While many schools overlook this major opportunity to market themselves, your school needs an identity in order to make it memorable for others. A corporate identity is how your school visually identifies itself, mainly your school logo, colors, taglines, font choices, and any other main form of branding. This commonly appears on signs or buildings, printed materials like brochures or business cards, and any other major form of advertising such as websites, clothing, school equipment, and school merchandise.

Clear, concise, and straightforward presentation of your school is key.

If your school has no identity or needs to streamline its identity, here are some steps to help you:

Step 1: Research and be creative.

Gather ideas for identities by looking at what other schools use, but remember to be original! Uniqueness is what is going to make your identity stand out from others, which is the whole point in making an identity. Don't just copy the first great logo you see; gather styles you like as an inspiration or starting point for making your own identity.

Concepts can be generated from any avenue, so have an open mind and get input from others in your school as well. Ask your teachers and students what they think. If you have a brick and mortar school, it's also a good idea to research the surrounding schools to see what their identities are so yours can be different. If yours is a distance learning school or a virtual school, consider how to relay this uniqueness of your school clearly.

Step 2: Identify What Your School Represents

An essential part in creating a clear identity is deciding what and who your Christian school is. Do some self-reflection. In essence, your brand or identity is your promise to the audience. It answers the questions of who you are, what you stand for, and what you offer. Some identities create curiosity, while most strong and enduring identities relay the prominent theme or message of the organization. Themes of Christianity, life, knowledge, and ministry are many common elements found in Christian school identities.

When deciding, keep in mind your mission and vision, along with your marketing strategy and desired audience you wish to reach. It's important to also to think about the context of where your identity will appear. Document your decisions. This will help if you decide to hire someone to create your identity. It also is a valuable record for future school administration to look back and review previous decisions.

Step 3: Decide Your Budget and Who Will Design Your Identity

After you decide what your Christian school represents, it's time to decide who will create your identity. Don't take this decision lightly. Of course, the most important question your school will ask regarding the creation process is "How much will it cost?" While your budget is extremely important to consider, equally so is the image of professionalism you portray through your identity. Professionalism or unprofessionalism can speak volumes to potential parents on how they view you.

For example, you are going to be more likely to pay attention and respect the message of a presenter who is polished and well-dressed than a person who is sloppily dressed. Attention to detail shows you care about who you are and what you offer. Corporate identity is the same way. It's the first impression you give, and in that moment, people will decide what to think about your school. If you put no effort into your identity, some will question your decisions, and sometimes unfairly your credibility as an educational institution. A clear, powerful identity leaves an indelible mark in the minds of your audience.

That said, if you have a school staff member, alumnus, or a volunteer parent who is a trained graphic designer, this person could be valuable in creating your identity at a reasonable cost. However, if you have no experienced professional to create an identity for you, you should hire an outside agency or designer to create it. Trained individuals understand the criteria needed for designing identity elements.

Be cautious of freelance options, although they are more affordable. Freelancers can be a mixed bag of prospects, are often less reliable, can have less experience, and are more difficult to work with via long distance. Payment with freelancers can also be more work as they usually work on a contract basis. Ask for portfolios of past work to ensure that whomever you hire, whether freelancer or not, has the talent needed to create your identity.

Step 4: Be Active in the Creation Process

It's tempting after you have handed off the reins to someone else to forget about the project at hand, but your participation in the creation process is crucial to its success. Being active from beginning to the end helps not only the designer who is creating your identity, but it also ensures that the money you are investing in this project is being used wisely. Deadlines and goals are essential.

Plan periodic meetings with your designer. The more you communicate, the better. Relay all possible uses of your identity and all the contextual situations you can think of that might influence the design. Colors, styles, fonts, names, taglines, mission—even the ultimate emotion you want felt by the viewer—are all just as important to the designer as they are to your school. Request variations in corporate identity designs to give your school more options. Brainstorm in the beginning but narrow down on elements and direction as quickly as possible. If the person you hire is professionally trained, he will work with you to create what you want while merging his own creativity. If your designer is only concerned about doing what he thinks is best, it's better not to hire him at all. Keep in mind, though, that disagreements are bound to happen in the creative process.

In addition, approvals can be a troublesome area if no one is designated to have a final say. Make sure this person is appointed before the creation process begins. Of course, involving all key decision makers' opinions is encouraged, especially as an identity represents the entire school. Having everyone the same page is crucial to progress.

Step 5: Decide Where to Put Identity

Make sure that after your identity is produced, you and the designer have come to an agreement on ownership of it. The last thing your Christian school needs is a legal battle over copyright or usage issues.

Next, decide where to put your corporate identity. The obvious places include school signs, vehicles, printed materials (letterhead, envelopes, business cards, brochures, schooling event printings, etc.), your website and emails, your social media sites, your buses, your school clothing or uniforms, and so forth. You can even incorporate identity in your school building design and in graduation ceremonies.

Where you place your identity is entirely up to you. A good rule of thumb, however, is to be consistent with the branding. Don't mix new and old logos or taglines. Repetition helps people remember better and is essential to solid branding. Remember, if your logo has a lot of color, some people with black ink printers will only be able to see it in those colors. Ensure your logo looks as great in black and white as it does in color. Don't forget to promote your new identity and school through press releases or even a school-wide celebration!

Step 6: Gather feedback and revise if necessary

Now your identity is designed and  in front of the public and staff, your work isn't over yet. Keep your ears and eyes open. How are others reacting to your identity? You can even send out a quick online or print survey and gather opinions on your new identity to get a feel for how people like it.

Revision of identities can happen for many reasons, but it usually happens because of school merger, new leadership wanting to portray a new image, or simply because it's old. Revisions often incorporate main elements of the previous identity and make a fresh spin on the identity. Complete revisions of corporate identities don't happen often because of the time taken to build the brand image. An organization does not want to waste this valuable brand perception already built up in the public, so revision is only done when necessary. Keep this in mind if you have the urge to re-design your identity every so often.

Making It Happen

School identity is essential to marketing your Christian school. If your school doesn't have an identity or if you are just opening your Christian school, this marketing strategy should be on the top of your list. Because of financial reasons, many Christian schools do as little as possible in the area of creating an identity, and it often shows. As stated earlier, though, to show potential parents your Christian school is serious and a professional institution, a professional appearance is necessary.

Identities can range in cost from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on what you desire and who is creating it. Be wise with your Christian school's money. Research options like volunteers, alumni, or agencies to see what you can get in your price range. You don't need perfection; you need professionalism at a reasonable cost. Consider specific budget allocations or donation fundraisers dedicated to making a school identity.

With God-led decision making, your Christian school can create a solid, meaningful identity to portray to others. Pray for God's direction. Consider what you have budgeted for this marketing cost and how this will affect your mission to reach families and student for Christ, along with your allocated income. Think of how you want parents to remember your school and prioritize funding accordingly.

Does your school have questions about creating a school identity? Do you have your own tips? Share them below.