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How to Achieve Brand Consistency in Your Charter Network

Every charter network has a brand, whether they like it or not. Even if the notions of “brand” or “marketing” feel counter-academic to schools, they have a brand. The most successful charter schools have begun to embrace not only their own brand, but the very notion that they can, through strategic investment, reshape their brand over time.

Brand Consistency, Defined

Here at Educational Brands, we think about brand as your purpose—a way of viewing the world and your network’s place in it. But suffice to say, your brand is so much more than your logo, colors, and tagline.

The most succinct definition still comes from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon: Brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

For a charter network, brand consistency means that every interaction your schools have with their audiences—students, parents, staff and faculty, etc.—springs from the same, agreed-upon set of messages. Every email, every lookbook, every letter, every call to the Registrar’s Office, every presentation at open house—they all, more less, say the same things in the same way.

But that’s easier said than done because charter school networks face one huge challenge that most organizations don’t: decentralization.

Why Charter Networks Have a Tough Time With Brand Consistency

We have uncovered three factors contributing to a charter network’s difficulty with brand consistency:

1. Networks are Complicated

Even the smallest school network are startlingly complex organizations. And the organizational management of a multi-city, multi-county, even multi-state charter system could take months to unravel and understand.

With so many audiences, people, physical buildings, communications, and agendas at play, formulating a single brand identity is difficult enough for a board of directors—let alone trying to get all the faculty, staff, and vendors on the same page.

2. Decisions are Decentralized

In other words, a charter network is really just a collection of individual regions and schools. The Pinecrest Academy Network operates schools in different regions of the county of Miami-Dade, in different counties in the State of Florida, and in two very distinct regions of the United States: The Southeast and the West.

Each group within a network has its own passions, goals, and strategies. Rolling all of them up into a single brand identity requires a great deal of research and compromise. And even if a network can put its brand identity into concrete language, pushing that language down to the individual level is a nonstop endeavor for its board of directors.

The Benefits of Brand Consistency for Charter Networks

1. Brand Consistency Builds Trust

This is the big kahuna of brand consistency. Without trust, no charter school network organization can sustain success over the long term.

But audience trust may be especially important to charter schools, which are (usually) competing against public and private schools with stronger athletic programs.

Brand consistency helps bolster trust, because at every interaction, your audiences sense that you’re thoughtful, authentic, and buttoned-up. Consistency suggests professionalism and organization. It tells students and staff that you’ve spent the time, resources, and intellectual capital required to deliver a compelling message to the community.

Inconsistency, meanwhile, can quickly shatter your credibility. If what a parent reads in an enrollment letter differs from what they read on a website, they grow confused. Confusion, in turn, produces a negative association with your brand. That association can cement quickly and be difficult (or impossible) to overcome.

Another example: Schools in your network are trying to recruit new teachers. That potential talent goes to your network’s official website and sees inconsistent branding, they might have second thoughts about what they are getting into.

The Takeaway: If your audience doesn’t trust your brand, they will not engage with it long term—no matter how enticing your employment incentives.

2. Brand Consistency Makes You Learnable

Especially for new parents, the sheer amount of stuff needed to get your kid started in a great school can be overwhelming. The applications, the medical forms, the open houses, the websites, the after-school programs, and so on. The campus alone might be like walking blindfolded into a hedge maze.

Brand consistency makes your schools more learnable. It reduces what we in the sales world call “confused buyers.” Confused buyers big no-no, because we know when people are confused and having to think hard about something, their comprehension and affection tends to plummet. The easier you make an experience for someone, the more able you are to hook into their emotions (instead of their rational, logical selves).

Brand consistency helps demystify the networks overall experience. It makes prospective students, parents, staff, etc. feel your brand more than think about it. They come to understand who you are, what you offer, and how you can help them.

Brand consistency helps demystify the charter education experience.

When confusion disappears, you’re much more likely to influence the behaviors you want (e.g., more enrollment).

The Takeaway: Brand consistency is important to making your audience understand you. Inconsistent messages increase confusion, which is a needless roadblock.

3. Brand Consistency Makes Communication Work More Efficient

Schools within a charter network have a ton of interactions with their audiences. Even parents who don’t end up applying might encounter a particular network’s brand dozens of times in multiple ways before they decide against it.

Given the sheer number of complex interactions a charter network initiates, efficiency is an important goal. You want to make the process of applying, enrolling, registering, and connecting as resource-light as possible.

The Takeaway: The more consistent your brand and messaging, the more quickly your users will be able to get stuff done. That ends up saving your school time and money.

Final Word on Brand Consistency for Charter Networks

Having designed brands for multiple charter networks, we know that lack of brand consistency is a serious (and fixable) blight on many schools. Without brand consistency, your charter network is missing opportunities. And without developing strategies for instituting networkwide brand consistency, your schools are sacrificing trust, connection, and efficiency.


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