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Ten brand-building tenets for every head of school

2021 NCAIS Summer Heads Conference

In June, I attended the 2021 Summer Heads Retreat for the North Carolina Association of Independent Schools (NCAIS). Throughout the week, I had the opportunity to chat with heads from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee about the most challenging and unpredictable school year they’ve ever had to deal with. The pandemic has put enormous pressure on educators at all levels and moving forward, the future is far from certain.

One of the many topics I had the chance to discuss with heads throughout the week was how their schools can build a successful and thriving branding program. After many conversations, I boiled it down to ten tenets heads should consider if they want to establish a successful school branding program that positions their school for long-term success. Here they are.

  1. First and foremost, you must have both financial and philosophical backing from your board of trustees. If those two groups don’t value branding, it will be an uphill battle from the start.

  2. Ensure you have brand advocates from within who are willing to promote your brand and believe in your mission. Once you have buy-in from your teachers, staff, and students, your community will follow.

  3. Acknowledge that branding is not a quick fix. If you think a new logo or tagline will solve all of your problems, you will be sorely mistaken. Your brand is something that should be nurtured and developed over time.

  4. Hiring brand stewards with speaking, writing, interpersonal skills, and communications experience is essential. Every school needs someone from within who serves as the branding point-person.

  5. Establish a marketing communications department. It will help if you have internal staff to advocate for your brand and direct and manage how it appears in external and internal marketing communications pieces. 

  6. Support your marketing communications department with a realistic budget and professional development opportunities. Marketing communications practitioners need to grow their skills and learn best practices from school marketing experts and professionals outside the education industry.

  7. Empower your brand advocates to steward the brand and market you to your external and internal stakeholders.

  8. Ensure the head of the marketing communications department reports directly to you as the head of school. The head of school and their leadership team needs to understand the brand and adequately steward it. Having the head of the marketing communications department as part of the leadership team will streamline this process.

  9. Develop an annual school marketing plan that supports your branding program.

  10. Establish a series of key performance indicators (KPIs) that allow you to track progress and show return on investment (ROI) for your work.

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