There are many things I enjoy about social media but one of my favorite is social media’s ability to bring people together who would not have met otherwise – my latest Cup of Coffee interview with Craig Burton of School Branding Matters highlights one such case.
Craig and I met through social media because of our shared interests in branding and school marketing. I have learned much from Craig and enjoy sharing comments back and forth with him. One of the more interesting facts about our connection is that Craig lives in New Zealand and I live in the United States – and we’ve never met in person.
Recently Craig and I connected on Google+ and after our long talk I knew that I wanted Craig to share his ideas with you. So grab a Cup of Coffee and I hope you enjoy the conversation.
1. How did you get into the work of doing branding for schools?
I was helping my daughters teacher with his classroom certificates. The principal was watching (from a distance) what I was doing and then (a month or so later) asked me if I would like to rebrand the school and create some instructional visual aids for their mission, vision and values. I did and loved the experience so much I wanted to work with more schools. So I approached more schools and the rest, as they say, is history….
2. Do you feel that your background in the corporate world helps or hinders your ability to help schools?
My background in the corporate world has certainly helped. The New Zealand Curriculum has only recently been reviewed (2007). What this review did was spotlight the need for schools to develop their own set of values, look at who they were and where they wanted to be in the future. It has been a long road for many schools understanding the importance and effectiveness of good branding. I have a background in sales promotions and have seen how, for example, when a company promotes it’s product, the awareness of that product increases, resulting in a leveraging that brand (increased sales), in the market. Schools are, in many ways, like businesses, only they are in the business of educating our children. It’s good business practice to keep your brand healthy (in the good times especially) so that you community are constantly aware of the great things you do!
3. What is your definition of branding?
That is a huge question!
Branding is much more than what I do. My definition of branding is all about reputation management. That management starts with having a clear understanding of who you are as a school. What is your purpose, your desires and dreams for your institution, the type of working atmosphere you want to create for students and faculty members. It has to do with all stakeholders being on the same page. Are there clear guidelines that everyone agrees to and follows? It’s about developing a healthy culture within the school. Once this groundwork has been done then it’s about looking at how you present yourself to the outside community. School branding has to do with things like the presentation of the school grounds, your reception area, the way parents are responded to when they call the school etc. Then it’s about looking at your marketing – in print or online, and surveying the best ways to reach your target audiences – social media, webinars, open days, etc. It’s much more than your school logo, website, social media channels and marketing material (these are representations). It’s about presenting your school as authentically as you can, based on some good ground work having been done first.
4. How do you approach your work for each school in order to identify their unique attributes?
It’s great if a school has surveyed their stakeholders to get an understanding about how they are perceived. This is a good place to start. There are school surveying options online to help with this process.
5. What is your process when creating a visual brand for each school?
What I do is look into a school’s history, it’s significance geographically and socially. I try to understand any perceptions (positive and negative) that surround the school (survey results). Is it a traditional or modern school. Does it have any religious/cultural or other beliefs central to it’s learning style. I then take these and try to develop a narrative. I try to build a picture about the school. What this then leads into are symbols, metaphors and images related to these things which can then be used to develop a visual identity. From this I can then go on to develop the school logo, brochures, flags, posters etc. Instructional visual aids for teachers are one area that I differentiate myself from other design companies. For Elementary/Primary Schools, I call these Learning (Ethos) Models.
6. What questions should a school ask potential companies that they are interviewing for branding work?
What does school branding mean to you? (School administrators want to see depth of meaning in their branding and I understand this)
Do you quote or only estimate the cost of a project? (Schools have budgets and I understand this)
Do we have the ability to develop our brand with you? (School branding is a collaborative process and I understand this)
Do we own the design work once paid for and can we have this in digital format to use in whatever ways we wish – even if this means using another design company (Schools should own everything they have paid for and should be able to use the designs however they wish with whoever they wish. I understand this. However, if the relationship is good, dealing with one design company is good practice as this helps to retain brand consistency across all media forms – at least for the short term until you’re established.
Do you deal with other companies who can apply our brand to other forms of media – website, promo video, social media etc? (Brand clarity is important across all communication platforms so that your message is consistent. It’s good if you are dealing with a company that can communicate your brand clearly to other specialists).
7. Do you sense a difference in completing branding work for schools in NZ vs. schools in Europe vs. schools in the US?
Yes. I think the differences are more cultural than anything else.
8. In your opinion, can a school properly extend or project their brand through social media?
Absolutely. Social media is all about celebrating the life of your school. In NZ many schools still use social media channels as a notice board or for relaying a message. Instead, why not promote special events, academic achievements and other significant information that all highlight the very best parts of your school? It might be your size (small and personal) or it might be about the opportunities (everything a student could ever dream of trying)!
In the future I think that branding online is going to be more about the students engaging the community and less about the administrators. At the moment I’m seeing students being asked to manage school websites and promote the school from their point of view. What greater endorsement can there be for a school than from successful students supported by faculty members and the academic results to back all this up.
I see a day when schools will no longer use print material at all to market their schools. We will all have some form of Google Glass technology which will eventually lead to a lens in our eyes that will overlay digital information in real time – everything we want to know about a school.
9. Which social media channels best allow a school to extend their brand?
You know more about this one than me Brendan! Gosh, I’m a novice! I can only speak for Facebook and Google +. I know how Facebook, and possibly G+, is extending my brand (in the form of brand advocacy from friends who add exposure/virility to my brand). As for other social media channels. Not sure.
10. Which social media channels do you participate in personally and professionally?
As above Brendan. I also use LinkedIn. How I use each is slightly different. On LinkedIn I’m being exposed to school principals and teachers who are viewing my work for the first time. I try not to ‘hard sell’ but to promote myself as a possible solution, to a branding issue they have, in a very professional way. On Facebook, I do the same but I’m showing my personality a little more. These people have ‘liked’ my page so they have expressed an interest in what I am doing. On Google+, I’m dealing more with peers and communities.
11. Can you offer an tips or lessons learned with maintaining your social media channels from a branding perspective?
Don’t try to do it all yourself. Ask professionals like SchneiderB!! for professional advice on website marketing and use graphic design professionals to brand your channels for consistency.
Ask Your Branding Questions
If you have a question for Craig please ask it in the comments section below.