The Importance of “School Branding”
Just like any other business, schools have brand equity too, they have a “market” position, and are perceived in a certain way in the minds of their clients.
First impressions count. In fact every time a school communicates with its public (be it with existing parents, current students, potential students & staff or the local community) a perception of the school is created. The tone with which the receptionist answers calls on the switchboard, the copy and layout of weekly newsletters, the look and feel of the school prospectus, the function and personality of the school website – all of these communication vehicles contribute to the branding of the school. And it is very easy to send out mixed messages and dilute the school’s key strengths and promises.
The key to developing a strong school brand is to ensure the messages are well defined and consistent. Consistent branding will help the school create a personality that aligns with its core purpose. It will help those not familiar with the school to build trust in the school and to see the school in a professional light. It will engage the local community. It will help promote the school’s values and ethos and it will cement in the minds of the stakeholders the unique aspects of the school that sets it apart from other schools.
So if you are happy having different colour schemes, different visual imagery, different typefaces and mixed messages in your communication vehicles, then fine. But you may be missing out on the opportunity to drive home your key values and unique selling points (USPs).
Here are a few pointers to developing a solid school brand.
Developing Your USP
Set up a small branding team of people and perform some basic research. Ask questions about what sets your school apart from your competitors to staff across all levels of the school – from the top leadership team to the admin and clerical staff. Ask the parent teachers assocation. Ask members of the local community. Develop a real, deliverable promise that your school can keep. This is your school’s USP and it should include not only a positioning statement but also your key messages, logo, colour scheme and visual language.
Develop A Style Guide
Create a guide that spells out the necessary elements required to ensure consistency of your brand. This should include visual identity elements for consistent brand management, such as which PMS colours to use and when, which typography to use, the layout of html emails or newsletters, the size and positioning of the school logo etc.
Redesign Your Communication Materials
Make a list of the materials or vehicles that are in most pressing need of changing (eg top of the list would be the ‘first impression vehicles with prospective customers’ such as external signage, website, prospectus, stationery). After this might come uniforms, newsletters, html email). Then re-design these in order of priority so that all have the same tone, look and feel.
Create Electronic templates
Establish standard electronic templates for internal use so correspondence and communication materials are formulated consistently.
Try to get the Principal to buy in to the idea of teaching all stakeholders on the importance of the school brand. For example, there could be an opportunity to include the branding topic at the next full staff meeting or PD opportunity.
Choose Brand Ambassadors
Ask the Principal to endorse the selection a few key staff members from a cross section of the school to act as brand ambassadors. These are the people who will most likely be in regular interaction with the school’s community and who will drive home the school’s promise.