In this month’s questionnaire, Jeff Peterson talks about the challenges of branding in the education space, whether principals should promote themselves, his favorite movie stars, and his personal motto. Jeff is the senior director of marketing at Jostens Inc., in Minneapolis, MN.

What’s your educational philosophy?

My basic philosophy is that when it comes to education, character comes before cognition.

In what area do you think secondary school principals need the most help? 

I think faculty are challenged to really know the students they serve, so whatever we can do to help principals increase staff curiosity, capacity, and support toward that end will pay dividends both inside and outside the schoolhouse.

How did you rebrand a provider of educational services? 

It was right under our nose, actually. For more than 25 years, we had been using “Renaissance” as the name for our annual conference of faculty, staff, and students to get re-energized or “renewed” for the upcoming school year. When we looked at our mission of renewing culture and climate inspiration all year, every year, for everybody in and surrounding the schoolhouse, we felt the word “renaissance” could be much more than a conference theme, and the response has been great. 

How can principals better promote their schools to parents and the community? 

The best brands are “brand-ABLE.” Here’s what I mean by that: Brand-ABLE means they’re able to get your attention, communicate their benefits, leverage their distinguishing characteristics, and build equity. If secondary school principals look at every communication piece, event, and environmental element of their school through this brand-ABLE lens, they’ll find that it is an easy and effective way to build their school’s brand. 

How can principals better brand themselves?

I don’t believe in personal brands. I think the best leaders in secondary schools are servant leaders, and reflect/project the “brand” of their constituencies more than themselves. 

What is your favorite book and why? 

I think Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius raised the bar for writing and reading.

What is your favorite sports team?

I’m a super fan of the Orono High School in Long Lake, MN, girls volleyball, girls lacrosse, and dance teams. 

Editor’s Note: Principal Leadership is guessing there is a family connection there.

Who are your favorite movie stars? 

In my opinion, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts are the only true movie “stars” working today, although there are lots of other good movie actors and actresses.

What’s your motto?

Here’s the motto I try to live by: Surpass each other in mutual esteem.