School Branding - Why It Matters
So what is a school brand anyway? When thinking about “brands,” you might picture product name brands such as popular snacks or soda items. In the education world, your brand is much more. Your brand is what defines your school. According to brand consultant and author Alina Wheeler, a brand is known as the promise, the big idea, the guide, and the expectations of those involved. School branding also includes making an emotional connection with your institution. In this blog, we’ll discuss three core principles at the heart of effective school branding that facilitate successful marketing for schools.
Identify Your Current School Brand:
When trying to identify your school brand, ask yourself: Who are we? What do we stand for? What is our mission? Also, remember, when looking at your own school, take time to look around at the variety of schools that pull from your potential enrollment pool. What is their school branding like and how are they marketing to the students in your area?
Principles at the Heart of School Branding
1. Don’t do it alone.
It’s impossible to see the big picture using one person’s perspective. That’s why, as you identify your school brand, it’s important to get input from outside your offices. Similarly, implementing and building your brand is not something your school administration can do alone and do it accurately. You will need the help of the community, faculty, students, and parents. Just as the blind men described various aspects of the elephant, various voices in your school community can help in the school branding process. Remember, branding is about defining who you are, and that extends to all aspects of your presentation, including your website.
2. Be consistent and accurate with your school marketing.
Trust is earned. Accuracy is a hallmark quality when it comes to gaining trust from current and prospective students and their families. With so many people involved in your school and your brand, it’s impossible to avoid mistakes in accuracy and consistency. But mistakes don’t have to define you. For starters, as you identify certain weaknesses in your school brand, try your best to learn from them, and seek ways to turn them to strengths.
Consider the many messages sent out from your school. How current and consistent are the images you use on your school website? Does your school letterhead match your school website? School branding also involves logos and images. Do you use different logos based on the platform you are using? Is it time to update your logo and website? Not only is it important to be consistent in the images on various school communications, but it’s important to look for ways that your school branding tells a story. Do you live in the mountains? Near the ocean? Look for ways your school branding connects your school to your local community's geography and history.
In the previous section, you listed key attributes for your school. Take these attributes and compare them to your current school marketing plan. Ask yourself as well as your school community:
- Do the attributes listed communicate our school’s identity as an institution of learning?
- Are there messages coming out of our school community that are contrary to our school’s key attributes? What actions can we take regarding negative messages?
- Does our school marketing plan appropriately represent these key attributes?
3. Share your daily realities with effective school storytelling.
Thanks to today’s technology, your school has an intricate web of stories shooting out into the World Wide Web every day. Through the use of social media platforms, your students and others in the community tell stories connected to your school every day. They post pictures, vent about homework and teachers, capture memories at sports events, and share stories that define your school in myriad ways. These stories are out there already—some positive and some negative.
So the question is—will your school be silent in the school storytelling ring, or will you speak up? Telling your school’s story is critical. Help prospective students and their families build their perception of your school based upon accurate information rather than upon misinformation, word of mouth, or outside publications. In order to influence the perceptions, schools need to create the realities they want others to see. This means including all voices (students, faculty, admin, parents, etc.) in your storytelling.
In addition to using various voices, your school should also be using various online media platforms and other ways to tell your school’s story. Here are a few questions to help you measure your effectiveness in sharing your school’s stories:
- How would you rate your success this year so far, in regards to your goals for your school communications?
- Do your core values exhibit themselves on your school blog, website, and other social media platforms?
- Are you effectively and appropriately sharing your school’s successes and strengths?
- How are you publicizing your school’s strengths (individual and school group successes)?
- How healthy is your school PR program?
- Are you utilizing a variety of means to reach a broader span of the school community?
Developing your school branding vital. Applying the principles you’ve read about here will help you better market your school. Collect your school’s stories that best manifest the key attributes that matter to your school community. Through analysis of what matters most to students, parents, and faculty, identify your core attributes as well as consistent unspoken messages through logos and images.
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