Your school or district’s brand is an identity that represents the values, mission, and culture of your school. It stands for your commitment to education, innovation, and excellence, among many other important principles.
But serious academics, meaningful community programs, and all the school campaigns and initiatives — it all can sometimes feel a little … sterile.
Those are important, but your school's culture has so much more life, flavor, and energy than that, right? To make a genuine impact, your school’s brand must be personal and authentic to truly attract and engage your community.
Younger families and Gen Z crave authenticity. They want less polished, relatable, and genuine connections, so much so that more than 50 percent favor content that’s:
- Information that helps people
That’s a change from many traditional approaches to school marketing. So how can your marketing and communication offices respond, and how does authentic content elevate your school’s brand?
What can authentic content do for your school’s brand?
Create stronger connections
Having a personal, humanized brand can help build a stronger connection with your school community, including students, staff, parents, and alumni. When your school’s brand is more relatable and personal, it creates a stronger emotional connection with your audience, which leads to increased engagement.
Increase enrollment and retention rates
Prospective students and their families are more likely to choose your school if they feel a connection to your brand and if you share their values.
By showcasing the personality and culture of your school — a welcoming community, faculty, and staff that are like a second family — prospective students (and especially boarding students) can better understand what they can expect and make them more likely to choose your school as their educational home.
Build trust and credibility
When a school is transparent about its daily operations, achievements, and yes, even struggles, it can create a sense of trust with its audience. When a school is honest and open about its successes and challenges, it can demonstrate that it is committed to continuous improvement and that it takes its responsibilities seriously.
Strengthen your school’s reputation as a leader
When a school is seen as a place where students are supported, encouraged, and inspired, it can build a reputation as a leader in education. This can lead to increased recognition, awards, and accolades, further solidifying the school’s position as a leader in education.
By showcasing the personality, culture, and values of the school, it can create a sense of belonging and pride among the school community while also attracting prospective students who share these values.
And that comes down to the content you’re sharing through social media, your school’s website, and your newsletters and emails. Let’s explore how to humanize your school’s brand through content creation.
Share a "Day in the life of"
One of the most effective ways to humanize your school’s brand is to share a “day in the life of" your students or staff. This type of content provides an inside look into the daily routines, challenges, and successes of the people who make up your school community. It’s similar to those sections of tabloids with celebrities doing everyday things: “Stars — they’re just like us!” It allows prospective students and parents to envision themselves as part of your community and feel a sense of belonging before even enrolling.
How to do it:
Videos, photos, or blog posts can share a day in the life of a student and their classes, extracurricular activities, and social interactions. You can also share a day in the life of a teacher or staff member, highlighting their role in the school community and the challenges they face on a daily basis.
The American School of the Hague's Day in the Life of page highlights a typical day for its different divisions, a nice down-to-the-minute, insider's view of daily life for students.
Similarly, the Gow School's overview of everything from breakfast and classes to sports and study hall paints a clear picture of a supportive school culture.
Be open about your struggles
We all face challenges throughout our lives, and schools are no different, so share your school's struggles openly and honestly (as appropriate., of course!) This type of content not only humanizes your school but also builds trust and empathy with your audience. By sharing your struggles, you demonstrate that you’re not perfect (who is?), but you’re also committed to learning, growing, and improving.
How to do it:
Remember the challenges all schools faced when transitioning to online learning during the pandemic?
Saint Andrew’s School shared a video, reflecting on how the school overcame the challenges of the pandemic. It’s honest and inspiring and captures how so many of those challenges were turned into success as schools learned how to overcome those obstacles.
Pro Tip: You can also share your school’s future plans and how you will continue to adapt and evolve — a capital campaign or bond initiative is a subtle way of acknowledging what improvements can be made and how your school or district plans to address them.
Ask questions from your audience
Engaging with your audience is an effective way to humbly represent your school’s brand. By asking questions, you demonstrate that you value your audience’s opinions, input, and perspectives. You also create an opportunity for dialogue and feedback, which can help you improve your school’s offerings and services.
How to do it:
You don’t have all the answers, so ask questions and engage your community through social media polls, surveys, or live Q&A sessions. Ask your audience about their favorite school memories or what they would like to see improved in the future. You can also ask for more formal feedback on your school’s programs, events, or facilities. Brooks School has a ton of fun field questions from their followers!
Go behind the scenes
Going behind the scenes provides a glimpse into the inner workings of your schools, and yes, sometimes, it can be messy. From the people who coordinate special school events, to the processes and technologies that support them, by sharing this type of content, you’re demonstrating transparency, authenticity, and trust.
How to do it:
Create behind-the-scenes content through videos, photos, or blog posts. For example, you can film a tour of your school’s facilities, showcasing the classrooms, labs, and living spaces. You can also interview staff members or administrators, discussing their roles and responsibilities within the school community.
Portsmouth Abbey School shared a Reel of its library staff explaining the process of a book being entered into its library system — it's a creative way to show the process (and the people) of the work behind the scenes!
Share a to-do list
Sharing a to-do list is a simple yet effective way to showcase the neverending list of tasks and chores we all juggle. By sharing a list of tasks or goals, you demonstrate that your school is not just a faceless entity but a group of individuals working toward a common purpose. You also create an opportunity for your audience to see your priorities that align with your school’s mission and values.
How to do it:
Share a list of upcoming events or initiatives your school is planning, such as a fundraising campaign or a project list preparing for graduation ceremonies. You can also share a to-do list for your students, outlining the tasks they need to complete for a successful start to the school year, nail a college interview, or have an amazing summer.
Show your faces and people
Showcase the people who make up your community. By sharing photos and videos of your students, staff, and faculty, you better represent the diversity and inclusivity of your school — you also create a sense of familiarity with your online audience.
How to do it:
Social media posts, website content, and marketing materials — you can feature a student of the week on your social media accounts and share their achievements and interests. You can also feature your staff and faculty members on your school's website and highlight their expertise and contributions to the school.
Presentation High School created a Reel showing the successful (and not-so-successful) attempts of its physics classes rowing their cardboard boats across the pool — don't be afraid to have some fun!
Share workspaces and favorite places
Workspaces, classrooms, and favorite places — by featuring the physical spaces of your institution, you create a sense of familiarity and attachment with your audience. You also provide a glimpse into the culture and personality of your school.
How to do it:
You can share workspaces and favorite places through photos, videos, or virtual tours. You can also share photos of your school’s outdoor spaces, such as a courtyard or sports field, or areas for mindfulness and relaxation.
Get creative! Miss Sally’s secret stash of Lifesavers in her desk, the fan zone in the corner of the stands, the messages and signatures backstage at the theater — these hidden treasures around schools only exist because of the people who help make them special, fun, and cool.
Personalizing your school’s brand is essential in creating a meaningful connection with your audience. By being “real,” you can create content that reflects the values and culture of your school. This type of content not only attracts prospective students but also engages current students, builds trust with parents and the community, and strengthens your school’s reputation as a leader in education.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.