In an era of open enrollment and charter, voucher, virtual and private schools, public schools and districts must have a distinct brand if they hope to compete among the wide variety of options available to families and students.
This makes school district rebranding an important process for superintendents and administrators. It’s one way in which you can establish your district’s presence as an ideal option and make the case for why parents should send their children to your schools.
Colleges and universities have been doing this well for years. So have well-funded private and charter schools. It’s critically important for public schools to engage in cohesive school district rebranding, marketing and communications efforts.
What is a school district brand?
When many people think of the word “branding,” they think of tangible things like a logo, color scheme or design. While these elements are important, they make up only part of a school district’s brand.
A brand is what you want your stakeholders — including parents, staff, students and community members — to feel when they think about your school district. Ultimately, you want them to have a positive association with their local public schools. It’s up to you, as a school leader, to build, sustain and advance your district’s brand.
Your school district rebranding strategy
Because your brand is so closely tied to how people think and feel about your organization and its schools, you first need to determine their current thoughts and feelings. One of the best ways to get this feedback is through a community survey.
Using this mechanism, you can ask a diverse array of stakeholders to answer a series of questions about how they come to think of your district and its schools. This gives you baseline data, including insights into your district’s current brand image and how it might be improved.
Once you have this information, bring together a school district rebranding committee of 10 to 20 stakeholders. Ideally, this group will include parents, administrators, teachers and staff, business or civic leaders and other community members. The goal is to seek the input and feedback of many different people from throughout your school community — including those who do and do not have children attending your schools.
This committee will examine the community survey results and develop themes for what they believe the district’s new brand should communicate. From there, the committee can work with a graphic designer to create mock-ups of potential new district logos, eventually finalizing a new logo. In some cases, committees even opt to change a district’s entire color scheme.
The school district rebranding committee should also create what’s known as a “branding style guide.” This is a document detailing exactly how, when and why the district’s new branding should be used.
For instance, it’s common for schools within a district to each have its own Facebook page, with each one using a different logo or theme. The branding style guide can ensure greater continuity and allow each page administrator to operate under certain guidelines. The same is true for school websites and other marketing materials.
Does your school or district have a distinct brand? If not, consider working with your school community to ensure your organization is doing everything it can to maintain a positive image in the minds of its key stakeholders.