PMP:Encore090 Branding Your School with Marlena Gross-Taylor

When I was in junior high school, everyone on my basketball team wore Converse high-tops. Yes, that means I’m officially from the 70’s! I’ll never forget mine:

Photo by Oliver Hihn – Creative Commons No known copyright restrictions

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?

This week I want to share a conversation on school branding from Marlena Gross-Taylor, 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.

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:

WDP: Why do you believe it is so important for school leaders to think about branding?

MGT: 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. You must think about yourself as a brand if you plan to stay competitive. Also you need to think about yourself as a brand!

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?

MGT: Learn to understand and be aware of your messaging. Your story should be focused on driving awareness and establishing place in the market. Just like the company Lyft if taking the place of Uber in marketing awareness, schools must stay in front of their “customers” — your students, teachers, and community members. That means promoting the “why” of your school so there is no doubt students have purpose and meaning for being in your community.

Brand Marketing Messaging: Reiterate your message to drive affinity and stay top of mind with your community. If you want to control the narrative about your school, market that message.

Campaign Based Messaging: Communicate your brand in innovative 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?

MGT: Yes, if you are going to have a compelling story, you must:

  1. Explain…tell your community what is happening and what information is important to know.
  2. Emotion…make your posts compelling, reminding people why they should be excited about your school.
  3. Evoke Questions…be prepared to answer more by sharing and inviting feedback.
  4. Exclude/Include…it’s okay to see your school as an “exclusive” brand — something for community members to be proud of. Remind them why it matters to be a part of your “tribe.”

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:

  1. Study – Look at how marketers sell products and learn lessons in marketing your school.
  2. Exposure – Don’t be afraid to share. The more exposure, the better for celebrating your school success.
  3. Implementation – If you don’t have a plan, you won’t increase your branding. Plan and then execute.
  4. Feedback – Ask for feedback from your community and then respond accordingly.

Finally, 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:

  1. Content: Is it up-to-date and relevant?
  2. Navigation: Is it easy to access and user-friendly.
  3. Calendar: Is it current?
  4. Merchandising: Wear your school. Promote spirit days. Create an online spirit store. Use your PTA/PTO for promotion. Leverage alumni and community support. And 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 forever” and be committed to promoting the best in yourself and your school. 

Follow Marlena!

Check out the podcast episode for illustrations, examples, and more takeaways. You can follow Marlena on Twitter @mgrosstaylor or visit her websites at &

Let’s Wrap This Up

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?

Sign-Up For Free Updates and Ebook

You can automatically receive my newest posts and a free Ebook, 8 Hats: Essential Roles for School Leaders. Let’s keep learning together!

Think someone else would benefit from this episode?
William D. Parker
William D. Parker