Does your education organization have a marketing strategy? All effective education brands should. But according to a Hanover Research survey, only 60 percent of higher education marketing administrators said they were working from a brand strategy.
No matter who uses your company’s services — teachers, parents, students or school leaders — reaching them with the right marketing strategy is key. Whether you are restructuring your existing strategy or starting from scratch, your education brand needs six essential elements in order to build a fruitful marketing plan: vision, mission, brand benefits, positioning statement, stakeholder profiles and key messages.
These six elements are critical in moving your brand forward. Without them, your employees won’t have a common goal to work toward, you’ll have trouble pinpointing your company’s unique point-of-difference and your messaging could be misguided. Join other effective education brands by learning how to build your brand’s marketing base with these six essential elements.
Effective Education Brands Have Impactful Vision and Mission Statements
Your vision statement is an internal message that expresses the future you hope to create as a result of accomplishing your mission. This is a guiding statement that should inspire your customers and employees and provide perspective on what the world would look like if you achieved all of your goals.Your vision statement is an internal message that expresses the future you hope to create. Click To Tweet
Without a vision statement, your education organization lacks a way to articulate the underlying purpose of your day-to-day work. Forming your vision statement also helps differentiate your organization.
A strong vision statement takes into account the purpose of your education brand. Think about the true vision of your company that goes beyond “to educate [your demographic].” When crafting your vision statement, picture what you want the world to be like in ten years. Don’t be afraid to use emotional language — after all, effective education brands care about more than just making a profit. How will your product help students change the world?
In order to begin crafting your vision statement, take a look at what some other effective education brands have done. Here are a few examples:
- “One day, all children in this nation will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.” – Teach for America
- “Illinois is a state of whole, healthy children nested in whole, healthy systems supporting communities wherein all citizens are socially and economically secure.” – Illinois State Board of Education
- “Harvard College will set the standard for residential liberal arts and sciences education in the twenty-first century. We are committed to creating and sustaining the conditions that enable all Harvard College students to experience an unparalleled educational journey that is intellectually, socially, and personally transformative.” – Harvard College
Examine what you like and dislike. Some are brief, and others are more detailed. But all speak to what their organization’s ideal future would look like.
After crafting a vision statement, effective education brands can think more granularly about how their company can help make that vision a reality, and how to articulate this through their mission statement.
Your mission statement expresses to both your employees and customers what you will do to make your vision statement come to life.
All effective education brands’ mission statements are specific, concise and emotionally stirring. Similar to a vision statement, your mission statement should allude to a future goal. However, it should also describe what your organization will do to attain that goal. Think about what your company will do to make your vision a reality. How will you contribute to this goal?
If your education organization is a for-profit company, a mission statement helps bring a focus to your work that goes beyond the day-to-day grind of making a profit. Nonprofits and for-profit companies alike should strive to have their mission statements resonate in all internal and external communications.
When crafting your organization’s mission statement, consult with the team members who originally helped develop your vision. This will ensure your team is on the same page throughout the process of your strategy development.
We’ve previously discussed effective mission statements and what makes them work. Consider some of these mission statements to inspire your own:
- “The primary purpose of the University of Wisconsin–Madison is to provide a learning environment in which faculty, staff and students can discover, examine critically, preserve and transmit the knowledge, wisdom and values that will help ensure the survival of this and future generations and improve the quality of life for all.” – University of Wisconsin, Madison
- “Our mission is to accelerate learning through intuitive, engaging, efficient and effective experiences – grounded in research.” – McGraw Hill Education
- “The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.” – NPR
Effective Education Brands Understand Their Unique Benefits and How To Communicate Them
Mission and vision statements help establish the direction of effective education brands’ marketing strategies. After those are crafted, you must evaluate what benefits your company brings to the table and how you can leverage them in your marketing.
Your brand benefits are the elements of your brand that provoke a positive response in your customers, employees and other stakeholders. Knowing and owning these benefits helps build consumer confidence in your brand. Additionally, they’ll help you define your unique point-of-difference in your market.
Brainstorm with your team members a list of both current and aspirational brand benefits. As you’re building your brand benefits, consider questions like:
- What are the main reasons your stakeholders choose to work with your education brand?
- What are the positive messages that stand out in your media coverage?
- What feedback do you commonly receive from satisfied stakeholders?
- When you think of why you work where you do, and what you value about it, what comes to mind?
Learn how satisfied customers talk about you on social media, review sites or simply what you’ve heard via word-of-mouth. You’ll likely get insights into what made your stakeholders turn to you instead of another organization in your industry. You can leverage these benefits across your marketing communications materials — whether that’s communicating your services to new customers, conducting a media interview or writing a grant proposal.
Now that you’ve established your education brand’s mission, vision and benefits, you’re a step closer to determining how you truly differ from your competitors.
All effective education brands have a positioning statement. It’s an internal statement that establishes what your education organization offers that no other organization does. Think about what you offer to learners that can’t be found anywhere else. The resulting statement functions as the overall “North Star” of your brand strategy. Your team members should turn to it for guidance as they develop or modify the rest of your marketing strategy.
When writing a positioning statement, think of all the elements you’ve created in your strategy thus far. What are your brand’s benefits, and how do they correlate with your mission and vision? Your positioning statement should address how only your organization can achieve your vision and mission, due to the unique benefits it offers.
Effective Education Brands Know Their Stakeholders and How to Reach Them
Your stakeholders are personified descriptions of each person who plays a key role in the success of your company. As an education organization, your stakeholders likely include teachers, school administrators, students, parents or government leaders, depending on your offerings. If your education brand is a nonprofit organization, one of your stakeholders will likely be a donor.
As you build stakeholder profiles, consider both large-scope and focused questions to answer for each profile. Research your stakeholders’ interests online or gather information from those you already work with. To understand your stakeholders, answer questions such as:
- What is their background?
- What are their goals?
- What news outlets do they read?
- What are their challenges?
- How can your company help them?
- Who do they consult before making buying decisions?
- What hesitations do they have about using your company?
Stakeholder profiles are critical not only for understanding the needs of each individual who plays a role in the success of your company, but also in developing the unique key messages that apply to these groups.
Key messages allow you to frame your brand benefits for each stakeholder group you identified. They should have succinct language, segmented by stakeholder, that describes key values of your organization. Key messages can be used consistently in all of your company’s marketing communications and tailored to each stakeholder group. For example, you organization would obviously address an educator and a parent differently.
Your key messages are easiest to identify if you return to your brand benefits. Once you identify the strengths that are unique to your brand, you can focus on how to communicate each of them to your target stakeholders.
Here are some steps to follow as you build your key messages:
- Build out a matrix with key messages along the left-hand side and stakeholders across the top
- Choose three to four strengths you’d like to communicate to your stakeholders. They should be concise.
- Think about the needs, interests and preferences of each target stakeholder group, and how your education brand’s unique values correspond with their needs.
Creating a strategy is an important first step for all effective education brands to take before delving into a full marketing plan. However, it’s important to remember that these elements aren’t static. They can, and should, be modified as your business grows.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or want to take a second look at your marketing strategy, creating these six elements will help solidify your education brand’s marketing plan.
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