- Plan and execute a strategic process for creating and communicating your school’s brand.
- Create a brand you want people to hear, see, and feel when they interact with your school district.
- Your school’s brand is how you do things. It is your culture. It is the WHY that drives you. And it’s the WAY you achieve your goals.
- Create and market your school’s brand by creating a branding team and branding strategy.
- Create your brand identity, then plan and excecute brand marketing.
Let’s get one thing out of the way…YES, you should be marketing your school’s brand. Period.
Students have more choices than ever these days, and those choices are not going away any time soon. In fact, it’s more likely that they will have an increasing number of choices every year. This means your school needs to get the word out, communicate your value, and build yourself as one of the best choices for students.
You need to market your district. You need to build a brand that students and stakeholders want to be a part of.
Most likely, your school district already has a brand, so we’re really talking about “rebranding” here. For this post, though, I’m just going to refer to it as “branding.” However you want to look at it, we’re talking about thinking through, planning out, and executing a strategic process for creating and communicating the brand you want people to hear, see, and feel when they interact with your school district.Give people experiences that instill a positive emotional response to seeing your logo, hearing your name, and wearing your colors. Build a brand that people want to be a part of. Click To Tweet
Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. So…what is a brand?
Well, first off, it’s one of those widely used words that is oftentimes misunderstood or misrepresented. The definition itself comes from back in the day when cattle ranchers would use branding irons to mark which animals were theirs. As packaged goods continued to rise, the companies that produced them would put their mark (logo, name, etc.) on them for the same reason, to let people know who made it.
As time went on and producers of these goods found more and more competition, placing their logo on the package became less about just letting someone know who made it, and more about helping people choose which items they should buy. Logos and “branding” became the way producers would help potential customers distinguish their products from all the others.
As we moved further through the 20th century, marketers figured out that there was more to getting people to buy products than just a name. Marketers realized we could shape the perception customers have about the quality of a product or service. Thus, creating a “brand” was born.
So, what is your school’s brand? Is it your logo? Is it your mascot? Your colors?
Well, yes…and no. To simplify it: Your school’s “brand” is how people feel when they see your logo, hear your school’s name, and wear your district’s colors. It is the perception people have of the service you provide: educating kids and preparing them for the future.
Your brand name (your school’s name) and your branding elements (logo, colors, mascot) are what people can see. Your BRAND exists in their minds. Your school’s brand is how you do things. It is your culture. It is the WHY that drives you and the WAY you achieve your goals. It is how your community members feel when they see your logo, hear your school’s name, or wear your district’s colors. It is the emotion they feel when they think of your school.
Jeff Bezos says it like this: “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.”
What do people say about your school when you’re not in the room?
Let’s look at 4 steps you can take to create and market your school’s brand.
#1: Create a Branding Team
Who will be responsible for leading the efforts to create and execute your school’s branding? This should most definitely include people from your district level administration team, such as your superintendent, someone from your school board, and whoever handles your communication efforts. But it should also include building level administrators, classroom teachers, and support staff.
I strongly recommend spending some time to ensure you are bringing in the right people—those who have a passion for what your school does and who want to help share your story.
#2: Create a Brand Strategy
Your brand strategy is the blueprint for how you will share your purpose, your WHY, your commitments to your community, and how you will care for, support, and grow students to be successful.
Your brand strategy is a foundational component to a strong school brand, and should include things like:
- Brand discovery – Think of this as an audit to align your branding goals and strategy. Start by asking questions like, “What are our core values?” “What problems do we solve for our students?” “What aspects of what we do are most important to our community?” and “How do we measure success?”
- Competitor research – Yes, you should be looking at other schools. Not to steal what they’re doing, but to see what might be working for someone else, and get some inspiration for how you can best share your story.
- Target audience – Who is in your community and what is important to them?
- Brand voice – Be consistent with the voice you are creating and the ways you communicate.
- Brand message & story – What message and story are most important to be shared with your audience?
#3: Create Your Brand Identity
Your brand identity is how you communicate your brand with people through visuals, content, and experiences. Your brand identity may consist of your logo, colors, fonts, website design, the content you create, etc. and should be consistent across all platforms you use to communicate your brand.
Once you’ve went through the process of finding the right font, color palette, logo, website, etc., create a “Brand Style Guide.”
A Brand Style Guide is just a document or series of documents that outlines your design assets (logo, colors, fonts, etc.), when and how to use them, as well as any design do’s and don’ts for your brand. The purpose of this guide is to ensure you stay consistent with branding, everyone on the team knows where and how to easily access whatever they need, and that any future designs will stay on brand and in line with your brand identity. Essentially, this is a “rulebook” or reference sheet for how your school presents itself to your community and the world, utilizing things like your logo, colors, fonts, etc.
#4: Plan & Execute Brand Marketing
This consists of all the ways you highlight and bring awareness to what you do. You do this by connecting your values and your brand voice to the things that matter to your target audience (your community). This might consist of social media, SEO and website design, email marketing and communication, local advertising through postcards, flyers, etc.
Look at your website. Is it designed so that your brand, vision, and voice are clear and consistent? Does it look good on desktop and mobile devices? Is it easy to navigate and find information?
Next, look at your social media integration. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, whatever you decide to use—are you utilizing them efficiently and sharing your story in alignment with your brand strategy?
Finally, look at you non-digital communication, such as signage, promotional materials, newsletters, press releases, sports uniforms, your mascot, etc. Everything you do and every way you interact with your community should clearly and consistently communicate your brand.
Wrapping It Up
Keeping community members engaged and excited to be a part of your school district takes more work these days. Distinguishing your district from others requires you to be strategic, intentional, and consistent in how you communicate. Share the amazing things you do. Build pride through your stories. Give people experiences that instill a positive emotional response to seeing your logo, hearing your name, and wearing your colors. Build a brand that people want to be a part of. Or as Jeff Bezos might say, build a brand that people will speak highly of…even when you’re not in the room.
About Jeff Gargas
Jeff Gargas is the COO and co-founder of the Teach Better Team, and co-author of the Teach Better book. Prior to co-founding Teach Better Team, Jeff was the owner of ENI Multimedia, an online marketing firm, where he worked with entrepreneurs and small businesses, assisting them with web design, social media, content marketing, and brand awareness.
Prior to all of this, Jeff was an adjunctive professor at Kent State University and spent 10+ years in the music industry. He has spoken at conferences around the country, and has successfully promoted more than 500 events and launched 7 businesses in a variety of industries.
Jeff is passionate about music, and enjoys spending time with his family as often as possible. He is also a member of the Teach Better Speakers Network.