Connect your school brand from the inside out

Students and teachers play key roles in social and mobile storytelling
By: | Issue: April, 2019
March 28, 2019
Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.

Marketing a school brand is important in our mobile, social media world. What school doesn’t need to tell its story? Having reliable communication channels that positively promote a school brand can bolster identity and create a digital bond with the community.

Educators may not see the value of a business-to-business or business-to-customer campaign, but a new approach, the human-to-human effort, may apply to schools seeking to engage communities. Educators serve humans who engage in daily storytelling through their mobile devices.

Connected school leaders tell their stories through multiple channels. Follow them by investing in smart strategies. Educators can build a brand through storytelling that defines and strengthens the school. Recently, Northwestern University in Illinois presented an “engagement engine” business concept on how engagement drives value.

The engagement engine for school brand

Keys to understanding the adaption of the engagement engine for schools include:
• Observe, participate and co-create. Use this simple model to share the brand through communication channels online and in real time.
• Follow the lead of top brands. The Apple, Disney and Hertz brands have built engagement from the inside out. Their “internal cores” drive brand and messaging. In a school, the core comprises teachers, students and staff. Customers will love a brand if company insiders show their love for the brand.

Ideas in action

Clay Reisler, a digital learning specialist at Wisconsin’s Pulaski High School, understands engagement, and lives it each day. Reisler says students can power the promotion of a school’s brand from the inside out. Here’s how his school’s messaging strategy illustrates the engagement engine.

  • Observation. Reisler recruited students and launched the school’s first social media club. In the observation phase, they observed successful social media accounts—including student-favorite brand Wendy’s—to identify effective messaging strategies. The students’ personal connections to the school inspired the types of content they wanted to create to promote their school brand.
  • Participation. For students, this was about ownership. Their commitment grew with the idea that “it’s our school, not the adults’ school,” Reisler says. A ClassIntercom platform boosted students’ and teachers’ interest in participating as storytellers.
    The next goal was to get the whole school to share their stories with an unlimited number of stakeholders.
  • Co-creation. The top of the engagement mountain is the co-creation of content to enhance school brand messaging. Students and teachers shared editorial control over their content before publishing it across social media.

To co-create with ease, the club members established a spreadsheet to assign weekly tasks to students. Specific content-development tasks were organized around special events: sports, musicals and promotional days.


Read: Branding 101 for leaders in education


Creators can jazz up their content with graphics and emojis. Interviews with students are part of Reisler’s engagement strategy.

In addition, the school’s version of internet favorites such as Throwback Thursday, Feature Friday and Fan Art Friday invite the community to post content and engage with power.
(Learn more about Reisler’s ongoing commitment to the school brand, marketing and communication at his website, clayreisler.com.)

Trish Rubin is a marketing instructor at Baruch College in New York and is the author of BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning.