Strategic Planning and Branding in Tandem

Lori Woehrle
Strategy & Branding

Schools often ask us which should happen first: strategic planning or branding? Our answer is they should happen in tandem. If you know you need more right-fit families; if you know you need stronger messaging; and if you know you need a brand refresh—doing both projects in synchronization is the most efficient way to get it done.

Nearly every strategic plan has a goal of elevating the school’s visibility in the marketplace. To achieve this goal, a common action item is to work on strengthening the brand because it will increase awareness, attract the attention of more prospective students, and build interest in the school for future fundraising endeavors. Therefore knowing branding work will undoubtedly be an action item, below are five questions to think about as justifications for streamlining the process.

Strategic Planning and Branding in Tandem: 5 Questions to Consider

  1. A strategic plan doesn’t alter your brand. It sets the strategic future and next steps for the institution, but it doesn’t affect who your institution is at its core. Your brand is the promise you make about who you are as a school, the needs you fulfill for students and families, and your impact on the community you serve. That doesn't change; how you articulate it does. So why do planning before branding when it isn’t a cause and effect relationship?
  2. Sound strategic planning and a brand refresh both rest on the success of a thorough discovery process: interviews with key stakeholders that provide valuable insight to essential institutional next steps. Why not combine and integrate those important conversations to avoid stakeholder fatigue and save time?
  3. An attentive brand strategist will learn much about your organization by being present during the planning process. Why not bring brand strategists in from the beginning so they have the full picture?
  4. One outcome of your strategic planning should be an inspiring summary of your future. Why not present those ideas within the framework of your refreshed brand and avoid a missed opportunity to present your school from a position of strength?
  5. If you spend one admissions cycle on your strategic plan, then the following on your brand refresh, that is a two-year process. Why not get there sooner?

Invest your time and resources efficiently and effectively. You’ll get the best possible outcome for your school in half the time by doing this important work in tandem.