Building Your School’s Brand By Crafting A Compelling Personal Narrative
Storytelling has always held power over the hearts and minds of humanity–you see this power in whatever form storytelling is in, from the longevity of an Ancient Greek epic to the proven effectiveness of a great brand story.
Among all your other duties as a school principal, remember to ask yourself: what is the story I’m telling? If you don’t proactively shape it, it will be shaped for you–so leverage the narrative of both you and your school to establish trust with parents, nurture great staff, improve your school’s outcomes, and grow your community.
Does it surprise you that effectively telling your story can help produce such incredible results?
Well, the wisdom is backed by facts.
Studies have shown that if people love a brand story, they’re more likely to come back to the brand, share its story, and buy its products. In short: they’re more likely to trust the brand. This trust is so critical that 81% of consumers say they need to have it in order to buy from a brand.
Schools are no different. They need an engaged community of diverse stakeholders including students, parents, staff, school board members, and even other collaborating institutions. As a principal, it’s your job to lead and attract people to this community.
Interested in learning how to craft a compelling personal narrative? Read on!
Do Principals Really Need To Have A Story?
Yes, they do! If you’re striving for excellence, you need to connect with all your stakeholders. Making all the right decisions for your school is a tough job, but it gets easier when you inspire trust.
Take parent involvement, for example. Students whose parents stay involved in schools have better attendance, behavior, academic performance, and social skills. According to a plethora of studies, across varied demographics, a parent’s involvement in their child’s education has been critical for the child’s growth and success.
But parents aren’t always highly involved. This applies to both prospective and existing students’ families. As a leader, you need to connect with parents for effective communication and engagement.
Just showing up for PTA meetings, dryly answering questions, and sending obligatory emails, makes you a vessel for information. It doesn’t leave an emotional impact.
And people may not remember what you said–but they’ll remember how you made them feel.
Similarly, prospective students and their families need more than just a list of features and achievements of your school–they want to send their students somewhere that feels right. Defining your philosophy and story, helps them contextualize all the other factors they are considering when figuring out the place that will give their kids the best shot at life.
When it comes to nurturing a high-quality staff, they need to understand their leadership, defined by you. What are your values, why are you doing this work, and how you do see the school’s goals? A strong story from you is a piece of the larger story of your school, and together, this overarching sense of narrative infuses them with purpose.
Stories also make you more relatable, authentic, and approachable. You want each of your students to feel safe and inspired by you. For this, you need to be tangible–not just a figurehead. Storytelling helps demonstrate your expertise and achievements but also your challenges and quirks.
Crafting A Personal Narrative
To craft your personal narrative, you need to define your objectives, audience, and message. Think about your life. What are the key moments and experiences that shaped your identity, values, and skills? How do they thematically tie into your school’s narrative? Once you have identified this, you can begin structuring and writing your story, which will be told through multiple channels of communication.
Here are some tools you should consider using to craft a compelling narrative:
Begin With The Basics
Your vision, mission statement, values, and goals. Each of these feeds the other. A vision is a top-down declaration of what you want your organization to achieve, a mission statement is an overview of how it intends to achieve it, your values define the traits you’re going to champion to achieve that end, and your goals are concrete milestones you may be looking to achieve that very year.
While the previously mentioned components are a necessary part of a school’s brand, you need to find how you relate to them. Do your values align with those of the school? Show how. Sharing why you personally care about achieving these goals also gives you an opportunity to be relatable.
Keep Your Audience In Mind
You should have a version of your story that can be told to parents, staff, students, and other institutions. They need to be consistent and yet cater to each audience in the way that engages them best. For example, the language you use when talking to children may be drastically different from what you’re sharing with neighboring schools while building partnerships. Everybody connects with different things, so find ways to be relatable to each of your stakeholders.
Craft a Narrative That Holds Up Across Mediums
You want to be able to talk about yourself to parents when engaged in one-on-one conversations just as well as you address them as a collective, over emails and newsletters. You need to have a version of the story that’s accessible to prospective students right from the moment they visit your school website, as well as a version that continues to inspire students who’ve known you for years. Use a mix of both offline and online, written and audiovisual, as well as public and personal engagements.
What makes you and your school different from others? You can check out the websites and communications of other schools in your district to analyze what they did well, what they didn’t, and what you can do differently.
Use Conflict & Choice
One of the most seminal rules of storytelling, one that applies to your personal narrative too, is that stories are about conflict. Similarly, the golden rule about characters is that they make choices. When talking about yourself, be open to bringing up your challenges and how you overcame them. What conflict was there in your journey, what choices did you make in response to it, and what change was affected in the end?
Use Vivid Language
Don’t just say that you want your students to “be the best” or call your journey “difficult”. The vaguer you are, the less impactful your words will be. Specificity, on the other hand, creates authenticity. Before you describe events, consider the environment they’re set up in. When describing events, try throwing in metaphors and similies. Instead of just describing your life chronologically, highlight moments that provoke emotion. Speaking of which…
Always Begin With A Hook
After you lay out all the potential material you can use, find which piece would be most likely to make someone want to find out more. The hook is not just about being impactful–it’s about piquing interest.
When we engage with a good story, the brain activates the parts of it that are usually engaged when we are actively experiencing life events. That’s how powerful a story can be.
You might be working as a principal because you felt it was a calling, a duty, or something meaningful that sparks joy. Whatever it is, your work is made far more effective by telling your story and connecting with the school’s community. You have to lead your school’s brand.
If you’re looking for help with crafting your and your school’s brand story, schedule a free 15-minute consultation with SolvedConsulting, the solution hub for your school’s problems.