Let’s talk for a minute about the transfer of skills from two very different careers.
A teacher turned brand strategist, how on earth does that happen? Most of us have heard the old adage, “Those who can’t do, teach.” Well, while that may be true for some teachers, it certainly isn’t true for most. In fact, one would be safe to argue that the skill-set acquired in teaching is extremely transferable to multiple fields, especially the branding and marketing world, and quite possibly in battle too – but I have digressed. For the purposes of this blog, we will explore the reciprocity of the skills and demands of teachers and brand strategists.
A Teacher is a Brand
Teachers spend their careers creating their brand, refining it, and sometimes rebranding. Case and point: no two teachers are the same. I dare anyone to prove that statement false. Each teacher has a different look, feel, and voice (a.k.a. brand experience). Think about your teachers… yep, all very different, each their own brand. Some are your style – or not, some modern or traditional, some more effective than others. Get it?
The Strategic Approach
Not only are teachers all very different, they each develop their own strategic approach to sharing specific information with the developing minds of our youth, i.e.) their target audience, hoping they will never forget, i.e.) good marketing, and incite them to some sort of action, i.e.) successful adulthood hopefully, fingers crossed! With any brand, it needs a stage to move and breathe and communicate – like an ad or commercial – a place to live if you will, i.e.) the classroom. No, teachers do not actually live in their classroom. That was a metaphor. Your teacher tried to market those to you in 7th grade, probably.
Where was I? Oh yes, strategy. Teachers don’t just walk into a classroom ready to spew knowledge. They approach every minute of their day with strategic precision, literally. Their day is run by a 50 minute clock with a bell indicating it is time for the next phase of execution, and several sub-levels of execution within that timeframe. At first it requires written lesson plans, until finally they get comfortable with their strategy – at which point they are able to execute it blindfolded while walking over hot coals. Comfort doesn’t mean idle and strategy is never static, teachers have to adjust for each classroom, student, and with the changing times – just like various marketing platforms and clients. Different platforms or students require modifications, so we adjust. If we don’t, we fail.
Contingency is a huge part of strategy. If the teacher doesn’t stay one step ahead of the students, they lose their credibility and control of the classroom and their brand reputation may become tarnished. They lose clients, i.e.) student buy in, if you will. Even one bad review takes time and purposeful planning from which to recover. Their ability to manage and adapt dictates their brand reputation. We have all heard the many brands of the teacher:
- The dreamer
- The bully
- The fun one
- The frazzled one
- The nerdy one
- The one with eyes in the back of their head
- The coach
- The one who loses papers
- The one who changed our life
- The list goes on…
The greatest part is that teachers are in control of their brand. They get to walk in each day and decide who they want to be and rebranding is definitely highly effective. The greatest aspect of children is that they are open and forgiving and love trying new things. However, in the branding world, that really depends on the client. We love clients who are willing to try new things.
Speaking of our audience. Think about it. Most kids really do think their teacher sleeps at school and has no life. The only thing they know about their teacher is what they hear from other students and their parents, and what they see online and in the news – unless we build that relationship and give them the content directly from us. Hello! Branding and marketing much??
And, their audience doesn’t just consist of kids either, sorry. Wouldn’t that be nice! Nope. Teachers must consider a wide audience much like a brand: students, fellow teachers, parents, the administration, school board, and the media. Every lesson, email home, and conversation must be well thought out, purposeful, and well-crafted for optimal communication. Copy has to be flawless or your audience won’t trust your expertise. Trust is essential in both industries.
The Songwriter and the Superstar
This heading may seem like a stretch, stay with me. Teachers live in a fishbowl, right up there with priests and politicians. Since when does a news article ever read: Brand Strategist Arrested! Nope, if you are a brand strategist, you are creating a brand for your company, not as an individual yourself, they leave your job title out to save character space. Not to say the branding firm’s reputation cannot be tarnished, but the news loves to report about teachers, good or bad. Actually moving from the teaching world to the branding world is quite freeing, new found anonymity is had for sure, but the glory also comes in teaching. Everyone loves the teacher, the one who does it all and asks for nothing in return. Can you name the person who developed the Nike branding and marketing plan? Ok, maybe some of you marketing and branding gurus, but for regular folk, it isn’t likely. Brand strategists are the songwriters of the world. They create the brand and someone else gets to be the superstar. As the superstar though, the teacher cannot hide from the fame or shame in the fishbowl. Here we can see that there are pros and cons to both for sure.
It may seem with all things to consider that teaching has been stripped of creative expression. That is simply not the case. Everything created in the teaching process is very creative and very personal. Teachers often hear, “You teach who you are.” It is hard to leave all your stuff at the door. Teachers are aware of the fishbowl, but when that door closes, the classroom is their stage to perform i.e.) teach, saturated with our very own brand, of course. Creativity is also instrumental moving forward in the branding world, obviously.
The Demands Seal the Deal
The feeling that every day is a spinning tornado of questions and emails, fixing mistakes, constant adjustments, and too few bathroom breaks. This is how a teacher feels. Branding is a close second in this regard, only they can step out at any time to use the restroom without risking lives and lawsuits. Definite perk!
After a careful analysis, and nearly three years in the brand strategist saddle, it would be fair to conclude that teaching and branding are two fields with equal reciprocity of skill, demand, and professionalism. Each with its own pros and cons, for sure.
So, teachers, there is good news, you are more than your teacher brand. I know it doesn’t always feel like it, but you are a valued professional with skills that are transferable beyond your imagination. And brand strategists, you are incredible too. I give this profession props, it hasn’t been easy, but it has been fun and I have learned and grown in ways I never thought possible! However, it is probably safe to say that not all brand strategists could survive a school year in a classroom. If you disagree, I urge you to try. Teaching isn’t for the faint of heart and teachers are in demand, for good reason!
Here’s the Backstory
As a former teacher who never saw myself doing anything else, I often questioned if I was even able to take a break from teaching to try something new and do what I always told my students: “Do the thing that scares you, that is where you grow the most!” A quote that speaks to stepping out of their comfort zone.
I was a master in my field. I earned teacher of the year type awards in two separate districts in two separate states. I taught teachers how to implement best teacher practices into their classroom management and I absolutely LOVE working with kids, especially the ones who struggle. The tougher, the better. I like a challenge, and I know kids are not inherently bad, they often have a hard shell and I make it my mission to crack them. In a good way. I had my safe, protected teacher bubble that consisted of teaching to a new audience in a slightly different way each year. I was never the type of teacher to do the same things exactly the same, I liked to cater to my students of the year. I loved creating new games, projects, teaching a variety of subjects: social studies, reading intervention, dance, film studies, English, and theatre, and trying new things – within the brick and mortar of the school building. I was safe.
The truth is, after ten years of teaching, I needed to try something else for my family’s livelihood as a single mom. I also needed to prove to myself that I was capable, but I was scared. I felt like a hypocrite. So, with a unique opportunity and interesting timing, the universe aligned and I moved my family across the country to a different state and started a new career as a brand strategist. The transition has been humbling and wasn’t without effort and growth, but it turns out, I’m learning and getting better at it each day! The tables have turned and now I get to be the learner and work with incredible branding and marketing teachers. I turns out that I love and am good at both learning and teaching!