The concept of effective brand stories

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Brief summary

  • An effective brand story will persuade families—or at least those who are the right fit—to seriously consider your school.
  • It should be clear, grounded in questions families have about you, and stress what makes you special.
  • You’ll need to spread your brand story across a broad scope of media including authoritative, third-party platforms.
  • The better your distribution and the more effective your brand story is, the more likely suitable families are to more deeply research your school and seriously consider enrolling.

Effective brand stories

All schools have a brand: a set of beliefs, ideas, and associations prospective families (and other stakeholders) have about them. They should also have a central brand story that will shape and influence their brand.

But what makes for an effective brand story? We think there are three main ingredients:

  1. Clarity: Brand stories need to be clear. At their core, they should include a vivid set of beliefs and associations that provide the basis for action and decision-making. The more vivid a brand story, the more persuasive it’s likely to be to the consumer. Sometimes the core, or part of the core, of a school’s brand story is a short value proposition: e.g.: “We provide specialized, one-on-one support for kids with specific learning disabilities.”

  2. Grounded in key questions: No matter what stage a family is at in the school-choice process—e.g., discovery, exploration, etc.—they’ll have questions about your school. These range from simple questions (e.g., what is your annual tuition?) to the more complex (e.g., what’s your educational philosophy?). A good brand story will answer the key questions most families are likely to have about your school (though it can’t answer all of them).

    Suppose your school has a co-constructed curriculum. Families will rightly want to know what this means. An effective brand story will provide a concise and informative answer to this question. E.G.: “At our school, students and teachers work together to create an engaging and challenging curriculum. While students provide significant input, teachers have the final say.”

  3. Stress what makes you special: Each school has its own culture, environment, and educational approach. Your brand story should effectively convey what’s unique about your school and what makes it special. For instance, “Our school’s approach to learning is highly experiential. Students go on at least two field trips a week (such as to museums, animal sanctuaries, and historical sites).”

Why an effective brand story is so important

Why is it so important to have an effective brand story? This isn’t as obvious as it may seem, so it’s worth clearly articulating the reasons. Here are three crucial ones:

  1. Limited resources: Families cannot deeply research all schools. Given the wide range of options out there, a good brand story can concisely and lucidly convey what you offer. It can help parents quickly gauge whether you might be a good fit for their child, and whether it’s worth researching you more deeply before they make their choice.

  2. Differentiation: Before a family researches your school, they’ll normally have some criteria in mind. A good brand story, by answering the right questions, will help differentiate your school from other seemingly similar options (that may also meet a family’s criteria).

  3. Confidence: A good brand story, by clearly explaining what you offer and what makes you special, gives families confidence. It tells them that you know who you are, what you do well, and what you do differently. This confidence can be reinforced when your story is distributed on external media such as trusted third-party platforms where families research schools.

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