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Empowering School Brands with Student Voices

Amplifying Student Voices

When students speak, are you listening? Are you leveraging student voice in your communication strategy? Student voice is one of the most potent yet often underutilized assets. Students are not just recipients of education but active participants in shaping their school’s culture, values, and identity. Incorporating student voices into the branding process is transformative. It brings authenticity, relevance, and vibrancy to your school’s image and reputation.

“Involving students in branding initiatives fosters a sense of ownership and pride in their school community,” said Andrew A. Hagen, integrated communications coordinator at CEL.

The Essence of Student Voices

When students have a platform to express their perspectives, ideas, and aspirations, they provide invaluable insights into what truly matters to them and their peers. Their feedback illuminates aspects of the school experience that adults may overlook and sheds light on unique strengths and opportunities for growth within the institution. Students also keep the conversation real; they will tell you when messaging misses the mark.

Fostering Ownership and Connection

When students see their input reflected in the school’s brand, they feel a deeper connection to their school or district. They are more motivated to engage actively in its success. This sense of belonging enhances the overall school culture. It cultivates a positive reputation that resonates with prospective students, families, and the wider community.

Aligning Brand with Student Values

A student-centered approach to branding strengthens the school’s reputation and reinforces its commitment to student success, empowerment, and well-being. Student voice in branding extends beyond surface-level aesthetics to capture the essence of the student experience. By aligning the school’s brand with its student body’s values, aspirations, and perspectives, educators can create a more authentic and compelling narrative that resonates with all stakeholders. 

Crafting Authentic Messages

“Authenticity reigns supreme,” underscores Ashley Winter, CEL’s content marketing coordinator,  “Schools must convey messages that resonate with and represent their stakeholders, reflecting genuine values, beliefs, and aspirations. This is what sets your school apart from the many other choices.” Student voice is a powerful tool for crafting messaging that connects with the intended audience.

Enhancing Credibility through Student Voice

When students have a hand in shaping school messaging, it leads to more relatable, relevant, and compelling content. Student testimonials or stories offer unique perspectives on their school experiences, highlighting aspects that resonate deeply with their peers and the broader community. By incorporating student insights, schools can ensure that their messaging reflects the lived experiences and aspirations of those they serve, fostering a stronger sense of connection and engagement.

Case Study: SoWashCo’s Authentic Tagline

“Be Seen. Be Heard. Be Bold.” In focus groups with high school students in SoWashCo Schools (a.k.a. South Washington County Schools, MN or ISD 833), students told us they wanted to be seen, heard, and valued by their teachers and school leaders. Their dreams for the future included making a bold difference and bringing forth change. They wanted to be known. They weren’t inspired by the District’s 1990s tagline: Igniting a passion

Branding used to be about your product or services, but today, branding communicates what’s in it for your customers. It sparks emotions and questions, which allows you to tell the real story. 

A new tagline emerged by actively involving students in the process—”Be Seen. Be Heard. Be Bold.” It represented modern student values and aspirations. And it reflects the district’s commitment to student-centered education and a bold vision for the future of learning. It was also a rallying cry for staff — the district had a vision for bold change and wanted all voices involved.

Incorporating student voice into messaging enhances authenticity and ensures relevance across diverse audiences. When students see themselves reflected in the stories conveyed by their school, they feel a greater sense of belonging and success. This sense of ownership and connection strengthens the school’s brand and fosters positive relationships with students, families, and the broader community.

Student-Powered Strategies

Incorporating student voice into branding and communication efforts helps K-12 public schools connect their communication strategies with their audiences on an emotional level. Here are eight actionable tips for school superintendents, principals, and communications directors to effectively leverage student voice in their school communications initiatives:

1. Student Advisory Groups: Form student advisory groups or councils with representatives from different grade levels, demographics, and interests. They can provide valuable insights into student perspectives, preferences, and priorities.

2. Surveys and Focus Groups: Implement surveys and focus groups to gather student feedback on the school experience, including branding, messaging, and communication channels. Ensure the feedback mechanisms are accessible, anonymous, and inclusive to encourage honest and diverse responses.

3. Student Branding Workshops: When conducting branding workshops or brainstorming sessions, actively involve students. Encourage them to share their ideas, suggestions, and creative concepts for representing the school’s identity.

4. Collaborative Content Creation: Invite students to contribute to creating content for school communications, such as blog posts, social media updates, newsletters, and videos. Provide opportunities for students to showcase their talents, interests, and achievements in stories that align with the school’s brand. (However, leave logo design to a professional designer.)

5. Student-Led Initiatives: Support and promote student-led initiatives that amplify the school’s brand and values. Whether it’s organizing events, campaigns, or community service projects, empower students to take ownership and showcase the best of what the school has to offer.

6. Social Media Advocacy: Encourage students to become social media ambassadors for the school, sharing their positive experiences, achievements, and school spirit online. Provide suggestions and resources to help students represent the school’s brand effectively while maintaining professionalism and positivity. Student takeovers can be wildly successful when done well.

7. Student Success Stories: Highlight student success stories, accomplishments, and contributions in school communications to showcase the diverse talents and achievements within the student body. Recognizing and amplifying student voices reinforces the school’s commitment to student-centered learning and community engagement.

8. A Culture of Open Communication: Create an environment where students feel seen and heard, where they are comfortable expressing their opinions, concerns, and ideas openly and respectfully. Actively listen to student feedback, address their needs and priorities, and demonstrate their voices are valued and respected.

 

Are you excited to shape your school’s identity and messaging? When students are actively involved, it strengthens your brand and fosters a culture of belonging and engagement. Our team is here to guide you every step of the way on this transformative journey. Let’s collaborate and bring student voices to the forefront, taking your school’s brand to new heights. Contact us today to get started!

 

 

 

Published on: February 27, 2024

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