People often think of a brand as the visual or graphic symbol you use to depict a school district or education organization. The truth is, even though your logo is vitally important, it is only a small part of your true, authentic brand.
One of the reasons many school districts miss the mark with branding is because they start with the design of a logo instead of starting with research about who they really are in the eyes of their stakeholders.
Your brand is equal to your reputation, and includes the words or concepts you own in people’s minds. Your brand is based on the promises you keep (not just the ones you make) and is derived from what people experience every time they interact with your organization. The brand experience drives the brand promise, and the brand promise is the essence of who you truly are as an organization. It is 80 percent experience, and only 20 percent communication.
Here are some things to consider when developing a brand or rebranding:
- Do the research. You have to know what your reputation is before you determine what you want it to become. What do your key stakeholders think of you, how do they find out about you, and what do they experience when they interact with your district, schools and employees?
- Create a strategic branding plan based on your research. Remember, trust is built on experience, not awareness. That’s why internal communications, customer service and ongoing professional development are essential branding strategies at all levels within your school district. Your brand messaging should be aspirational, and align with your strategic vision, mission and core values.
- Collaboration = cooperation. It is important to involve stakeholders in dialogue about the brand, but do not select the brand mark or logo by committee or contest. It just doesn’t work, and you will end up with a watered-down, plain vanilla look. A brand logo should be designed by a professional.
- Don’t forget to include internal and external brand launch strategies as part of the plan. Everyone needs to understand the “why” or meaning behind the brand. Nothing flops faster than a poorly launched brand.
- Measure your results and adjust accordingly. Know that branding initiatives are not for the faint of heart. With steadfast leadership support and a proper launch, you will minimize the number of naysayers and they will likely get on board after a while.
Brand-building is hard work, but so worth it. Truly effective school brands build loyalty, pride and support among all of your key stakeholders. A strong brand equips your ambassadors with the behaviors, messages and tools that will resonate internally and externally and reflect what sets you apart in a competitive education market.
Not sure where to start? CESO can help you Rethink Branding.
Susan Hardy Brooks serves as a Senior Strategist on our CESO Communications team. As a past-president of the National School Public Relations Association, she enjoys building collaborative relationships with clients and peers, and has extensive experience in strategy, research, brand management, leadership, marketing and crisis communications. She has been a trusted advisor to K-12 school districts, technology centers, colleges, universities, and state and national education associations for more than 40 years.