3 School Branding Tactics to Try This Year

August 2014, Volume 37, Issue 12

School branding was a hot topic at the 2014 NAESP Conference in Nashville. Attendees flocked to Iowa principal Dan Butler’s session, “CPR: Providing a Lifeline for Principals Through 21st Century Communication and Public Relations,” and New York principal Tony Sinanis’s “Branding Your School and Telling Your Story” session.

In business, brands have three functions: to help consumers navigate choices, to communicate the quality of a product, and to drive customers to identify with a brand, writes branding guru Alina Wheeler in Designing Brand Identity. Branding, she writes, is about seizing the opportunity to tell customers—in schools’ cases, students, parents, and community members—why your product (your school) is tops. For schools, branding can also be a process of sharing positive news and reframing negative narratives about education.

Try these three tactics from Butler and Sinanis’s sessions to tell your school’s story and strengthen your brand.

Use the platforms that work for you. Devise strategies of how to leverage technology to tell your school’s story. For instance, Sinanis, principal of Cantiague Elementary in Jericho, New York, uses Twitter, Storify, and his blog to share updates about his school. He also uses the Touchcast app to create videos. But you don’t have to use every online platform—develop a plan that works for you and your school community. For instance, if your parents love seeing photos of classroom projects on Facebook, invest your energy there first. Maybe you’d like to blog, but don’t have time—start with Twitter updates, or perhaps create short video updates that take less time than writing a blog post.

Share your weekly staff newsletter. Your staff newsletter can be a key tool for sharing accomplishments and reinforcing your brand. Create a newsletter that’s clear, concise, and aligned to your school’s mission. Butler, for instance, sends a Friday Focus that’s two pages long, with updates and events, but also his observations from his interactions with teachers and a “Thought of the Week” (“If this was your last year teaching, how would you want to be remembered?” “Never underestimate the power of expectations,” etc.) Share the newsletter with your staff, district administrators, central office staff, and your school board. Butler tweets a link to his newsletter each week, as well.

Involve your students.Your students can be your best brand ambassadors! Sinanis calls on his students for weekly video updates.

“Who better to share what’s happening in our schools than the people who are experiencing it firsthand?” he says.

Each week, six to seven students from each class research what’s happening at each grade level. Students have two days to do their grade level research, and on Wednesday or Thursday, they join Sinanis for lunch to make the video. (He uses Touchcast, but other video platforms would work, too.) He uploads these videos to YouTube and shares them with his school community via email.

For more ideas, visit Sinanis’s blog and Butler’s blog, or download Butler’s presentation from the 2014 NAESP Conference.

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