Parents are confronted with a multitude of messages about education with varying levels of importance and it’s difficult to cut through the clutter. To increase enrollments and build a strong reputation, independent schools must pay attention to their brand and what it communicates to parents, prospective families, and alumni.
What is a brand?
A brand is more than just a logo and colors. A strong brand distinguishes your private school from other choices and, more importantly, communicates a message that resonates with families. That emotional connection ultimately helps make the decision to apply.
An Inside Higher Ed article recently highlighted how many colleges and universities end up with similar brands. In fact, one higher-ed marketing agency wrote an entire book on the concept of three and a tree: when a college uses photos of “three students of varying ethnicities and gender, dressed head to toe in college-branded merchandise.”
Inez Feltscher of the American Legislative Exchange Council discussed brands in a recent Washington Examiner article stating:
“Parents will use branding to find educational programs that best jibe with their own visions of what education ought to be for their children.”
What can be done?
Branding is an opportunity, perhaps your first opportunity, to communicate with families about your school. There are five elements that support a strong and consistent brand for your independent school:
A Unique Value Proposition
Your school is unique; you just need a way to communicate that succinctly! A value proposition clearly states:
- Who you are targeting
- How you solve a problem or improve a situation
- The benefits you deliver
- What differentiates you from the competition
All that and in only a sentence or two! This exercise can be difficult, but your value proposition is the foundation for your private school and can be used for years to come. A good place to start may be to create a task force of staff with different tenure (old and new) and various backgrounds to brainstorm the best words to describe your school.
Documented Brand Guidelines
What is the minimum size for your logo? What are your school’s primary and secondary colors? What fonts do you use on the website or in printed letters? Brand guidelines simply define the look and feel of your school so that all staff can be consistent. Good brand guidelines define how to use your school’s logo, colors, and fonts. Great guides also expand on the value proposition to recommend images, tone, and words to evoke an emotional connection. Here’s an example of a brand voice and tone guide from the Indiana University Alumni Association.
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency!
It’s not enough to have brand guidelines, you need to follow them consistently across all mediums (and departments)! Your web presence (both your website and your social media) are more important than ever and all need to look and feel consistent with your printed materials. Be careful with how many variations your school has on its logo and color scheme, too many could dilute your brand.
How you describe your school should be similar, whether it’s the headmaster, teacher, or staff member talking. The value proposition is the foundation for all communications about your school, with messages tailored for specific audiences including students, parents, prospective families, and alumni.
Engage with Your Community
Your school isn’t just a campus. You’ve built a community of staff, students, parents, and alumni; and it’s important to openly communicate with everyone. Some communication is so engrained, you may not think about it: emails or letters to parents, talking with students, posting on your website, etc. But it’s important for your staff to use consistent language in every type of communication. Your community will adopt similar language and help spread your school’s unique message as they talk to prospective families and others in your larger community.
Social media is another great way to engage with your community in a more casual way and add personality to your school. Consider making a video, sharing funny photos, or simply showing the great activities already happening at your private school!
Digital Is the Future
More and more families will want to connect with your school digitally, making it essential to demonstrate that you are adopting emerging technologies to prepare students for the future. A polished website and social media presence are just the beginning. Now parents expect digital learning technologies to be incorporated into your classrooms.
Chalkable can be your all-in-one solution to the digital age. Chalkable Private School is built for the unique needs of independent schools.
- Support for promotional admissions videos
- Digital learning and student achievement module
- Tailored parent and student portals with web announcements and communication tools
- Donor development module
- Branded report cards and transcripts
- Added ease for parents (and you) including online payments, simplified admissions, lunch account management, and so much more.