David Willows, the marketing director at the International School of Brussels wrote a very interesting article that all educators should read. In this article Willows outlines 10 lessons that the author has learned through experience in marketing and schools. The ten lessons are all uniquely named but hold meaningful messages within each.

  1. All aboard the ‘cluetrain’. Willows argues that schools should use methods of communication that are popular now in order to effectively communicate a message. We should avoid jargon whenever possible.
  2. Funky hedgehogs. Referring to the concept outlined in, “Good to Great and the Social Sectors” by Collins, Willows discusses how schools can brand themselves as something unique as a promise to their community.
  3. The next now. Schools should be looking to the future and representing that in today’s world.
  4. Fancy a coffee break? Schools should be about something bigger than just education the same way that Starbucks is about more than just coffee.
  5. Coherence, coherence, coherence. Being consistent in message is critical for effectively marketing a school.
  6. Tell me your story. Schools should be able to articulate who they are as a school in a clear and passionate way.
  7. Monitor your brand. Be aware of your perception and make sure it matches your intended message.
  8. Understand why brands fail. As a school, as yourself tough questions and be informed. Stay relevant.
  9. Diagnose the pain. Be aware of what your community is feeling and respond Build empathy
  10. Build alliances. Work in coordination with others who share the values of the school in order to spread and refine your own message.

How to maintain sanity in a busy and hectic international school environment while trying to brand yourself:

  • Find simplicity in the complexity
  • Stay learning focused
  • Take risks
  • Encourage innovation
  • Embrace change
  • Accept change
  • Enjoy

In conclusion

Marketing is all about a conversation. The only effective advertising is word of mouth but this can take different forms in our digital world.  The ten lessons above all help to make a clear message and successfully market a school. As international schools become increasingly competitive it is important that schools are able to set a clear message and brand themselves in the eyes of others.

The branding checklist from below could represent a helpful starting point for your own school’s branding journey. This isn’t from David Willows but touches on some of the same points.