spans several states allowing her to have served K-12 students in both rural and urban districts. She has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

She is also the founder of #EduGladiators and has been recognized as a middle school master teacher and innovative administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Her professional development expertise has garnered both state and national attention. Most recently, I had the privilege of hearing Marlena present at the Association for Middle Level Education national conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After hearing her present on “Why You Should Brand Your School,” I asked her if she would join me as a guest for Principal Matters. Listen in, and I know you will enjoy Marlena’s optimism, insights, and practical tips on ways you can promote the wonderful things happening at your school.

Branding Your School Q & A:

Listen to our entire conversation for great takeaways! Here is a glance at the questions we discussed together:
WDP: Why do you believe it is so important for school leaders to think about brand?
MGT: Think about yourself as a brand! And think about yourself as a brand. School is also a business. If a business is not reaching its customers, its story will never be told. Schools must take control of their own story. Branding is about marketing. You should be able to tell your school in such a positive light that everyone wants to be a part of it.
Here are some platforms schools are using for promoting their brands:

WDP: What should school leaders keep in mind about the different stages they will have in branding their schools?
Learn to understand:
Awareness Messaging
-focused on driving awareness and establishing place in the market–just like Lyft if taking the place of Uber in marketing awareness.
Brand Marketing Messaging
-Reiterating message to drive affinity and stay top of mind…
Campaign Based Messaging
-Communicate brand with new ways…
You can schedule posts so they feed to multiple platforms at once by using:
Facebook schedule posts

WDP: Can you walk through those 4 E’s and how the influence our school branding?
1. Explain…
2. Emotion…
3. Evoke Questions…
4. Exclude/Include…

WDP: If you could give school leaders some ideas on the kind of mindset it takes to do strong school branding, what would you tell them?
MGT: Stay “28-years-old always” If you’re not willing to be relevant, people will lose interest.
Now What? Think about these four takeaways:
Think about your website: You have 50 mila-seconds to make a good impression. How can you make it captivating? Make sure to look at:
Think about your merchandising:
Wear it
Promote spirit days
Online spirit store
Leverage alumni and community support
Recruit grandparents as brand ambassadors

WDP: Any closing thoughts or comments you’d like to leave with our listeners? And how can they stay connected with you?
MGT: Recognize that every person in your school is a brand! Don’t be afraid for them to develop their own story about your school. Determine you will “stay 28” and be committed to promoting the best in yourself and your school.

Follow Marlena!

Listen to the full podcast interview for illustrations, examples, and more takeaways. You can follow Marlena on Twitter @mgrosstaylor or visit her websites at &

Let’s Wrap This Up

It’s been a long time since I’ve worn a pair of high-top Converse tennis shoes, but I still have happy feelings when I think back to the brand I wore in junior high. You play an important role in the way others perceive the value of your school, organization, or team. Branding is not only something marketing experts should understand. As a school leader, you should be proud to promote the students, teachers, and school communities you serve too!

Now It’s Your Turn

What is one new social media tool you can begin using to promote your school brand? How can you stay relevant and timely in the way you are reaching communities with the values and benefits of your school?

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School leaders are very busy, so each of the twenty-four chapters is designed as a quick-read and followed with take-action questions for follow-up or reflection. If you want practical ideas on understanding your purpose, managing school teams, dealing with challenges, and leading with courage, action, motivation, and teamwork, go HERE to pick up a copy for you or your team.

Messaging Matters

Harness the power of messaging to create a culture of acknowledgment, respect, and celebration. Written specially for leaders, this title is divided into three parts, helping readers to maximize their role as chief communicators with students, teachers, and parents and community. Each chapter includes suggestions for using digital tools to enhance messaging and ends with reflection questions and practical next steps.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker