This is a guest post by Seth Stephens, Chief Communications Officer for Orange County Schools (NC).

After numerous focus groups, surveys and research, you have finally developed a brand for your school district that you believe will have broad support and great success. Now, you are primed to launch an aggressive marketing campaign to promote your brand. After months of marketing the brand, you are not seeing or realizing the positive results that you had imagined. What happened?

Marketing your brand begins with your staff- not just what your staff does to market the school system, but how the district markets itself to those same employees. It is critical that a school system maintain a positive relationship in marketing the district brand to its employees.

Your staff are viewed by the community and families as knowledgeable authorities about the district. One negative post on social media or a passing negative remark in a store that your staff makes to a community member can counter and degrade any positive marketing efforts that you have made. Put simply, your employees are powerbrokers. They are your most significant brand ambassadors. What they say about the district’s brand carries weight in the community.

It’s no longer enough for school districts to be dependent upon traditional media outlets to tell and promote their story. The notion that your district is solely reliant upon third parties, like newspapers or television outlets, is outdated. In today’s digital media landscape, anyone or any organization with access to the internet and a smartphone or other computing device can be a source of information – this includes your district. As such, you need to work diligently to manage your district’s brand.

What does that mean for my brand?

Here are 4 areas that can help you market your brand with a strong focus on your employees and the community:

Leverage social media

Use your district’s social media feeds to deliver essential content on school operations; highlight recognition of student and staff accomplishments; and to promote the school district by use of video and pictures to broadcast positive messages about your school system. Create a personalized experience for your audiences by crafting your message on market research rather than just posting stories that you receive from other district leaders.

Engage with your employees

Direct contact with your employees via email, social media, and in-person events will inform and empower your employees with positive knowledge of school accomplishments, employee benefits, metrics of success, and timely updates on school operations. If your employees aren’t equipped with brand-relevant information, they won’t be equipped to promote your brand to other stakeholders.

Create recognition programs

Develop and implement recognition programs for students, staff, and community partners. And, highlight these recognitions via your digital platforms. Make sure your events are well-promoted before, during, and after they occur.

Work with your community networks

Work with community partners and volunteers to cross-market and promote events that are relevant to the school community. This can create energy, and your staff will take note of the engagement that extends beyond basic staff newsletters. Local restaurants, stores, and major national chains are eager to work with school districts on various promotions. Employee discount programs, school nights at restaurants, volunteer opportunities, and classroom support are some of the most readily available options for school systems and community partners. Most importantly, the beneficiaries of these promotional events are your students and staff.

Managing your school system’s brand can feel like a moving target. But, if your efforts are focused, you can leverage your system’s staff to be your greatest asset in marketing your brand.

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