First impressions stay but consistent presence reinforces reputation and influence
Image plays a key role in a sector’s configuration; elements like its philosophy, notable figures linked to the institution, the influence it can have in several domains, and of course the way the eye perceives it. All these factors and many others constitute the brand and the power of an institution.
From very early on, big schools and recognised universities saw the importance of building a good brand as a way to attract those raw diamonds that would change and sometimes revolutionise different sectors, from science to business. However, it was in the second half of the 20th century where the desire and need for stronger influence and presence became a top priority in Higher Education.
Schools took various lessons from marketing – the importance to build a brand through its logo and how to capture the school’s essence in catchy campaigns –, and even from political science, applying some soft power strategies. Nevertheless, things have changed and successful brand strategies can be less effective than in the past.
It is true that most of big brands in education count with not only their image but also with a heavy-artillery reputation and academic/scientific presence, that reinforces their power. If beauty is only skin-deep, excellence and constant delivery forges a long-standing legacy.
In today’s digital marketing, branding is getting continuously tested and reinvented. There are oh-so many instruments and services to help schools build and reinforce their brand, however success hides in tracing a clear roadmap. Here are three lessons we can take from digital marketing and 21st century branding to strengthen school branding:
Many schools – especially public ones – face many challenges to jump into the immense digital pool. It takes time to train staff and restructure internal organisation, the latter coming with hefty investments. However, getting a grip of the latest technologies and flirting with Business Intelligence techniques and Data science can pay off sooner than we might think. Furthermore, recruitment platforms and portals offer not only new prospects and higher visibility but also gathers valuable data that can improve admissions’ procedure and even make processes simpler.
This is no news for anyone. Schools are institutions widely known through their alumni networks, notable graduates, scientific contributions and their insignias; we all have a beanie or hoodie from our alma mater that we proudly use as street-wear. However, we see more and more schools having a strong presence in social media; we used to have a first glimpse of this in the early days of Twitter or on official Facebook pages, but now Business Schools are using Instagram to share their campuses, vision and culture.
Online events and webinars transform the vision we have of schools and learning in general. PR agencies are now working closely to share scientific findings with the wide public, as a way to promote the influence of schools beyond reports and daily newspapers, this without falling into sensationalistic headlines.
There are so many applications, platforms and tech tools schools are now using to reinforce their values and fly their ship flag in the sea of globalised education.
Last but not least, an oldie but a goodie. Schools entered digital era with dynamic websites and well-constructed digital information handbooks. Many institutions are going through a rethinking process about their logo, motto and general image; going from colour code to a sexier logo, schools are trying to let their new generations leave a print on the spirit of the institution and let it talk to future promotions. With new graphic tools to present a brand, institutions can nourish from the new trends and success stories in rebranding. The biggest advice can be: reflect the core values through a shinier light.
Branding can be a long process for many institutions, taking years of reflection and questioning. Schools can help themselves from taking a step back and getting lessons from the past; listening to the most recent generations and keeping an open spirit for innovation can have a key impact in the upcoming years. Education is going through a revolution and schools are eager to use the infinite palette of tools today’s digital world has to offer, the main question focuses more in the tone and execution of school branding for the coming decades.