How to build a strong brand for your school
Every school has written down a vision and a set of values. But writing down a vision and values statement doesn’t equate to being branded as a school that upholds these values. Building a brand is just like building school culture. It’s the stuff you say and do, it’s the way the school appears to your community. How your words and actions are perceived, not just by parents, but staff and students is what the core of great branding is about.
Branding is essentially a feeling people have about your school.
Seth Godin defines a brand as: “the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”
When most schools think about their brand they think about this:
While colour, font and visual appeal does contribute to branding, it’s what we say and do that is going to change people's feelings about your school.
It’s more important that your font, linework and graphics be consistent. Consistency means that people can identify a publication or event as being from your school, so it should feel familiar. However this is just the starting point.
Great branding tells a story
When building a brand, as Seth Godin mentions above, we need to be constantly telling stories that resonate the message of the school’s vision and values.
These stories should celebrate and build the following:
This is all about your vision and values. We should celebrate when members of the school community meet the vision and values. Write an article or mention students at a General Assembly. If we celebrate when people demonstrate what you expect, this builds your culture, and in turn, your school's brand.
What do you want people to think when they hear your school name? This is your chance to shape the image of the school. Write articles and tell stories that invoke the very best of what your school has to offer. Be specific about stories that are unique or that separate your school from others.
When we deal directly with staff, students, parents and even suppliers it’s vital to remember that you’re building a reputation. If you’re difficult to deal with, don’t get back to inquiries, or are rude to difficult parents, this starts to build a larger picture for the community that is either emboldened or tarnished when your community talks about your school to each other.
Remember, when it comes to your reputation, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. It’s your failings that will shape your image more rapidly than your good deeds.
“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”
— Benjamin Franklin
So what does good branding look like? Lets take a look this example Principal report in the school newsletter:
In this sampling of a real school newsletter we can see the aforementioned branding practise in action. This small article is a simple sum-up of a recent event, but hidden in this simple articles are the values of the college.
Immediately the Principal is encouraging the efforts of students and quickly moves to set the expectation that these events have an “exceptional” standard.
The Principal then moves on to model more of the school’s values, this time respect in recognising and complementing the efforts of the music staff.
Before simply signing off, everyone who attended is thanked to encourage attendance and illustrate that attending these events does in fact encourage the students.
In closing there is further iteration of the school’s values encouraging a mindset of enjoyment around their studies at the College.
The language used in this simple article is clearly building the culture and brand of the college.
It’s important to remember that no single thing builds a brand. When marketing companies want to design a brand for your school, there is no way for them to be successful in realising a successful brand. Branding is about everyone in the organisation sharing in the vision by the way the talk, write & communicate with staff students and parents. These little steps go a long way to building a strong culture where your school values are lived, not just spoken.