It’s undeniable that schools share a great portion of their DNA with other educational options, so if you compare mission statements, website home pages, taglines and other published expressions, everybody seems a lot alike. Branding is important in rendering your school “differentiated,” but there are several indispensable factors that will help make your branding stick. Here are some questions to ask as you begin the new school year.
- Go beyond guessing at what people want to know. Are you paying attention to your audiences?
- Talking through why you are communicating and what outcomes you hope to achieve by staying in touch is an essential exercise—every communication should be tested before and after accordingly. Can you take time to think beyond the generalities of your value to the audiences you seek to attract?
- Ideally, there needs to be one spokesperson with the ultimate responsibility for how the school presents itself to the outside world. The head is way too busy and the director of communications may not have the authority to serve as the message czar. Does your job description match what you are called on to do every day?
- And it’s tempting for schools to simply repeat what they have done in the past, especially because communications work is often tacked onto a dozen peoples’ inherited job descriptions. Is the foundation of your messaging decentralized?
- Schools may be distracted by considerations of cost over quality in the execution of their digital and print communications. But you’re not saving money or achieving your goals by producing communications when pinched resources compromise the wow factor. Are you regularly measuring the quality and impact of your work (think beyond anecdotal)?
- Competing interests lead schools to make political decisions in choice of content and who’s contributing. Squeaky wheel parents, time-honored teachers, and “important” sources may represent a mix of voices, but their collective focus is likely on the immediate school family, and you need to reach to a wider audience. Can you say yes and no to demands for space, quality of writing and photo choices?
- Crafting your marketing communications to meet institutional strategic objectives is demanding work in a culture of change. Interest and preferences are swinging toward digital platforms—website, email and social media. Are you putting your message in the right place? Do the elements of your marketing communications plan need a review?
For 2017–18, spend more of your time listening, evaluating and looking at great work from other schools. That’s the first step in finding your way toward the uniqueness in your school. For a great free read, download Messaging and Branding: A How-To Guide by Peter Gow and Carol Cheney, published by NAIS.