Looking up

Today, we wait for a change in the light. Just two hours south of the path of totality, Atlanta will see an impressive partial eclipse this afternoon. We’re told the moon will blot out more than 90% of the sun’s rays and create a dazzling “diamond ring” effect that our local meteorologists have been hyping for weeks.

It’s impossible to listen to the descriptions of the eclipse—night elbowing its way across an afternoon sky, a steep drop in temperature, the song of crickets at midday—without imagining how startling all this must have all been for people living hundreds or thousands of years ago. No weeks of news coverage, no NASA website to consult, no sales promotions on Moonpies. Just a sudden shift into unexpected darkness.

But for us, the eclipse is a happy event. This afternoon at the office, we’ll have lunch together then step out on the terrace to pass around the few precious pairs of safety glasses we managed to secure.  We’ll watch the skies change and the light shift and for a moment, we’ll all probably feel a little smaller in the grand scheme of things. And the very thing that must have unsettled our ancestors will give us cause to celebrate, to wonder, and to reflect.

That’s the difference preparation makes.

We’re in a season of celebration, wonder, and reflection here at CRANE, which goes well beyond the magic of today’s eclipse. Changes are coming—exciting, energizing changes that we’ve been planning for carefully over the course of several years. We’re ready and we’re thrilled.

And we hope that over the coming days and weeks, our supporters—our friends and families, our creative partners, our colleagues, and our extraordinary clients—will celebrate with us as we unfold all our carefully laid plans.

Please stay tuned.


by Dr. Leslie Batty,  CRANE writer 

It is always during a passing state of mind
that we make lasting resolutions.
Marcel Proust

It seems as if the new year just started, but here in Atlanta we’re swiftly rounding the corner into spring. Our dogwoods and our Blue Ridge foothills and our weather-beaten, ill-fated Falcons banners are awash in a glorious, clear light.

As we look back on the winter that was at the crane offices, we notice that 2017’s herd of new year’s resolutions has already been rather dramatically culled. Originally they included the tried and true inclinations to climb more stairs and eat less caramel, to practice gratitude and get to bed at a decent hour. A few colleagues pledged to watch less television and one was determined to spend more time roasting more things in a Big Green Egg.


Most of these promises were left out, in what passes for the cold here, sometime in early January.  Now, at the three-month mark, it seems the resolutions that survived are ones that aligned most closely and meaningfully with our existing values. Our nature-loving colleague has made good on her promise to hit the mountain trails twice a week. Our resident bibliophile is plowing through his book-per-week at top speed. The office sugar junkies/caramel disavowers, however, have long since slunk back to the candy drawer in our company kitchen.

The bottom line seems to be that we strive most strongly toward more of whatever already resonates with us. And perhaps that’s why new year’s resolutions, for all their storied fragility, tend to be substantial rather than superficial. The best resolution—the one most deeply felt and the most likely to stick—is really just a promise to circle back to the best of what’s already in us.

The same undercurrent of authenticity shapes our work at CRANE year round. Our clients don’t come to us to be reinvented, but for help to reintroduce their existing, differentiating truths. To flesh out what they already do beautifully. To better connect with the kinds of students and families they already serve brilliantly. Together, we resolve to create powerful, enduring messaging that sticks—because it connects to the best of what was already there all along, waiting to be excavated and exclaimed.

Magnifying Glass Old Book Dark Globe Lantern

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20 for 20: Lessons gleaned—and applied—after two decades of CRANE

September 1, 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Crane MetaMarketing.
We’re lifting a glass to salute our founder,
Patti Crane,
and sharing a bit about all she’s taught us along the way.

Late summer 1996. The Olympics have just wraPatti Crane headshot_2016pped in Atlanta, Georgia, and just north of town, Patti Crane opens Crane MetaMarketing Ltd., the culmination of her already two decades in the educational marketing industry. With CRANE, Patti builds upon her lifelong mission of serving as the transformative reframing partner to independent schools, colleges and universities, and nonprofits.

Twenty years later, CRANE has thrived precisely because we’re first and foremost a learning organization, continually thirsting for new ways of thinking that can, in turn, inform our clients’ thinking. And while this learning ethos began with Patti, over the past two decades it has transferred to everyone who has had the good fortune to call the cranesnest home.

Here’s a glimpse of the work and life lessons we’ve learned from Patti, from our time at CRANE, and on behalf of our clients.

CRANE faces blog2

Patti believes when you find good people to work with, you shape the job around their gifts.

Patti leverages CRANEs as her partners, rather than her employees. She empowers those around her, soliciting questions and welcoming contributions—whatever our job title—to ensure a thoughtful process that arrives at the best solution.

There is great power in team: when each member brings insight and perspective, a good idea advances into brilliance.

Right roles are crucial. When trustees, school administrators, and CRANEs are in their ideal roles—doing what each does best—superb outcomes result.

Trust your gut. If you stray too far from it, remember to circle back and re-look at where you started.

It often takes days, weeks, or months to get to the glorious, final “aha” moment. So celebrate that moment with a big bang on the desk and a loud cheer!

Speak truth—even when it’s hard. One of the wonderful things about working with mission-driven organizations is that they, too, are learning organizations. They don’t shy away from the hard conversations.

If an italic cap F has a slightly different angle than the lower case L—this is unacceptable.

Know your knowables. Some of the greatest insights emerge from deep context. Do your homework and the dots will (almost) connect themselves.

It’s never too late to rethink everything. Don’t close the door on creativity just because you think you’ve “run out of time.” There is always time to get it right.

There is always a third way. When trying to decide between two less-than-optimal options, go back to the beginning. There is always a third path; you just haven’t spotted it yet.

It’s important to learn to not say some things you’re accustomed to saying.

Shoebox it. When you’re working on a complex problem, there are times when you just need to put it in a box and shove it under the bed until you’re ready to tackle it again.

Empathy wins every time—with clients and with colleagues.

Every day presents an opportunity for growth. And then, after those days pile up to form a year, and those years a decade, you’re awestruck at just how far you’ve come.

Don’t be easily offended. You learn far more from a critique if you can appreciatively listen.

Open your eyes, your ears, and your mind, and all you need to solve a problem will be right there in front of you. Now the fun part is putting the puzzle pieces together.

Courage is more than half the battle.

The truth is not so much “out there” (as Fox Mulder might say), but in here—within all of us, individually and collectively. And we must do all we can to bring it out.

Patti squealing with delight over your font selection means you have gained the ultimate affirmation.

Clocks are simply suggested reading. Patti has more clocks and watches than anyone, but don’t be misled: they aren’t tools. They’re accessories.

Using methods somewhat indecipherable, Patti detects the slender, clarifying ray of light where others see only clouds of confusion.

There is no substitute for really good coffee!

Getting to the airport early is for wimps. There’s always another option.

Introverts really run things. We just let y’all loud ones think otherwise.

38109554 - origami paper bird on abstract background

Twenty  years ago, we had a Clinton in the White House, a gallon of gas cost $1.22, the Dow Jones surged over 6000 for the first time, the Spice Girls were singing “Wannabe,” Braveheart was Best Picture, and Deep Blue beat Gary Kasparov for the first time.

The more things change. . .

Twenty years later, CRANE continues to learn anew on behalf of our clients, while always remaining true to our founding (and founder’s) vision: that true differentiation emerges from within, that agape, or unconditionality, is the driving force behind transformative partnerships, and that the ultimate aim of the metamarketing process is to distill an institution’s highest shared truth so that prospects convince themselves.

. . . the more they stay the same, after all.

Thank you to all of our clients over these past two decades. Our work is only as good as your amazing institutions. And you inspire us every day.

Oh, and that was technically a 25 for 20. That’s another lesson Patti has taught us. Exceed expectations.


Warming your website welcome letter: from navigational chart to intriguing invitation

by Dr. Ann Gelder, CRANE writer 

The newest computer can merely compound, at speed,
the oldest problem in the relations between human beings,
and in the end the communicator will be confronted
with the old problem of what to say and how to say it.

–Edward R. Murrow


In approximately one million ways, computers have compounded the problem of what to say, and how we say it.

Your school’s website presents a case in point. Especially as busy, distracted, often anxious prospective parents comb through your site—plus those of five or ten or more other schools— looking for … what, exactly?

AP offerings and athletic teams, college matriculation lists and tuition costs—yes, no doubt. But above and beyond the nuts and bolts, your prospects seek a way in.

Not just your admissions procedures, but the key to understanding who you are as a school. For that, more often than not, they turn to the Head of School’s Welcome page.

And then, just possibly, they turn away again.

Because, just possibly, the welcome letter wasn’t quite what they were hoping for. Instead of quickly and powerfully conveying what your school, and only your school, offers, the letter might, for example, dash through a few paragraphs of generic jargon (“We value critical thinking, diversity, and a whole-child approach”), followed by a brief and probably unnecessary site-navigation guide (“Click on Athletics to learn about our sports programs”). And so, rather than “Welcome! Come on in!,” the prospect may hear, “Move along. Nothing more to see here.”

We’re not saying that every school’s welcome letter reads like this. Even if many do, they haven’t necessarily lost a prospect. But a less-than-optimal welcome letter represents a missed opportunity to draw the prospect further into your school’s world.

So what goes into a really welcoming welcome letter?

Writing Clipart 349

Take a look at your letter, and see if it includes these essential elements:

  • A clear, differentiating statement of your school’s vision. What kinds of individuals, thinkers, and citizens do you help create? How and why? *

At Langley, we know children’s social and emotional acuity is critical to their academic success—that’s why we intentionally nurture both in equal measure. We graduate uncommonly optimistic, grounded, poised, and kind learners and thinkers—citizens of the world, wholly prepared to thrive in the nation’s top high schools, and to lead lives of integrity and self-defined purpose. (Elinor Scully, The Langley School, McLean, Virginia)

  • Specific, differentiating examples of your vision in action.

Trevor’s school architecture embodies [our] commitment to children. Student-centered common spaces define the Trevor experience. Here, teachers and students collaborate in a dynamic manner, and together, navigate a classic curriculum that leads to academic mastery, innovative thinking, and a global perspective. (Scott R. Reisinger, Trevor Day School, New York, New York)

  • A compelling sense of what it’s like to learn and grow at this school every day, not just for students, but for parents, teachers, and staff members, too.

You hear, in the laughter and excitement of our lower school students, the lure of curiosity and the thrill of discovery. You see, in the faces of our middle school students, the joy they find in discovering emerging interests and latent talents. You feel, in the passionate exchanges among our upper school students, the confidence that comes when sustained and focused investigations reveal to them their own values and convictions. For all of our students, learning is powerful and transformative, and it’s a great pleasure to watch it unfold. (Christopher P. Garten, The Seven Hills School, Cincinnati, Ohio)

  • A warm, engaging voice that doesn’t just tell prospects who you are, but actually embodies your school’s and your head’s (merged) personalities.

When I walk through our light-filled hallways and see our 4th graders discussing the nuances of evolution and revolution then and now, Kindergarteners installing Goldsworthy-inspired art in our hallways, 2nd graders preparing to present their history of the Seaport to a community board hearing, 4-year-olds performing plays based on original beanstalk stories that grew out of their study of edible plants… I know we have unearthed a secret that many have spoken about but not enough experience: powerful, deep learning is joyful. (Allison Gaines Pell, The Blue School, New York, New York)

In each of these letters, the schools, through their heads, express themselves. In a few paragraphs, they give prospects a memorable and meaningful sense of who they are, what they do, and—always, always, always—why.

sm-Oakwood_ATP_0515126_LR* *Disclosure: Each of these schools has been a CRANE client.





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Sticking our beak into the arena

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

–T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The silence, we’ve been told, has been deafening.

And not in a good way, like during meditation, but in the disconcerting “The Sound of Silence” way.


For years and years now—and a few more years on top of those—CRANE has been steadily busy doing what we’re supposed to be doing: Helping our clients claim their rightful market position. Establish their institutional voice. Adopt a dynamic visual aesthetic. Grapple with big strategic issues. Achieve internal alignment. And, on the whole, grow as healthy, self-actualized institutions prepared for whatever happens next.

On that front, we’re all systems go.

But. . .

We’ve been equally unbusy establishing our own digital presence. Blogging. Posting. Sharing ideas. Making ourselves a known entity outside the small circles in which we interact face-to-face. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve been unbusy applying to ourselves the same social media advice that we have grown so accustomed to giving our clients.

Hello darkness, indeed.

So, after a few friends politely questioned why they couldn’t follow CRANE online, why, aside from our website, scant evidence of our existence could be found anywhere on the web, we knew it was time.


Actually, we realized that the time had long passed. But we meta-realized now was the time to actually do something about our lack of a social media presence, rather than wax poetic about it and then lose ourselves, once more, to the Siren-song of inertia.

Shakespeare probably put it best: Action is eloquence. So here we go.


CRANE isn’t just a name. It’s a metaphor! We’re full of surprises. So of course our blog name—in the fold—ties into our overall metaphor of transformative brandwork.

  • Start with a piece of origami paper—something that possesses inherent beauty and worth.
  • Apply expertise—fold it in very specific, often difficult ways. But never sacrifice the integrity of the paper by cutting, gluing, decorating, or appliqueing.
  • Release the paper’s full potential. The two-dimensional paper was a beautiful thing. The three-dimensional creation is a fully realized and transformed idea.

Crane origamiThe expertise of origami lies in the artfulness and precision applied in the fold. Mission-driven institutions, like a one-of-a-kind piece of origami paper, already possess all the inherent worth they ever need. By expertly “folding” in precise ways—by applying the metamarketing process—we help reveal the full, three-dimensional potential residing within.

Metaphors aside, we also want to invite anyone interested in education, in marketing and branding, in communication and design and strategy into the fold to learn more along with us.


We’re not going to try to catch up all at once and inundate this page with blogging for the sake of blogging. You can expect monthly blogs from various CRANEs sharing their perspectives on current topics in education and branding, on writing and design, on recently attended conferences, on books and articles we’ve read, on whatever seems interesting and relevant to us and adds value to the lives of our audiences. We’ll sprinkle in some interviews.

Maybe even some pearls of wisdom from our founder, Patti Crane. In between blogs, we’ll be active on Twitter and Facebook, to slake the thirst for CRANE you’re sure to develop shortly after reading this.

Should you choose to follow us, you’ll get some glimpses—fleeting, impressionistic, incomplete, but glimpses nonetheless—into the people behind the CRANE curtain. We’ve got an interesting collection of personalities all doing and making five days a week at the Nest (that’s what we call our office, because, again, the metaphor), and we think we could stand to be slightly less anonymous to our clients, prospects, and peers in the industry. But we’re not going to be too cute about it either and post pictures of the deer grazing on the blackberry bushes behind the office. Well, ok, no promises there. But if we do that, we’ll figure out a way to tie it into something at least tangentially relevant.

"I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless…" - New Yorker Cartoon
Alex Gregory cartoon originally published in The New Yorker on September 12, 2005.


This post is going to be as CRANE-centric and naval-gazey as we get on here. You’ll be hearing from all sorts of CRANEs on this blog, but not so much about CRANE. By us, but not about us. You get the point.

So thanks for your patience. We know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for years for this very occasion, and that very likely you’re right now frantically messaging your friends and loved ones with the triumphant news: CRANE has a blog! Let’s cash in the 401k and head for Vegas! But first, we need to locate the fatted calf!

But seriously, we do look forward to the conversations and connections that will surely come out of this new venture. The deafening silence ends now. Our earnest intent is to fill that space with content that will at least make you think, and sometimes laugh, and sometimes just nod along with us, and other times disagree. We’re so happy to have you along.

Here’s where you can follow us: