Some might say as long as you’re getting the message out there, what’s the problem if the branding is a bit… ‘off’? In actual fact, this could be damaging how your school brand is being perceived.
Whether it’s a teacher applying for a role at your school, or a parent scoping out the perfect placement for their child, your audience wants an experience they can trust. If they can’t make sense of what you’re all about, they’ll search out a school they can identify with.
This is not to say you don’t already have a handle on your branding and are doing an amazing job communicating your brand. That’s great news, but if you think there are improvements to be made, it’s worth looking at standardising your school communications and getting a proper brand strategy in place. This will help you:
- Communicate a comprehensive picture of your school reputation, integrity and values.
- Reduce the workload and time commitment for staff.
- Support the effectiveness of advertising activities such as pupil and teacher resourcing through a more unified identity and targeted messaging.
- Align your activities, rather than allowing individual school sites to manage their own brands e.g. if you’re a Multi-Academy Trust or have multiple locations.
- Create a seamless, compelling experience across all communications channels.
Getting a coherent balance in the use of logos, images and even tone of voice is a challenge for many schools. Ensuring people find a consistent version of your brand everywhere is important for building a sense of familiarity, dependability and trust. This is why it’s so important to maintain a consistent approach across all of your marketing activities.
Inconsistencies happen for many reasons. It might be that multiple departments are responsible for producing the prospectus, managing social media or maintaining the school website. It’s then easy for brand elements to start to disintegrate. Also, when a school has more than one site with different marketing staff at each location, each location can end up producing its own version of the school brand.
So how do you start?
Is the design of your current branding consistent and does it speak to your audience? Check your logo, your font, and even your colours.
It might be that the font choice differs from website to social media. Don’t change it up just because you get bored with the same old style. Typically two fonts are all you need (one for text and another for titles and subtitles). This is a simple fix, but if your brand has truly ‘gone rogue’ and differs across all channels, it might be time to seek outside help to agree on a consistent approach.
School brand guidelines
If you have more than one person dealing with the branding and marketing of your school, the best way to avoid inconsistent branding is with a style guide. Plenty of commercial businesses take this approach to getting a consistent brand, so why not schools? Just look at Skype, Spotify and Twitter to get an idea.
Your brand guides should include some or all of the following:
- Your logo design, how to use it and how not to.
- Your school motto, or tagline.
- Primary and secondary colour palettes.
- School photography.
- Tone of voice for copywriting.
The good thing about a brand guideline is you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with a whole new brand, just get a direction in place for how you use your current logo, colours and fonts to best effect.
Set up a digital asset library
Make sure that all departments involved in school marketing have access to the same brand guidelines, fonts, colours and photography. An asset library is an important tool for storing marketing assets and supplying them for use. It helps you determine what assets are already in place and keep tabs on version control.
An asset management system can help you organise your asset library, although these can be expensive. If this is out of your budget, you can use Google Drive or Dropbox for free and invite your colleagues’ to have access to the files they need.
Establish a tone of voice
Once you’ve got your brand image sussed, it’s time to break down your school’s voice. This refers to how you speak to your pupils, parents and prospective staff. The tone is an important part of your school’s personality, and it’s important to make sure that it stays the same across all channels.
If you have separate people doing your copywriting and social media posts, make sure that these are included in the brand guidelines, so that they know the key points that should remain the same when they’re writing.
Make sure everyone knows ‘the rules’
Once created, you need to maintain the integrity of all your brand strategy by making sure everyone knows the ‘rules’. Share the guidelines with everyone who comes into contact with the school marketing activities and make sure the message remains consistent.
Download our free Brand Consistency Checklist to identify areas for improvement in your school branding. It’s easy to get pulled away from your initial brand identity when you’re trying to market your school. A good way to make sure that you don’t lose track of where you’ve come from is to get a clear idea of where your brand is right now.
Thank you to highereducationmarketing.com’s blog for inspiring this blog piece.