In this age of digital media, one of a school’s most potent forms of outreach is actually one of the most traditional—the school magazine. The magazine offers the rare chance to reach all your institution’s audiences with a single compelling publication. It allows for multipage feature stories—virtually the only option left to explore important ideas in depth. And, in a strategic messaging program, it can play a key part—helping weave your message into your community’s sense of itself over time.
Think about it. Your brand strategy starts when you identify the way you want to position your school and the messages you want to send. But can you simply repeat those points again and again? No. You have to keep re-illustrating your strengths with fresh and interesting stories—and that’s the heart of a great magazine.
Kelsh Wilson has worked with institutions as diverse as The Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, NY, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania to help bring new impact to their magazines. Most recently, we teamed up with The Independence School, a pre-K through grade 8 school in Newark, Delaware, to reinvent their semi-annual publication, Spirit.
Part of the project was to restructure the piece with the right departments—from “Portfolio,” showing off student work, to alumni profiles (formerly rambling and appearing on an ad-hoc basis, now short, sweet, varied and in every issue).
Another aspect of the challenge was to impose a new level of discipline on copy counts, making most stories shorter and the magazine as a whole more accessible.
And part of the challenge was also to update the look of the publication, aligning it with the KWD-developed visual branding that unites the rest of the school’s communications and projecting a new level of quality through the design.
The most important step forward in the evolution of Spirit, however, was in planning the content of major and supporting feature stories in order to align with the pillars of the Independence brand. In the first edition of the new Spirit, this meant diving deeper into the student experience and the minds of teachers with a feature on character education, a signature strength of the school. In future issues, features will rotate, with careful intention, through other key themes—always linking core messages with anecdotes from the life of the school right now.
The result of the Spirit redesign is a lively and colorful publication that’s generating lots of buzz—helping turn the school’s branding initiative into a sustained conversation.