Defining Your School Brand: 10 Questions You Must Answer
Today’s parents have tremendous choice when it comes to their children’s education.
Whether to choose a private, religious, charter, or public school are only a few of the many options available.
With so many choices and so many different messages out there, how do parents know what school is right for their child?
How can you communicate to parents that your school is the one?
In order to increase your enrollment and reach those prospective families, you must develop a strong and consistent brand. Your school is a business, and your families are your customers.
In this post, I focus on the importance of a strong brand that distinguishes your school from the crowd and the 10 questions you must answer to communicate your brand to parents considering your school as an option.
1. What is a School Brand and Why Does it Matter?
Look at these school logos and what they communicate about these two schools.
Your school brand is more than just your logo or your school colors. It’s the total package you have to offer. It’s what sets you apart from every other school.
Your brand communicates your school’s story – your history, your vision, and your future. Ultimately, your brand can make the difference in attracting families and establishing a name in your community.
Branding is your opportunity to connect with families and allows them to differentiate your school from a sea of others.
Alicia Wheeler, author of Designing Brand Identity believes, “Brand is the promise, the big idea, the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service, or company. Branding is about making an emotional connection.”
2. What is Our History?
Your school has a history, and it matters. When was it founded and by whom? What has it meant to the community? What do you stand for?
Do you have loyal alumni and support throughout the community?
Are they passionate about your school? Have them offer their testimonials and fond memories of your school.
Share your success stories from the past. Treasure your school’s past while looking ahead to the future.
This is one of many alumni testimonials for this school.
Whether your school has been around for many years or is relatively young, its history is the beginning of the story you want to share with parents.
3. What is Our Mission?
Ask yourself – How are we different? What do we hope to accomplish with our students?
Who is on the team to determine our mission?
Parents want to know what is special about your school.
You want to highlight your strengths. Highly qualified teachers? A rigorous curriculum? Fantastic arts program? Character education? Awesome sports program?
Maybe you can’t do it all, but what you do should be great. Communicate your vision, your greatest successes, and your proudest accomplishments to parents.
Education World’s George Pawlas suggests school administrators should commit to memory a list of six great things their school does well. He describes these as “Pride Statements”.
He thinks it’s a great idea to create banners or posters and display pride statements throughout the school.
Here are a few examples of pride statements he shares.
“Partin Elementary has consistently held A-Plus and Five-Star ratings.”
*“Edgewater High School has a wonderfully diverse, multicultural body that represents the real world.”
“We have a renaissance program – a school-wide program promoting academics, social responsibility, and attendance.”
“Our school has an anti-bullying program and encourages ongoing teacher training.”
“Our high school is the Engineering, Science, and Technology (EST) magnet school for the county.”*
Think about your school. What do you do best? Parents want to know.
4. How Do We Market our School To Parents?
Your school is a business and you must continue to attract new students to increase enrollment.
So, successfully marketing your school is crucial. This requires a multi-step approach.
You can’t just market your school at certain times of the year. This should occur continuously throughout the year and summer too.
When you have a strong identifiable brand, you are ready to market your school and attract your target audience.
Your website is key. It must be engaging and tell the story of your school. It should allow for interaction and inquiry from parents.
Take a look at these schools’ dynamic sites.
You must have an online presence in more ways than just your website though. Social media is a must to reach those would be students and their parents.
Having a strong Facebook presence as well as advertising on sites like Pinterest, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and other platforms is necessary to compete with other schools.
Make sure your social media presence is current and accessible through your website.
Hiring professionals to market your school brand will help you to develop a dynamic online presence and target your intended audience more effectively than going it alone.
5. Are We Consistent with our Message?
The consistency of your brand is the goal. Your message, your vision, your logo, and even your school colors should be consistent.
Recognizing your strengths and staying true to your message communicates confidence.
Sometimes schools make the mistake of using outdated images, multiple logos, and even varying slogans or taglines.
Your slogan or tagline should represent the spirit and mission of your school.
An effective tagline for your school should be compelling and concise. Those few words should set you apart from other schools.
And, they should be tailor-made for your targeted audience – a chance to sell your school. Be sure to use emotionally compelling language and keep it short summing up your school’s message.
Here are a few examples.
*“A Community of lifelong learners, responsible global citizens, and champions of our own success.”
“An art infused world.”
“Educating all students to achieve today and tomorrow in a global economy.”
Think about all your marketing materials – your website, brochures, and social media ads. Do they look consistent? Does it look like your school has one consistent brand? That is the plan.
6. What Do Students Love About our School?
Let your students do the talking. There’s no better messenger for your school than your happy, enthusiastic students.
Consider using social media to show them in action in the classroom and let them tell your story. Many schools today have video on their website that shows the best of what they have to offer.
Show your school climate – your beautiful campus, your dedicated teachers, and plenty of excited students.
Tony Sinanis, learning leader from Cantiague Elementary in Long Island, New York, wants his students to be part of the story.
Each week different students create Youtube updates about the exciting things happening in their school.
Sianias says, “The feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Who’s the best messenger for your brand? Your main customers of course – the kids.
7. Are We Engaged and Building Community?
This school is using social media to advertise their school while advertising an event.
Today’s parents insist on being involved in their children’s education. They desire authentic experiences for their children.
Think about ways you can involve parents beyond the parent-teacher conference.
Invite them in. Plan events at your school parents can be a part of. This fosters a feeling of community.
Consider art exhibits, concerts, parent nights, silent auctions, reading and science fairs, guest speakers – anything to get them involved.
You want to see a steady stream of parents walking the halls of your school – not just pulling up to the front door to pick up their child.
Consider asking parents to volunteer at your school. Use their varied talents and encourage opportunities for parents to connect with your faculty and other parents.
You want parents to absolutely love your school and be your biggest supporters.
8. What About MY Child?
You already know that every child who enters your school is unique in some way. With a diverse student body, you must be able to accommodate children with very specific needs.
You may not be able to accommodate every diverse need. But, parents deserve to know what you can do and that you do it well.
You should be ready to answer those questions when parents ask – What can you do for my child?
How are you serving intellectually or artistically gifted children? Children with learning disabilities? Or, children with dyslexia, ADHD, or emotional problems to name a few.
Do you have the support personnel in place to handle their child’s needs?
When a parent feels their child’s needs are being met, they know they are in the right place.
Make the parents happy, and they will become your biggest fans and great promoters for your school and your enrollment.
9. Why Choose Us?
Take a look at this school’s website. They want parents to know exactly WHY they should consider this school.
With a long list of schools parents can choose from, this is an important question to ask.
Your brand is the answer. Focus on the best aspects of what you have to offer.
Maybe it’s your high ACT and SAT scores or your award-winning debate or drama program.
Your innovative STEM program or your amazing extracurricular programs may be the best.
Maybe it’s a stream of successful alumni. You are unique, so your message must be too.
Again, this goes back to telling your story in a way that captures the attention of prospective families and assures them you are the best choice for their child.
Show them who you are, your contribution to the community, and most of all, how you outshine the competition.
10. What’s our future?
Yes, your school’s history is important, but even more important is your vision for the future.
As the leader of your school, your vision for the future matters to parents.
How do you hope to continue to grow as a school? What innovative programs are you hoping to implement?
What do you want to see your students accomplish? How will you benefit the community in the years to come?
Share your vision and your dreams with parents. Chances are if it matters to you and parents can see your passion, they will jump on board with your vision for the future.
As you can see, selling your school takes vision, dedication, creativity, and lots of hard work.
You want to create intrigue in your brand to keep those students enrolling. Keep your message fresh yet based on reality. And most importantly, keep your message consistent.
Are there any additional questions a school brand must answer? Let us know.