Sunday, November 27, 2016

5 Tips to Strengthen Your School’s Identity

There are many lessons we can learn from the business world and adapt in ways that align with education. Take the concept of branding that Trish Rubin and I discuss in detail in BrandED. Since the advent of media, organizations across the globe have worked tirelessly to build a positive brand presence that resonates with potential consumers.  In short, it represents a promise that is woven into a combination of words, design, colors, music, video, logo, service, etc. The promise that companies promote is aligned to specific attributes with the goal of creating a memorable experience.  If this goal is met the likelihood increases that a consumer will purchase their product. Mega brands like Apple, McDonald’s, and Nike have long embraced this concept of branding and the result has been the creation of a clear identity.

When it comes to education, people line up on both sides of the branding debate. From a purely business sense, I would be against the concept myself. The purpose of school is not to sell and increase profits.  This is something that we can all agree on. However, a school’s identity is extremely important in the eyes of the beholder, which in this case are key stakeholder groups consisting of students, parents, community members, local businesses, and educators. The idea of a promise to educate all learners and prepare them for success in a rapidly changing world is an expectation that cannot be ignored.  If this can’t be promised, then why would stakeholders support our schools or trust their children to educate them?

Identity matters in a digital world.  Do you want this created for your school, or would you like to be proactive in developing one? This is where the concept of branding has value and significance for schools.  The overreaching goal of a brandED strategy is to develop and sustain positive relationships with all stakeholders. It is not about selling, but a consistent focus on sharing and telling your story. The bottom line is that if you don’t tell your story, someone else will and the result could be an identity that does not align with your school’s mission, vision, or values.  

Embracing these elements of brandED thinking by becoming the storyteller-in-chief can begin the process of developing a powerful school identity that resonates.  Strengthen your school’s identity with these simple tips:
  1. Amplify great work that takes place on a daily basis by consistently sharing using a multi-faceted approach that blends traditional (newsletters, email, phone, face-to-face) with digital-age tools (social media). With social media, tools make sure your account pages are up to date (website links, avatars, profile information, etc.). It is also wise to educate your stakeholders on social media tools and how you will be using them to increase engagement.
  2. Build trust through transparency.  The benefits here are numerous, including attracting families to move to your local district or, in the case of tuition (private, parochial, independent) schools, making a greater financial investment. It can also help when it comes to referendums, passing the school budget, and engaging alumni with the hopes of donating time, money, and resources.
  3. Focus on elements that align with a thriving school culture, such as innovative learning, student achievement, staff accomplishments, college/career readiness, partnerships, unique traditions, and extra-curricular activities.
  4. Empower others to be active sharers and avoid a gatekeeper mentality when it comes to sharing the story of your school.  Encourage different departments, student groups, parent organizations, and extra-curricular activities to maintain social media accounts.
  5. Regularly recognizing the work of educators and students in your school can be inspirational. The result can be greater levels of motivation and appreciation, which helps to develop a positive school culture. Develop a template to curate all the great work occurring on a monthly basis. The report can then be shared in its entirety or broken up into numerous blog posts.  
In an educational sense, the identity of your school (or even yourself) is not only determined by the work, but also by how the work is shared.  It stands for who you are.  Being cognizant of this fact allows you to be proactive in creating an identity that resonates with all stakeholders. Think about the identity that you, your students, and your staff want. By using the tips above, engaging stakeholders in two-way communications, and taking control of your public relations, in time, you will create an identity that truly depicts the amazing work taking place on a daily basis.


  1. With increased school competition and uncertainty, having a strong school voice and brand is essential. This is a great list for creating and maintaining an identity that your staff and community can be proud of.

  2. Good stuff! One of my favorite quotes regarding school leadership is "If you don't tell your school's story, someone else will, and it probably won't be as accurate as you want it to be." Thanks for sharing, Eric!

  3. Wow, our school is behind the times and really needs to get with it, especially with the new competative school choice that Arizona is adopting.

    Thanks for the article, Eric.