The New Challenge for School Principals: Building Brand and Culture

Year: 2017

Author: Drysdale, Lawrence, Gurr, David, Goode, Helen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

To succeed in today's competitive educational marketplace, school leaders are required to focus on both the external environment and internal environment. The authors propose that two key strategies are required to achieve this. Firstly, in order to address the pressures of the external environment school leaders will need to develop brand management strategies to create a positive image, identity and vision to the school's constituents. Secondly school leaders will need to build an appropriate organisational culture as a way to shape and manage the internal environment. The authors argue that brand and culture building are two sides of the one coin and that they work synergistically to achieve a better functioning and performing school. The overall research question was 'Explore the role of the principal in building a school's brand and shaping the organisation culture as a strategy for school success'.
This paper builds on previous research by the authors on the relationship between brand management and organisational culture. The paper draws data from a number of new case studies that were completed in 2015/16 that explored the link between brand management and organisational culture and showed how principals saw their role in shaping both these aspects. It provides further evidence that successful principals attempt to focus on both brand and culture building.

The case studies involved individual in-depth interviews with twenty secondary school principals in government, Catholic and independent schools in Victoria, Australia. Principals were selected based on a convenience sample. Principals were either known to the authors or had a reputation of being a successful principal among their peers.

The individual interviews with principals were one hour in length and covered questions about their current strategies to manage both the demands and pressures from the internal environment and external environments. They were asked to rate the relative importance of culture building and brand management among the other competing demands and priorities of their role as principal.
The paper also draws on relevant literature on organisational culture and brand management, and from evidence and findings on previous research in market orientation in schools conducted by the authors.
The research showed that shaping the school culture remains an important role of the principal; however, a focus on presenting a positive image and developing a brand identity were emerging as a new focus for principals.