Championing A School Brand From Within
A brand's performance and sustainability primarily rests with the inner core of those who represent it - its champions from the internal organization; in a school context - the management, teachers and current students
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A brand's performance and sustainability primarily rests with the inner core of those who represent it - its champions from the internal organization; in a school context - the management, teachers and current students. The criticality of brand internalization - the process of infusing belief in the culture that the brand stands for - cannot be over-emphasized. It is fundamental that brand internalization happens for good measure as preparation before external communication is undertaken, since mismatch of brand promise with brand experience can be disastrous. In a school system, where the touch points with external audience are many, good ambassadors (including parents of current students and other groups who directly deal with the school) carry far more weight by word of mouth than the power of advertising or PR or event marketing.
The process of branding is therefore essentially one of institutionalizing a culture. Defining what you stand for, how you are relevant to your audience, and different from other options… your school's positioning, supplemented by its brand architecture (vision, mission, values...) form the mandatory pillars of your existence. Beyond spelling these out, they have to also be lived up to on a day-to-day basis, fortifying the belief among all user groups concerned.
The greater the involvement of the internal champions of the brand in the conception and/ or delivery of a brand's culture, the more the likelihood of a brand's long term success. It has been seen time and again that personal contributions and co-creative energies help instill ownership of a mission, and thereby generates added impetus to a cause. When brand transformation or culture change is being targeted, it is an opportune time to activate some of the most passionate minds (irrespective of hierarchy) in articulating the new pathway, whether it is for fresh creation, improvement or overhaul.
While the opportunities and vehicles for marketing communications are many, the process of branding must be undertaken only upon enunciating a very clear statement about what problem exactly the school wishes to solve. This will help sharp-focus the intent and agenda, and prevent wasteful expenditure of undertaking a laundry list of activities (mostly undertaken to promote admissions) that do not synergize with each other or produce desired results.
Structuring a strong set of brand identity guidelines, perfectly coordinated visibility materials which carry the brand logo, communication messages that are credible and well-integrated, and a code of behavior that spells harmony… these reinforce positive experience for students, parents, and teaching staff alike. And with every successive and successful interaction, users become loyalists, and loyalists become advocates. Referrals provide the most powerful brand persuasion… much more than push advertising. Besides, when teachers and parents establish a perfect bridge of understanding and communication, the child who is the focus of it all is a happy beneficiary.
In summary, good branding is about designing cultures. Cultures are usually created by icons, who invent new codes, who show the way for others to follow. An iconic Principal becomes a key determinant of a school's culture. A much revered teacher becomes a magnet for the school brand. In parallel, a school's Vision, Mission and Purpose must be a well-articulated set of engines for your organizational journey. Cultures are built on a strong foundation of Values, and these Values if coherently chosen and practiced, always converge on a well-understood Brand Essence. The Essence is the foundation for Positioning… the one promise that the brand stands for. For example, Nike stands for Adventure, Raymond for Perfection, Mother Teresa for Hope, Indian Express for Fearlessness… What brand essence do you stand for? What values does your school stand for? The taste of the pudding is certainly in the eating… and what could be better than your own alumni walking the talk?
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.