Monday, July 8, 2019

Our School Story

Donald Miller BUILDING A STORY BRAND—Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

The topic of branding appears to be a popular conversation in media these days. As an example, in NPR’s Hidden Brain July 1st, 2019 podcast Shankar Vedantam interviews Americus Reed who is a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Their lively and often humorous banter around branding included discussing how some perceive the use of branding as “a force for good” and others as “manipulative” and even “inauthentic”. Their quick back and forth dialog on branding included an analogy of a hammer which can be used to build a home for those in need or used as a weapon to inflict harm. The point is the hammer is not a bad tool, but it is how you use it that matters. Reed declared, “Why not use it (branding) as a force for change, as something powerful and positive?”

Which brings me to Donald Miller’s book Building A Story Brand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. During our school improvement journey for the past five years, we have been relentless on changing our school’s story as we facilitate positive growth towards equitable outcomes for each of our students. Although I am not sure this was Miller’s intent to use his latest book to support a school’s perspective on reframing their school story, having clarity on the “why” of our actions has been a critical story element on our school improvement initiative.

What I so appreciated in Miller’s book was just how simple the journey can be to build your own storybrand starting with clarity. Eliminating the “noise” and focusing on what the hero in your story wants, who or what is stopping the hero from getting what they want, and what will life look like when they do or do not get what they want. In our case, the hero will and will always be our students. We want to support them now and as they transition into their next steps. Miller gives the reader a seven-step storybrand framework and provides an online template to create an individual brandscript as a guide to “simplify your marketing and messaging”. The chapters go into depth on each step in the storybrand framework and use popular world figures and familiar characters in movies to emphasize key components as you create and customizing your own brandscript.

Selfishly the number one priority I have set for each of our students is to become a reader. Not just picking up a piece of text because their teacher or parent told them to do so, but because they are compelled to do so. I want reading for them to be something they do because it is who they are and how they interact with the world around them. And most importantly because it is joyful. Yes, joyful. It’s a door to an unanswered question, a window to a possibility, and a trail toward discovery. I also believe it’s a civil right owed to each child. I used reading as a focal point for our school’s brandscript. It’s a rough draft, but certainly worth refining with our leadership team.

Miller states when building a storybrand you “invite their customers into a story that makes their lives better” in order for the world to become a better place. I know as we purposeful build our storybrand we want our heroes to continue their path to be and become the reader leaders we know they can be. Our ultimate end goal is to build empowerment now and in their futures so they can be well-prepared self-directed learners.

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