Like any other entity selling a product or providing a service, a school must actively manage its brand over time.
There are many rationales for repositioning a waning brand including poor execution, a limited target base, a loss of relevance or the simple fact that the product or service is perceived to be out of date, tired or boring.
Ideally, a school will maintain its brand equity over time through responsive and adaptive practices that enable it to stay abreast of trends in pedagogy and in all other areas pertinent to the effective running of a school. To become an adaptive school, I would urge you to visit www.thinkingcollaborative.com. This is the home of Adaptive Schools®. I will be sure to use this blog to write more of the impact that Adaptive Schools® philosophies and practices have had on my own practice but for now I would like to draw your attention to 3 simple focusing questions:
- Who are we?
- Why are we doing this?
- Why are we doing this, this way?
I have found that the answers to these questions are invaluable in maintaining an adaptive school and, in the context of marketing, I believe may provide the basis to ensuring that a school maintains equity in its brand.
Change is inevitable in schools but it is absolutely paramount for a school to ask itself, ‘Who are we?’ before implementing any changes – even those that seem imperative from an educational standpoint. A useful example of the importance of establishing the identity or ‘brand’ of a school before embarking upon change might be found in changing attitudes to homework in elementary schools.
It might not yet be unanimous among educators but the value of homework for elementary school students (other than reading) is now questionable at best. However, even if the reasons for giving homework to elementary students do not stand up to the scrutiny of a line of questioning including ‘Why are we doing this?’ or ‘Why are we doing this, this way?’ a school needs to be cognizant of its brand and where its value is perceived to lie before simply citing the research and abolishing homework.
Abolishing homework might be the right thing to do but if in doing so a school is perceived to be contradicting its brand, the equity in that brand will diminish. This might manifest itself in families that the school’s brand targeted walking away from the school.
For a family that has spent a considerable amount of money for their children to attend a school based upon its reputation for academic excellence, abolishing homework might be perceived as a move away from a focus on academic excellence. If the school cannot manage this cognitive inconsistency in the minds of the parents and convince them that the abolition of homework does not signal an erosion of the school’s academic standards, the school risks losing that family.
I do not believe that a school should pander to parents in contradiction of what is best for their children. However, in an age of increasingly better informed and more demanding families, a school does need to put research and arguments in front of parents to convince them that what it is doing (or proposing to do) is in the best interests of their children. If this is done in a way that is consistent with a school’s brand, not only will this protect the brand equity of a school, it will provide a platform for teachers to reclaim the profession in the eyes of parents, the public, and hopefully even politicians.