As districts refine their communications to connect with families and the community on a deeper level, a unified school-home communications platform can streamline district messaging. Some districts will even expand their communications to the next level by connecting this platform to their social media channels and school websites.
While these are valuable steps towards connecting with families and the community, the greatest effect is seen when schools begin to really enhance their messaging by developing a vibrant and consistent brand. When districts create and maintain their brand, they can regularly engage families, organizations and local businesses. If done successfully, it builds recognition and cultivates trust and loyalty among community members.
To explore the different facets of creating a distinctive brand and discuss how ParentSquare can help districts maintain their branding, we had a conversation with school communications experts Eliska Padilla and Lisa Jones. ParentSquare’s Betsy McKibbin led a rich discussion about how districts can develop and maintain a vibrant brand that engages the community and helps reach district goals.
What makes a vibrant brand?
When it comes to K12, your brand contributes to the decisions that families are making to interact with your district and send their children to your schools. With this in mind, districts should always be thinking about what their branding conveys. For instance, do people have certain feelings when they see your logo? How are you connecting to the community to make them react in a certain way? Districts must find ways to cultivate interactions and experiences that translate to their community’s responses and engagement with the district.
When a school or district is engaging with the community and developing a unique presence, a brand becomes a “brand experience.” There are two key elements to create an engaging brand: visual look and identity. Visual look includes your district’s logos and icons, colors, fonts and imagery, while identity includes your voice, tone, messaging and how you want people to feel.
ParentSquare supports districts in creating and maintaining a winning brand by offering a tool that can consistently distribute your messaging and branding under one unified platform. Keeping consistent branding all within the same platform helps to present your district as a unified front, empowering teachers, staff and administrators to be valuable communicators. Additionally, ParentSquare makes it simple to engage your community and make your brand stand out with integrated school websites through Smart Sites.
Maintain consistent branding through Canva and beyond
ParentSquare and Canva have a partnership to further streamline branding and make it simple to keep details like logos, colors and fonts consistent. Within Canva, districts can use ParentSquare templates to create content and then easily put those into ParentSquare posts on the platform. This makes it possible to create visually appealing material and make posts more engaging for families.
During our conversation, Eliska mentioned how her district’s brand kit is available in Canva and they train in ParentSquare, so everyone is on the same page. Through Canva, employees have access to all of the district’s brand colors and logo marks, making it easy to keep things consistent. The district utilizes a key communicator group––made up of associate principals and counselors from each school in the district––which meets every month and has added responsibilities with helping disseminate district messaging at the school level and managing social media. Having all of the district’s brand kit available to this group ensures messaging and branding are consistent.
Lisa’s small team also relies on school-based site editors to assist with sharing school stories and posting on social media. At the district level, they specify the messaging, voice and the type of content they want to go out, and then the schools can develop content from there. To further guide consistent branding, the district developed a brand guide and refined their color palette in a brand refresh several years ago.
One of the challenges Lisa’s district faces is that the schools have different logos––some of which are DIY’ed and look less professional. Because they’ve built a strong brand for the district, they have a unique opportunity to reach out to schools who want to improve their brand management and unify the district’s branding that way.
Using Smart Sites to showcase your brand
ParentSquare offers Smart Sites, an integrated school website solution that can help districts elevate their brand. The website tool integrates with ParentSquare’s family engagement platform, creating a unified platform for all communications. Publish media-rich posts and urgent alerts to multiple channels simultaneously, including website pages, social media, email, app, SMS and voice.
School websites are a key factor in conveying your school’s brand. It’s important to focus on each detail of your site as an important puzzle piece in showcasing your school or district. Whether it’s the imagery, colors or copy on your web pages, each element plays a part in representing your district’s brand, values and community.
During our conversation, Lisa detailed Oak Harbor’s recent onboarding of Smart Sites as a key part in continuing to build a vibrant brand in the district. One big change they have made through consistent websites is the decision to focus on high quality photos as visuals throughout the site. Previously, schools were using a lot of visually varying graphics that weren’t aligning with the brand. While schools still have a lot of creativity in creating each of their websites, the district is building scaffolding and has created a brand guide to help set standards and guide the development of website content. Additionally, the district has created a hashtag to use when sharing district stories, to unite the district and the community. Smart Sites has made it possible to take that branding to another level and highlight it more, elevating the brand overall.
Supporting strategic goals through branding
While branding is an important part of family engagement and community perception, it also plays a role in supporting strategic goals. Consistent messaging helps to clarify your district’s goals and can lead to greater support and involvement from families and the community.
In Eliska’s district, a bond campaign was passed by leaning into the district messaging of “Hippo Nation” to really bring the district together. During this campaign, the district made sure to consistently talk about their mission, values, vision, beliefs and what they were trying to accomplish. They shared these stories in their monthly newsletter, bilingual magazine and social media.
Lisa’s district is really focused on unity, and their branding helps to facilitate that goal. The hashtag they’ve created, #OneOakHarbor, helps invite the community in, beyond just the schools and families. In addition, photos, video content and testimonials go a long way in supporting district goals.
To view the conversation in its entirety, including detailed examples of branding in the panelists’ districts, check out the webinar recording here.