After the two years we’ve been through, it’s certainly time to recharge. When you return from your well deserved summer break, Mission Minded has a tool to help you strengthen your school’s brand and admissions communications for an admissions season with high inquiries, applications, and yield. If you know what makes your school special, but struggle to project that in a way that distinguishes you, you’re not alone.
Our free, six-part video series will help you refresh your school’s brand in six easy, digestible, and practical steps. You can watch each video in about five minutes and then easily do the weekly homework this summer.
STEP ONE: The first step is to assess the brand you have now. At Mission Minded we ask our clients to recognize that brand is just another word for reputation. By asking a dozen or two diverse community members about your school’s reputation, you’ll be on your way to assessing your brand.
Be forewarned, your stakeholders may not all be on the same page about your school’s reputation (and that’s an important finding itself), but if you hear things like “we’re the best kept secret” push a little more to find out what exactly the secret is. Click here to watch the first video.
STEP TWO: The second step is to identify your true mission-fit audience by listing the FIVE audience groups most essential to your school’s success, and thinking deeply about what they care about. Most schools prioritize 1) faculty and staff, 2) current families, 3) alumni, 4) administrators at sending and/or feeder schools, and 5) students. Instead of a group, imagine a person who represents each category. Give each of them a name that corresponds with a value they share with your school (i.e. Cameron Connection, Innovative Isabella, etc.), and answer these questions on their behalf:
Rather than including everything they know or want, keep the focus on their value – Cameron Connection wants a community to belong to, for example. Click here to watch the second video.
STEP THREE: The third step is to examine the competition. You’d be surprised by how many schools skip this effort, thinking they already have the answer. But understanding both what other schools tell families about themselves and what reputation (brand) they actually have in the minds’ of families is critical. Your brand can’t stand out from the pack unless you understand the pack and intentionally signal how you’re different. Doing so is a gift to families and helps you attract families who truly want what you uniquely offer. To do this, repeat the exercise in step one, but replace your school with the names of the schools you most often compete with. You’ve completed this step when you can describe each school using a “word on the street” phrase that summarizes their reputation. Click here to watch the third video.
STEP FOUR: The fourth step is to find the open opportunity for your school’s brand and you can’t do this until successfully completing the first three steps: 1) assessed and simplified your school’s current reputation, 2) developed five mission-fit audiences, each named in accordance with your community values, 3) described competitors using “word on the street” phrases, so now you’re ready to develop a briefly worded summation of your school’s unique approach, value, or point of view. To create a strong brand strategy it must be authentic to your school, relevant to your audiences, and distinctive from your competitors. You’ve completed this step when you can finish this sentence: We are the ______ school. Click here to watch the fourth video.
STEP FIVE: The fifth step is to distill that difference into its purest essence—your brand “positioning.” Let’s start with the definition of “brand positioning” — that’s marketing jargon for a phrase that tells us how a brand is different from its competitors and where, or how, it sits in customers’ minds relative to other choices they have. To translate your open opportunity (step four) into a brand position, do two things: 1) start the sentence with “We are the only school that/where______,” and 2) frame the difference as a benefit to the student. Click here to watch the fifth video.
STEP SIX: The sixth and final step is to begin to send signals that reinforce this unique brand positioning – what families can only find at your school. One way to do that is through your school’s spoken, written, and digital messages. Mission Minded’s Minute Message Model is a robust framework that helps you develop messages for every occasion, and the “belief message” (commonly referred to as an elevator pitch) is the message everyone in your school should know and use. Our simple formula will get you started, and we invite you to reach out and share yours when you like how it sounds. Click here to watch the sixth video.
Learn more about how brand can help your admissions communication efforts here. Also, our free guide details 10 Tips for Effectively Marketing Your Independent School.
Director of Education Strategy Romayne Levee leads our education practice, working with independent schools and educational organizations to raise their profiles with strategies that benefit school leaders and their communities immeasurably. She has developed dynamic strategic plans and brand strategies for Mission Minded clients from coast to coast, including San Francisco Day School, Friends School of Baltimore, and Marlborough School (LA). Romayne is the founding Board Chair of Vistamar School, an independent high school in LA, and currently serves on the Board of Lewis & Clark College.
See all posts by Romayne Levee