School Branding

A look at private school branding

In January, I was asked to give a presentation on school branding for the Texas Alliance of Accredited Private Schools’ annual conference. As schools look to regroup, now that summer vacation is upon us, I thought I would share a few insights from that speech. These ideas can elevate your brand and push your communications plan to the next level.

Like most industries, private institutions in the educational system live and die by their reputations. From educational philosophy and student-teacher ratios to attrition rates and safety, there are a host of factors at play when parents choose where their children will get an education—and it’s a school’s reputation that can often be the deciding factor.

There are dozens of private high schools and elementary schools in Austin alone. When the market is that saturated, having a consistent and distinct brand identity means you can outshine your competitors and draw new, talented students and teachers that further augment your school’s reputation.

Branding is all about perceptions and how to mold them to achieve your business goals. As a private educational institution, it’s crucial to maintain your reputation as a direct extension of your brand, building on it to create a coherent marketing strategy that allows you to promote the school more effectively to parents, teachers, the press and other stakeholders. It establishes an identity in which what you communicate verbally, visually or physically shape the perceptions and interpretations of the audience.

Everything you say, do and create affects your brand in some way: the words in a press release, your school mascot and fight song, the buildings on campus, the font, shapes and patterns in your logo, even what your school smells like affects how your institution is perceived. Individually, these assets might not seem like much. Holistically, they define who and what you are as an institution to the outside world. The details matter.

When creating or remaking your logo (and, by extension, your brand), use vibrant colors, compelling photos or shapes and develop a single tagline that represents and accurately relays your brand personality, values and message. Shorter is better.

One piece of free advice: Deploy a single logo, from your brochures to your website. Using multiple logos, fonts and images dilutes your brand and detracts from the consistent messaging you want to relay to your audience.

Social media has become a vital asset for schools, as millennial parents often look to social media for information, opinions and recommendations. Social media platforms provide schools with opportunities to engage with families and showcase their institutions without using a brochure or campus visit. It is not to be handled lightly, however. Social media is just like every other marketing tool. It requires planning and execution to function and deliver results that map to your business goals. Conversely, with the sheer volume of online interactions among students on social media channels, it’s imperative to install a crisis plan and support structure for emergencies either at school or at home.

Like what you’ve read so far and want to learn more about how these and other public relations strategies can augment your institution’s communications? Red Fan offers a number of partnership opportunities, from long-term help to one-off consulting options that can kickstart your PR efforts until you’re ready for a longer commitment.

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