Donovan Group Insights

Establishing the Fundamentals of Your District’s Identity

You’ve got a pretty good idea of what your district is all about, but stakeholders might not see your district the same way you do. Many factors can influence the public’s perception of your district, such as news coverage or talk among students, staff and faculty.

Your district has to take control of its own identity. Establishing a strong sense of identity will ensure stakeholders view your district in a positive light. You can achieve this by creating content that reflects the district’s values and mission statement. The content also has to be consistent and highly visible to various stakeholder groups.

Let’s dive deeper into how your district can establish its identity in the public eye.

Why establishing your district’s identity is so important

Branding needs to be a focal point for your school district. A district’s brand defines how staff, students, families and other stakeholders perceive your schools. When you put effort into branding, you gain some control over the district’s public reputation. The community shouldn’t have to guess what your district is all about. Help them see the district how you see it.

A strong sense of identity can also help your district stand out. Parents with school-aged children are doing their research to see which district will provide the best education. An established brand will make it easier for those parents to remember your district when it’s time to make a decision. Branding defines what makes your district different than all the rest. It shows prospective families what your district can offer that they won’t find anywhere else.

Branding isn’t just for outer appearances. A well-established brand can unify all the students, staff and administrators in your schools. By establishing your district’s identity, stakeholders who are directly involved with your schools gain a firm understanding of the district’s mission, values and expectations. A strong sense of identity can foster student learning and encourage stakeholders to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.

Define your district’s values and mission statement

When you think of branding, you probably imagine all the visuals that come with it. Logos, color schemes, graphic design—all these and more are important to your district’s branding efforts. But a district’s brand is so much more than that. Before you can pick out a fun new color scheme, you have to nail down those big-ticket items like the district’s mission and values.

A mission statement sits at the core of your district’s identity. It defines the driving purpose behind everything students and staff do in your schools. Your district’s mission should be what gets teachers out of bed in the morning. There’s no right or wrong answer—a district’s mission should be unique, inspiring and genuine.

Core values work much the same way. The school community should embody these values in everything they say and do. Values set expectations for stakeholders’ words and actions, even when they’re not on school grounds. They help create a culture everyone can be proud of. Values should accurately reflect where the community is at right now while setting the bar high for future growth.

Defining your district’s mission and values isn’t a one-person job. It involves a bit more than putting a bunch of nice-sounding words on your district’s “About Us” page. This is an undertaking that requires input from teachers, staff, administrators and students’ families. The values and mission statement could be anything. What matters most is that stakeholders can come to a decision together.

Create a memorable tagline for your district

After defining your district’s mission and values, the next step is to share them with stakeholders and the broader community. Again, core values shouldn’t be relegated to a single page on the district’s website. Those values should stand at the center of all your district’s marketing efforts. That way, the district can maintain a consistent identity across its owned media channels.

One way to share the district’s mission and values is by creating a tagline. This tagline sums up everything your district stands for in one catchy sentence. Of course, you can’t go into detail about every single core value in the tagline. Much like your district’s mission and values, creating a tagline requires much thought and consideration. Think about what you want stakeholders to remember the most about your district.

Once you have a tagline, brainstorm ways to incorporate it into the district’s marketing materials. There are many places to display the tagline, such as on district stationery and at the top of your district’s home page. You could also share the tagline through e-newsletters and banners that hang in your schools.

Choose your district’s logo and color scheme

You’ve nailed down the district’s core values and mission statement. Now, you can design a unique look for your district. You can choose whichever logo, colors and graphics best represent your district. The most important thing is to keep it consistent across all channels. The brand should be so recognizable that a stakeholder would know where the content came from based on visuals alone.

A logo is a crucial part of your district’s identity. It’s not just aesthetically pleasing—a logo needs to embody how you want stakeholders to view your district. You might want the logo to symbolize integrity, community, dedication or all of the above. The logo will appear on all your district’s media channels, so you’ll likely review several variations before choosing the right one.

Marketing materials should also share the same color scheme. A stakeholder should be able to identify who published the content, even if your district’s name wasn’t on it. Make sure the color scheme differs from the surrounding districts as well. You wouldn’t want prospective families to mix up your district with a different one!

Share content on your owned media channels

Once you’ve defined the district’s identity, you need to figure out the most effective way to share it with the world. You can establish the district’s identity through owned media channels. Owned media channels are the means of communication your district can control, and they’re the channels you’ll use to connect with stakeholders. These include the district’s website, newsletters and social media accounts, among others.

Your district should post content where stakeholders are most likely to see it. Also, remember that not all stakeholders consume content the same way. One group might prefer Facebook while another group might get all their information through e-newsletters. Identify the various groups in your school community, and do some research to learn which channels they use the most. You may have to tailor the content to each individual group as well.

Content will look slightly different on each of your district’s owned media channels. Every channel has a distinct format that’ll require you to repackage the content in various ways. But whether it’s a parent letter or Instagram reel, the message (and your district’s identity) should stay the same. Keep your branding efforts consistent across all platforms.

Establishing your district’s identity isn’t something that happens overnight. It’s an ongoing effort that requires your administrative team to think carefully about the image they project into the school community. Your district’s identity isn’t set in stone, either. Continue to review the mission, values, visual appearance and marketing materials to ensure they accurately reflect your district.

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