A guide for private schools: Using your brand to attract parents

Dan Jubb
  • Dan Jubb
  • Head of Brand and Strategy

Your brand identity is your school’s identity. Your brand isn’t simply your logo or marketing materials. It’s a summing up of your core values – it’s the very essence of who you are and what you do. It’s immediately apparent in every communication you make. It’s there in your website design and in your prospectus design.

A strong brand will make you stand out from other schools when parents are sifting through the different options available to them and making choices. Your private school branding is your public persona and getting it right is crucial to attracting parents. It’s a vital step in showing parents why they should choose your school over the competition.

A successful brand is multi-faceted and yet it’s also instantaneous – it’s a compelling summing up of what you offer that’s appealing and easily understood.

Creating a successful brand identity

School branding is an essential ingredient for increasing pupil enrolment. To create a successful brand identity for your school, you need to think about:

  • What do you offer in terms of learning opportunities?
  • How do you nurture the aspirations of pupils?
  • What extra-curricular activities do pupils take part in?
  • What facilities do you have?
  • What’s your overriding ethos? (It’s a good idea to brain storm several of these.)
  • What do pupils and their parents want from you? What are their priorities?

These questions are just for starters, but they’re the essential starting point of any successful private school marketing strategy. You really do need to get a comprehensive picture of everything that makes your school stand out – your strengths, your standards, your innovative thinking.  It’s important to get a cross section of views – from teachers, parents, children, alumni and anyone connected with the school.

Don’t just be different – be better

Working out what sets you apart from your competitors is important, but in order to attract parents’ attention you’ll need to show what makes you better than your competitors. Do your research and be honest.

Focus on those special strengths and really dig down into the details. It’s not just about what you offer – it’s about the results of that offering; the effect it has on your pupils. Gathering quotes and endorsements from pupils, families and alumni can really help to bring out the best stories which can turn into great marketing ideas and a persuasive brand for your school.

Making your brand visible

Once you’re clear about all those brilliant attributes that make your school a clear first choice for parents, how are you going to get the message over to them?

This is where working closely with your creative agency comes in. Together, you can create a strong and instant brand identity that sums up your winning qualities and features through clever design, compelling writing and strategic marketing campaigns.

Web design for private schools needs to be packed with valuable information, but at the same time be accessible with the essential detail clearly on show. The pupil experience needs to resonate from all parts of the site. The same goes for school prospectus design.

It’s essential that your branding is consistent. Your web design, prospectus design and advertising campaigns all need to be immediately recognisable as being your school; you don’t want to be confused with a competitor, so make sure that you don’t ‘play safe’ by doing what everyone else is doing. Being different doesn’t mean being whacky or losing the message. It can just mean being better, more imaginative, cleverer – all good branding messages for your school.

Be strategic

Any creative agency experienced in building enrolment for private schools will tell you that creating that recognisable leading school brand is only really effective when it goes hand-in-hand with an effective marketing strategy. How do you get your school brand identity and message to the right people? How often? Through what channels? What are the different parts of the message that need to be focussed on and where?

Get it out there

A successful brand is always out there. You will need to use multiple channels to get that all important parent attention and to show them that your school is the one that’s going to deliver what they’re looking for.

Social media, advertising campaigns, direct marketing leaflet drops – all of these are routes to your intended audience and increased student enrolment. And don’t forget the everyday visibility of things like school signage, your minibus and other facilities.

When using multiple channels, you need to make sure that while the branding is consistent, the way it’s delivered is suitable for the marketing channel being used. There’s a world of difference between writing for Twitter and writing for a prospectus, for example.

Show (and tell)

Parents are looking for the private school that’s going to give their children the best possible start in life, offering excellent opportunities and preparing them to enter adulthood with confidence and the tools to thrive. The medium that you use for your message is very much part of your school brand in this respect.

Don’t let your brand identity slide down the scale because of out-dated and unimaginative communications. After all, what would that say about you’re the quality of your teaching and learning?

For example, a responsive web site shows professionalism with an understanding of modern business practices. Effective use of social media shows that you’re good at communicating and implies your pupils will learn those same skills. Good communication methods can be an important part of school branding, spelling out efficiency, intelligence and care.

It’s an emotional business

Schooling is an emotional business for parents, as well as a practical consideration. It’s about the happiness, the future and the life chances of their child.

The best and most successful private school branding works because it’s personal. You will attract parents and increase pupil enrolment when you show the reality of pupils’ school lives through your branding.

Show the achievement, the joy, the ambition, the personal development. Use your branding to display the wonderful community that your pupils are part of and the amazing start in life it gives them. Then watch those pupil applications grow.