Thursday, August 25, 2016

How to Transform Your School's Image


Many schools are steeped in history, which makes it hard to change public perception. Transforming the image of your school or one of its programs can be Marketing's biggest challenge. But as student needs and the education market evolve, rebranding your school may set you on the path to full enrollment classes.

Creating a new brand identity is an intensive process itself. But the work doesn't end there. Once your school has developed its new brand and the key messages, you know need to let the world know! Invest as much thought and effort into your roll out. Otherwise, your school's image is only transformed in your own minds. You need to start letting other people know.­­

Where Do Your Personas Fit?

Did your personas drive the rebranding effort or do they need freshening up now that it's done?

In some cases, schools may have learned so much about their personas, their pain points and motivations, that they decided to revise their image to better suit where their personas are now. More likely, a school wants to transform its image to appeal to different, more target-rich, market.

Either way, don't start planning a roll out until you have your personas updated. This includes identifying the meaningful questions and topics your new personas have for each stage of their enrollment journey, and how to frame them in the context of your new messaging.

Need to make your student or parent personas still? Try this free template for schools >>

Translate Your New Messages into Content

Now you're ready to trumpet your new image to the world. You do that through your content. Start by reworking your SEO and PPC strategies to reflect your new key messages to attract the right people.  After you've identified new keywords to target, you can freshen up some old blog posts with a new message spin and keywords. You also want to build out a new blog editorial calendar that reflects the work you did both on new persona topics and your new keyword strategy. 

Your rebranding effort probably includes a new visual scheme as well, requiring a major website overhaul of its aesthetics, text, and photos. An updated website anchored by your new image and messages is worth sharing. You can write a press release announcing the new website and how it reflects the school's mission and message.  

Repurpose your press release content as articles to go out in alumni and staff/faculty newsletters. Base an email campaign to your current database promoting your new image and directing them to a blog post or video you've made presenting your school's new story. 

You also want to attract new prospects who will be motivated by your new image with a couple pieces of new anchor content. Anchor content is high-value, gated content you promote to generate leads into your database. This could be an analysis of education or employment trends that play into your new image, or preparation and application tips for a certain student population you want to encourage to apply.

You can build a landing page around the anchor content, as well as promote on your website and via social media. With anchor content, you not only get your new image out into the marketplace, you're actively using your new message as the draw to get the right kind of prospects to identify themselves to you. 

The Roll Out Becomes Habit 

Living your school's new image extends far beyond the roll out. The roll out is the announcement. While active promotion of your new image as "new" will eventually end, using your content to deliver your school's message never stops. In fact, as your school brings in classes under the new vision, your school will start to collect the real-life stories of your students, faculty, alumni and school life that reflect this vision. These will all become stupendous sources of content you can use to emphasize and reinforce the reality of your school's image.

So every plan needs a timeline, where you can chart the roll out steps, as well as how to proceed after you hit the tipping point when you're no longer in roll out mode.

  • Prior to formal announcement: You should already have researched and created a new SEO strategy. You can start seeding old and new blog content with this strategy. Think of it as a stealth roll out.
  • Generating excitement for the new image: You might decide you want to share with alumni, faculty, staff and current students the upcoming changes. In addition to newsletter articles or internal emails describing the backstory and hopes of the new image, you can include calls-to-action for them to share linked content through their social media accounts. If you don't want this to pre-date your formal announcement, time this to occur shortly after it.
  • Formal announcement: This is timed to the roll out of your new website, along with a press release.
  • In the months following the formal announcement: Run social media ad or PPC campaigns. Continue to encourage internal stakeholders to promote new image content via social media. Publish new blog, newsletter, and email content centered on more personal stories that emphasize the new school values you want associated with your school.
  • Further down the line: Two, five years down the line, your new image is no longer new. Ideally by this point, your school is truly seen in the light that you'd hoped when you started the re-imaging process. These are the years where your new image either solidifies or you risk it never attaching. Either way, this isn't the time to slow down. Especially now that you'll have a good body of metrics, feedback, and other research you can use to refine how and when you deliver the right value messages in ways that attract prospects and drive enrollment.

Recreating your school's image in the eyes of alumni, current community, and the wider public is never going to be an easy task. Yet keeping clear, consistent messaging throughout your content will go a long way to staying on track.

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