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The Seven Pillars of a Charter School Branding

How do you ensure that your charter school stands out in a competitive marketplace and cuts through the clutter without compromising on its desirability and independence? In this chapter, charter school branding expert Alex Miranda recommends seven elements to help your school develop and embed its brand, and effectively communicate what differentiates you from others.


What Is Branding And Why Does It Matter?

According to business guru Seth Godin, “A Brand is a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product over another.”


A charter school brand is ultimately why you do what you do, and then how you present that story every day to anyone that comes in contact with your school. Your school’s brand it’s like a promise you make to the staff, students, parents, and the entire community. We’ll come back to that later.


How does branding help you and your school?


  1. It helps your school speak with one voice.

  2. It offers your parents, staff, and students a concept they can identify and feel a sense of pride in.

  3. It allows prospective parents to see what’s different about you, and what makes you unique.

  4. It helps your school move forward with a clear focus.

The Seven Pillars of a Charter School Branding


At Educational Brands, we help our clients uncover their seven pillars that help us create a successful school brand for them. The seven pillars are how we build our brand strategy at the beginning and set the tone for brand management for years to come. These pillars are the magic sauce of how we break down their brand to form a coherent brand strategy.


Although all 7 pillars are important, it is the first 3 that God has truly given us the greatest and most unique insight into coming alongside school principals and their calling to lead a school. These are the first three pillars that form the foundation for the rest of the pillars to develop from. This is phase 1 of the onboarding of a new client:


  1. Brand Promise

  2. Positioning Statement

  3. Visual Identity


Let’s explore the 7 Pillars of Charter School Branding.


PILLAR 1: Uncovering Your Brand Promise


What is the importance of a charter school brand promise?


Let’s begin with the difference between the school’s brand promise and its mission statement. Your school’s mission statement describes what your school does. Almost every school will have this. If your school is part of a charter network, it’s usually an adaptation of your network’s mission statement.


Your brand promise, on the other hand, tells the community your purpose - what your school was born to do. It provides a beacon to guide your marketing and advertising strategy and holds you accountable for delivering a consistent and genuine message that matches your student and staff experience.


The brand promise is where the principal’s personal calling and vision are brought to life. This creates an eternal bond between the leader (the principal) and the school’s impact in the community.


Take care to ensure your school’s brand promise is genuine – that it truly reflects your school. It’s very important not to change your ethos to match another charter school, however successful they may be. If students or parents experience a mismatch between what you say and what you actually are, it will hurt your school’s enrollment in the long run.


If you’re an aspirational school striving to excel in a particular area in the future, you need to carefully think about how you will deliver this message.


To help you with your brand promise and statement, download this value proposition worksheet and template.


PILLAR 2: Writing Your Position Statement


What is the importance of a charter school position statement?


A positioning statement is a short, memorable phrase (or ‘tagline’) that should sum up your charter school brand promise. It should immediately resonate with both prospective and existing parents. You want your statement to be short, aim for around 2-6 words, anything much more than that is likely to lose impact.


Consider these examples:


“Pinecrest Lakes - Soar Like Eagles”

“COHEA - Honor. Respect. Loyalty”

“Doral Academy – Firebirds Surpassing Expectations”


All very different in what they are offering and suggesting to prospective families, but each is truly aligned with that individual school’s mission statement and brand promise.


PILLAR 3: Designing Your Visual Identity


What is the importance of a charter school’s visual identity?


In our experience, this is what schools want to tackle first, but if the first two pillars aren’t built first, this third pillar has nothing to support itself on. A logo is just a graphic design if it doesn’t embody the schools promise and position.


At Educational Brands, we work with charter management organizations and the network of schools they manage to oversee each school’s visual identity. Good design is just as important as your brand promise and tagline.


When the visual design is created, we then help the school communicate all the new designs internally. We create a branding style guide and make it easily available for our client’s staff and faculty to learn from. We’ll create a brand page on the website where students, staff, vendors, and contractors can have access to different versions of the logo and clear instructions on the do’s and don’ts. We help police our client’s brands to keep them clean!


Are you wondering how much your school should budget to make sure your visual identity is well managed? A school should be budgeting $2 per student per month in this area to establish and continually adapt its visual identity. Bringing on a brand management agency brings a focus on developing the clear and distinctive visual identity that sets you up for the next 4 pillars of charter brand management.


PILLAR 4: Uncovering Your Differentiators


What is the importance of setting your charter school apart from others?


What differentiates your charter school is a key part of your brand message.


Communicating differentiators visually is important and quick facts, infographics and statistics are an excellent way of ensuring your school gets its messages across. This makes it easier for prospective families to recall key information. You need to cut through the noise. You need to stand out - like a purple cow would stand out in a field of black and white cows.


PILLAR 5: Finding Your Voice


Why is it important for charter schools to find their voice?


Finding your voice lets your school's personality shine through.


Your tone of voice is not what you say, but how you say it. Your tone has to fit your brand so the language your school uses is very important. You have to match the type of charter school you are with the type of voice you use. For example, what viewpoint do you use in communications about your school? First person (we) or third person (name of school)?


It is essential that you stick to grammar rules, and make sure that you are consistent with terminology and level of formality. When building printed marketing materials with key messaging, multiple people may be providing content, so someone needs to have an overview to ensure the language remains the same. This follows for your digital material too, including your YouTube videos.


PILLAR 6: Branding Your Communications


What is the importance of communication in charter school branding?


Communication that isn’t planned out is forgotten. Outlining and documenting each of your communication campaigns throughout the year is the most efficient way to build this pillar.


Throughout the year, we are constantly tweaking our client’s brand communication strategy. We’re considering email signatures, newsletters, Instagram posts, light pole banners and Kindergarten marketing campaigns? It’s all about the detail, and you can let yourself and the branding down by not following this through in all your communications. Make sure you keep your key messaging and visual identity top of mind at all times.


PILLAR 7: Writing Your Brand Story


How does a charter school come up with its brand story?


In our experience, we have found that we can’t develop our client’s brand story until we’ve built the previous 6 pillars first.


Charter schools have many powerful stories to tell that will attract the right families and increase enrollments and waitlists. However, the challenge is knowing which stories and using the right language and tone to attract the right people.


One key technique is developing a face to your school’s brand. In the case of COHEA, the face is it’s principal, Carlos Alvarez. He embodies the Bulldog Nation brand. It’s a reflection of him and his purpose and calling.


We certainly recommend the principal be the face of the school’s brand, however, the founder of the charter network might end up being the face. It all depends on your school’s circumstances and overall brand.


Parents are looking for a reason to believe your school and testimonials from parents, teachers, students and even alumni are an excellent way to reassure your audiences. When we work on video branding for our clients, we develop testimonials that back up the school’s brand promise and positioning statement.


However, your charter school’s brand story is about more than just testimonials, it’s about the stories you create on social media, the newsletters your school is publishing, the blog posts you write, and so on. Your brand story is the culmination of the stories you’re sharing both on and offline. All of your messaging and communication channels should be aligned with, and supporting your brand promise - any content that is at odds with or contradictory to this should not be used.


 

In building these 7 pillars, remember all of them (perhaps aside from your brand promise) are part of an ongoing process. A brand does not stand still. It should continue to develop and grow with your charter school. Make sure you continue to review your key messaging to ensure you are staying loyal to your charter school brand promise.


We pray and hope that your visual image remains strong and relevant in your school's marketplace so we can continue to see the charter school industry grow as a whole.



 

Educational Brands guides schools with a wide range of brand strategy and marketing communication challenges. Partnering alongside charter management organizations and their networks, we work closely with school principals and their staff to provide expert insight and practical day-to-day guidance to ensure they develop achievable plans, stay on track and achieve their strategic goals.


To schedule a discovery call, click here.

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