Five years ago at the Video Music Awards, you may remember Kanye West jumping on stage, grabbing the microphone out of Taylor Swift’s hand, and giving new meaning to the term “rude.”  Unfortunately, it just boosted his popularity.  What most people don’t remember is that America’s Best Dance Crew aired right before that program.  In every season of the program, every group that was eliminated had class. They accepted their defeat not as defeat, but as a stepping stone to their next challenge.

Both of these programs demonstrated something about music, dance and the arts – musicians, dancers and artists are passionate about what they do. They are extremely creative, and as we all know, music is one of those activities which exercises both the left and right half of the brain. Art is actually about both creativity and structure happening simultaneously. (Yet funding for the arts keeps being cut when it is foundational to higher learning.  More about that in another Web site launching soon at

So how does all this relate to this week’s Marketing Matter? You need to be creative, and you need a hook.

“But I’m not creative.” That’s what most people respond when they hear they need to be creative. Creativity is nothing more than putting two (or more) ideas together that seem to be unrelated – but yet, some common thread between or among those ideas “creates” a new idea.

And, it’s what education is all about.

If you just teach students facts and figures, and expect them to repeat them back to you, you may consider that learning, but it’s a very low form of learning according to Bloom’s Taxonomy. The highest level of learning involves taking those facts, figures and other bits of information and connects them together in such a way that new knowledge is created. It’s like taking oxygen and hydrogen and trying to put those two gasses together. When you do, in the right proportions, you come up with a liquid compound that has none of the qualities of either element.

Music takes a lyric (which has some type of structure to it) and combines it with a melody (which also has some type of structure to it) to complete something greater than either of the parts. It makes it more memorable too. I’m sure you’re aware of the mnemonic device of putting difficult to remember information to a melody. For a simple example, sing, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” Now, “Sing” the “A-B-C’s.”  When I was in high school, we learned the prelude to the Canterbury Tales in Old English by singing it to the tune of “Three Little Fishies.”

Then we wonder why kids know the lyrics to their favorite hip-hop artists, yet can’t remember historical dates or scientific background information for standardized tests we administer. Three reasons: 1) The learning has to be relevant; 2) The logical/informational component has to be connected to something emotionally valid to them; and 3) There has to be some kind of mechanism to make the connection within the learner’s mind. Even though lectures are available in a downloadable formats for playback on a mobile device, it would be interesting to find if any significant difference in learning resulted from recorded lectures versus lecture lessons set to a soundtrack.

So let’s take a cue from music when you’re marketing your school. Every memorable song has a “hook.” The more hooks, the more memorable the song. Think of the opening notes of “Stairway to Heaven.” Just play the first four notes and you know what song it is.  Think of the harmonica intro to Billy Joel’s, “Piano Man” (how ironic is that!), or listen to the first arpeggiated chord of “Hotel California” and you know what song it is. You get the idea.

So what’s your hook for your school? Perhaps you’ll find your hook as you go through the process of creating your marketing plan. It comes from finding what is remarkable and distinctive about your school, which, in turn, comes from examining your school’s strengths. For instance, let’s say that you’ve found that one of your school’s strengths is a “kind and caring atmosphere among the students.” What causes that? Perhaps it’s a buddy system that pairs eighth graders with first graders, sixth graders with kindergarteners, etc. Perhaps it’s having the “big kids” simply being more aware of their actions because the “little kids” look up to them. In doing these things, you’re creating a sense of “Community” in your school (which doesn’t happen in a public school system where the grades K-3 go to one building, 4-6 to another, 7-8 to yet another). Your hook could be “Building community one friendship at a time.” It becomes a “hook” once you put it out there, and when someone mentions the word “friendship,” a person they’re talking to says, “Oh!  That’s what they’re doing at St. Polycarp School.”

Perhaps you’re starting to also sense a pattern forming here – Use a big net for a large catch, develop a “hook,” Polycarp (it doesn’t mean “Many Fish,” but it sure looks like it might…). The pattern will continue next week.

While we’re speaking of being creative, the word CREATIVE is an acronym for the process of putting the marketing plan (or any kind of plan) into action:

  • Create
  • Refine
  • Energize
  • Assign Responsibilities
  • Timeline
  • Implement
  • Validate
  • Evaluate

The last step, of course, leads back to the first, readdressing the plan with the new knowledge you’ve gained through putting the first creative plan into action.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2014 (Original Publication Date: 20090914)