Every year, as your school is recruiting the next incoming cohort of students, you’re competing with many other schools to attract the best and brightest. It’s important to have a strong online presence.
The key factor which links both your online and physical marketing is your brand.
At Beacon Media + Marketing, we’ve been creating strong brands for our clients for years. We’re going to show you our 5-step process, so you can start working on branding your private school.
Step 1: Understanding what branding a private school means
Before you start out creating a brand, it’s vital to understand what a brand is and what you want it to do. Your brand is your identity given a visual form – it is what comes to mind when people think about your private school. For that reason, it should accurately reflect your reputation and be consistent with what people think of you.
We recommend three main things that you should aim to do with your brand:
- Capture: If you already have a good reputation, it’s important to capture that and build upon it. Write down your school’s strengths and use this to focus your brand.
- Discover: If you aren’t sure how people perceive you, you should aim to find out and build around that. The easiest way to do this is simply to start asking the school community!
- Pivot: If you’ve had some reputational struggles, then it may be possible to use a rebrand as an opportunity to present your private school in a new light
In the following sections, we’ll show how you can make use of branding to influence how prospective students, and their parents, perceive your private school.
Step 2: The brand discovery process for private schools
Brand discovery is a fundamental foundation on which the success of the rest of the process depends. We recommend you have a meeting with your whole team and get creative working out what your brand means within the education sector.
When doing this with our clients we like to guide them with a series of questions:
- Describe your business in two sentences or less. What is your “elevator pitch?”
- A brand is a promise. What are you going to deliver to your students?
- What is the current perception of your school? What do you want it to be?
- How do you want to position yourself in the marketplace? Are you thought leaders? Providing value? An innovative experience? The highest quality? A “tried and true” method?
- What is your big-picture mission? What do you want to look like in five years?
One of the main goals of this part of the process needs to be identifying your competition and how you can differentiate your private school from the others. You also want to identify prospective students and what they’re looking for so you can work out how best to appeal to them.
Step 3: Choosing the right name for your private school
For many private schools, a name is a legacy. However, if you’re opening a new school or considering a rebrand, choosing the right name is very important. Sometimes naming can come naturally, but other times it can be the hardest part of the process, so here’s the process we recommend:
- Take a look at what your competitors and private schools out-of-state are naming themselves. Obviously, don’t copy but use these names as a starting place for your own, unique thoughts.
- Consider using the name(s) of your owner(s) or founders.
- Decide if you want to use your location (city, region, state) in your name.
- Think about any nouns or adjectives that struck a chord with who you are when you had your discovery meeting.
Sometimes even using a thesaurus can help! Search some of the top words from your discovery meeting, and see where that takes you and which words inspire you most.
A tagline is an opportunity to communicate more about your private school than just what comes across in the name. Often the name is the result of narrowing down a longer concept. This concept can form the basis for creating a catchy tagline. Alternatively, work up from your name and expand into a message that fits with the culture of your private school!
The tagline is important as it is going to pull together all the messaging of your brand. Everything else you write should tie back into this. It should be short, simple and inspiring.
Step 4: Choosing iconography, colors and fonts that represent your school
Using visual means to communicate ideas can be challenging for those without training in art or design. In this section, we’ll try to give a few hints, so you can get started with thinking in the right way. A lot of what works here is due to human psychology and how we perceive objects, both emotionally and mentally.
The icon is the part of your brand that most people think of when they talk about the “brand” or the “logo” of your private school. It is the part of your brand where you can get your creative juices flowing and use form, rather than text, to communicate your brand.
It can be used to represent the name, location, and mission of your private school in a quick and easily accessible manner. A strong example of this is the icon we designed for our client, Juneau Youth Services. This is a company that aims to inspire hope and freedom in young people, for the present and the future.
We used the mountains to communicate their location and the bald eagle to represent their message of freedom.
Icons are of course more versatile than the full logo and can be used on promotions, watermarks, and more. When creating an icon, you might find it helpful look at those used by other private schools and education providers for reference and ideas.
Color is a vital aspect of branding, which we have covered in more detail here.
As you learn more about color associations, it becomes clear that some are more appropriate for associating with private schools and education than others. Some, in fact, are totally inappropriate.
- Red – Red comes in a variety of shades, each with their own distinct meaning! Red could say “temptation,” “stop and pay attention,” “warning” or “danger,” “celebration,” “love,” or “femininity.”
- Orange – Mmm, orange. We often associate this color with tasty food! A gentler version of red, orange can also communicate qualities like “light” and “life.”
- Yellow – Just like orange, yellow can mean light and warmth. Like red, it can catch attention too. Yellow in the form of gold represents wealth, luxury, and rank. In other shades, yellow can mean joy, optimism, or comfort.
- Brown – Brown portrays earth, wholesomeness, the outdoors, organic products, and all-natural ingredients.
- Blue – No, blue does not just mean “sad.” Blue tells our emotional minds to be at peace, reminding us of tranquillity, mystery, depth, and strength. It is also frequently used in the health and wellness industry to evoke a sense of being calm.
- Green – Green can be a hard color to get right. It comes in the most shades of any color in the world and it has a wide range of emotional associations! Green can mean anything from new beginnings to relaxation, depending on which hue you choose.
- Purple – A mix of red and blue, purple can take on the attributes of both! If it leans in the direction of red, purple communicates energy and intensity. If it leans blue, purple takes on a calmer and loftier feel.
If you’d like to delve into this a little bit further, Adobe has a great tool for identifying complementary colors, which you can use to ensure a consistent look across your branding.
The typeface of your brand is an important component of a brand which most people don’t really think about until they have to make decisions about it. However, it is important to make a choice that conveys the feeling you want to inspire in prospective students and their parents who see the brand of your private school.
Contrast the font used to advertise a horror movie with one used in an online publication.
The first is probably scratchy, broken, and sharp-looking. The second is probably clean, neat, and professional-looking. This is important to remember, as you want to choose a font that portrays your school in the way you want to be seen.
The font should also be matched to the other elements of your logo and tie in with the overall theme of education, and specifically private schooling. Google has a useful font tool you can use to explore different typefaces a further here.
Step 5: Manage your private school brand
Once you’ve determined what the brand for your private school is, that isn’t the end of the process. It is vital to maintain and protect that brand! A well-managed brand is a symbol of authority which earns and respects the trust of its target audience. A mismanaged brand, on the other hand, can become messy and inconsistent, which dilutes its effectiveness.
At Beacon, we provide clients with a style guide that informs staff of what logo, colors, and fonts to use and how to use them. Hopefully this article will be a useful guide while you’re first starting out! Are you ready to give it a go? You can schedule a free consultation here.