Enhancing your school’s restorative justice practice

Through branding’s ‘Rule of Three,’ you can leverage positive relationships, behavior and culture in the school community 
By: | Issue: January, 2020
December 5, 2019
(gettyimages.com: SDI Productions)(gettyimages.com: SDI Productions)
Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.

Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.

Thanks to the GMC automotive brand, you may know the “Rule of Three.” Based on neuroscience and used in the TV commercial with three trucks, the rule employs three words, phrases or ideas. Why do marketers use it? The brain likes the number three. It’s a foundation for delivering brand impact. In the case of the carmaker’s ad, the rule influences purchase behavior. If you missed it, I suspect you are already unconsciously influenced by Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign.

Move over business

What does advertising have to do with education leadership? Today’s school administrators are using marketing strategies, including the “Rule of Three,” to communicate school brand and positively influence behavior.

Here’s a case in point. It’s not found on one of your 500 TV channels, but it could be in your school. Your restorative practice implementation is a natural partner for a school brand effort.

Restorative practice focuses on behavior and community. Brand development impacts behavior and community. These are two different school practices that can be powerfully blended using a “Rule of Three” framework.

Your restorative practice implementation is a natural partner for a school brand effort.

In the words of New York City education consultant Judith Wilson: “Branding a restorative justice program powers the why of the program. Its name, in two words, tells the what. But connecting a branding why through the power of three deepens the program’s value to the school community.”

During a recent leadership training session, principals leading restorative justice practice at their schools examined the concept of school brand using “Image, Promise, Result.” 


Read: Why districts are adopting restorative justice practices


Marsha Elliott, the New York City Department of Education’s senior administrator for school culture and climate, put it this way: “Branding begins with building relationships of trust, authenticity, loyalty and transparency. These are not only foundational for building a whole school brand, but they personally connect to restorative practices. By having students build their own personal brands, they can positively relate to their own communities.” 

‘Image, Promise, Result’ in action

Interested in refreshing the efforts of your school’s restorative practice implementation? Understanding “Image, Promise, Result” is the first step.

Image: Brand image is about perception. Every successful brand, or school, is clear about its core values. A restorative program trains students in a proactive way to understand and formulate their own visions and goals. By asking “How do you want people to see you?” and “What messages are you conveying?” you start developing powerful brand awareness in students.


Read: We don’t need another hero


Promise: Brand promise delivers exactly what audiences expect. A successful brand takes its promise seriously and delivers on it. Restorative justice is about defining and delivering on agreements and social contracts in an organic way that expresses values, wants and needs. When the promise is broken, as can happen with corporate brands, repairs are necessary through repositioning the brand and showing true value and accountability. This is also a tenet of restorative justice practice. Positive change is maximized when an agreement—the promise—is kept.

Result:  Brand result is about transparency. A brand gives people something to believe in, and the best brands take responsibility. Any brand that doesn’t quickly loses business. Restorative justice is all about taking responsibility. The ability for those in the program to communicate, to confess, to repent or to ask for forgiveness mirrors what all legacy brands have done for years.

An additional benefit: shared storytelling. “It’s a natural way to form bonds even when a connection has been broken,” says Elliott, of NYC DOE. “In restorative practices, a story creates empathy.”


Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.