Branding in independent schools is an interesting proposition. Before Facebook launched in February 2004, branding work was relevant and necessary. After its launch, branding work, for the most part, has become frivolous and wasteful. Why? Because independent schools don’t define their brand anymore; the public does.
Branding as Cocktail Conversation
Public definition of brand has existed for a while now. It most often occurred at cocktail parties and other social events where persons associated, and not associated, with your school would discuss what your school was really like. These conversations were fleeting, however, and were not indexed and searchable by Google, Yahoo, and Bing. As a result, the content and reach of these conversations was limited. With the advent of blogging and social media, the game has changed. These “cocktail conversations” are now occurring everywhere on the web in social media channels, blogs, and, most importantly, in comments at these sites. All of this content is now indexed and searchable, which means it has a long shelf life and unlimited reach.
The other side to “cocktail conversations” is trust. People were, and are, more likely to believe what their social circle says and believes as opposed to the glossy brochures and polished websites of a school. A certain apprehension occurs after prospective families read an independent school’s marketing material, which usually results in their asking, “Is ABC Academy really like that?” To answer that question, people often turn back to their “cocktail conversations” for corroborating and defining information.
Is Defining Brand Hopeless?
No! Rather than trying to find a company to which you can pay thousands of dollars to update your logo, stationery, and value proposition, you should jump into these new “cocktail conversations” by creating a blog, a Facebook Fan Page, and a school Twitter account. Not only can you create content that is authentic to your school, but you can also participate in the conversation by listening and then responding appropriately. A school doesn’t fully define its brand anymore, but it can participate in these “cocktail conversations” to make sure that the information being discussed is correct and subtly guide the conversation around topics of importance to the school.
I would love to hear what others think about branding and my opinions by commenting below. Thanks for reading!