Donovan Group Insights

The Magnifying Glass Effect: Fine-Tuning Your School’s Image

Every school has an image—whether it’s the desired image depends on the school and its leaders. If you’re not satisfied with your school’s image, don’t worry: you’re not locked into it forever! You can change your school’s image anytime.

Fine-tuning a brand image involves more than updating the school’s logo, graphics and color scheme. You have to decide how the public should view your school, specifically in terms of its culture, mission and values. Define these traits first, then choose branding elements that bring them to life.

When was your last brand refresh?

For many school leaders, things have been the same for as long as they can remember. Over the years, their school’s logo, graphics, language and website have stayed consistent. Consistency is important for branding, but it’s also important for branding to evolve. Your school community will change over time, and the school’s image should change along with it. A brand image that worked well in the past might not be the right fit for your school today.

Here are some signs that it’s time for a brand refresh:

  • Messaging doesn’t resonate with stakeholders: When you communicate with students, staff, families and community members, do you ever feel like they’re not hearing you? A message might get interpreted the wrong way or provoke reactions you didn’t expect. If this happens often, take a look at the language used in those messages. Language makes up a huge portion of your school’s brand image. Make sure you’re using words that resonate well with stakeholders and get your message across the intended way.
  • Values don’t align with the community: As mentioned above, your school community will change over time. That means your school’s mission and values will change, too. It’s probably time for a brand refresh if the values and mission statement listed on your website don’t accurately reflect where your community is right now. Updating core values on a regular basis is important, as they inform everything your school says and does. Revisit your school’s mission and values, then assess whether they’re still relevant today.
  • The school website is outdated: What was the last time your marketing team updated the copy, graphics and layout of your website? The user experience is a big reflection of your school’s image. Keeping your website modern, user-friendly and visually appealing will help establish a positive image in the eyes of the public. Updating the website may involve incorporating school colors, choosing new fonts or graphics, removing obsolete web pages, or making the interface easier to navigate.

Why fine-tuning your image is so important

Your school’s brand image goes far beyond logos, color schemes, language and website layouts. These components work together to achieve something much greater, namely the community’s support and respect. Many invaluable benefits await the schools that prioritize fine-tuning their images. It requires investing time and energy, but what you’ll get in return is priceless.

Fine-tuning your school’s image can:

  • Create a united school culture: Brand image defines who you are and what you stand for as a school. It represents not only the school leaders, teachers and administrators, but also the students, families, support staff and community at large. Your brand sets the standard, and it establishes a vision for people to live by. It defines how they should act and what they should expect from your school. Make sure your brand image is sending the right message!
  • Positively influence the public’s perception: A well-defined image gives you control over how people perceive your school. You set the narrative for stakeholders, not the other way around. If the branding says your school is welcoming, innovative and exceptional, then people will start to believe your school is welcoming, innovative and exceptional. The school culture can be whatever you want it to be. Communicate those attributes through your school’s brand image.
  • Improve stakeholder relationships: A solid brand image is key to establishing positive relationships with students, teachers, staff, families and community members outside your school. Branding has the power to show stakeholders your school is a kind, caring place where everyone deserves to feel valued and heard. Once you fine-tune the school’s image, it becomes a lot easier to make people feel how you want them to feel, whether that’s heard, appreciated, welcomed, included or all of the above.
  • Boost long-term community support: Effective branding establishes positive relationships. Once positive relationships are established, you’ll gain teacher, staff, family and local support that lasts far into the future. Over time, a solid brand image can rally support by giving stakeholders plenty of reasons to back up your school. They want to support a school that promotes excellence, prioritizes students and gives back to the broader community. These are all characteristics to emphasize in your branding efforts. Build support now, so it’s there when you need it later.

How to revamp your school’s brand image

There are many concrete steps your marketing team can take to update the school’s brand image. Essentially, anything your school produces—videos, web pages, social media posts, newsletters, postcards—can become a piece of branded material. The brand image should be ubiquitous across all school-stakeholder interactions. Look for every opportunity to promote it!

These branding ideas are a great place to start:

  • Define school language: Pay close attention to the words and phrases in your school’s written communications. Do they reflect the type of image you want to promote? To keep branding consistent, school leaders need to put considerable thought into how their messages come across to the public. Use verbiage that conveys the various attributes of your school’s image, such as inclusion, excellence, safety, etcetera. The adage is old but true: it’s not what you say, but how you say it!
  • Update the graphics and logo: Similar to language, your school’s graphics and logo should reflect the desired brand image. If anything, your team might decide to update the logo simply because it’s been a while since anyone has refreshed it. From there, you can use the logo’s color scheme and design elements to create new graphics for your school’s various forms of content.
  • Give the website a refresh: Your school’s website is a fantastic place to promote its brand image. Websites are the culmination of logos, graphics, videos and written content, all of which should be infused with your school’s brand. As your team refreshes the school’s website, they should also identify ways to optimize the user experience, such as rearranging web page layouts and giving drop-down menus a more intuitive flow.
  • Add consistency to marketing materials: The brand image should be consistent across all of your school’s content. Choose one slogan, logo, font or color scheme, then make sure those elements stay the same from one medium to another. This will eliminate any potential confusion among stakeholders and give your brand a more uniform appearance. Whether they’re looking at a flier or news release, people should be able to tell that it’s from your school.

What will YOUR brand look like?

No matter how your brand looks, remember that it will have a far-reaching impact. Branding isn’t simply about nice-sounding words and eye-catching visuals. It’s about shaping the narrative and encouraging stakeholders to feel a certain way towards your school. These are the driving forces behind your branding efforts. Think about why you’re fine-tuning your school’s image!

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