Morristown-Beard School Case Study
Learn how Kelsh Wilson developed a coordinated approach to messaging and design across Morristown-Beard School’s entire communications program. Kelsh Wilson Design creates message-driven marketing communications, in print and on the web, for education, business, and nonprofits. Admissions / Advancement / Branding / Photography + Video
A Case Study in School-wide Branding
Beginning with the Viewbook
Kelsh Wilson’s partnership with Morristown-Beard School started with the challenge of creating an admissions viewbook and search piece that would help MBS compete in a market that includes both many strong independent schools and some of the nation’s best public districts. Kelsh Wilson’s work presented MBS as the remarkably warm and supportive community it is, while making a stronger case than ever before for its distinctive brand of academic rigor.
SEEING A MORE COMPLEX NEED
In their first year of use, MBS’s new publications helped support a highly successful admissions season. However, leaders at the school soon reached a conclusion that is hitting home at many other institutions as well: A compelling viewbook is a necessary communications tool, but it is just one tool, reaching just one of many audiences.
SHAPING A COMPREHENSIVE SOLUTION
Together, MBS and Kelsh Wilson framed a plan to bring greater impact and consistency to all the school’s communications. This meant addressing alumni, donors, and the public at large along with the admissions audience. It meant thinking about the school’s website, magazine, and advertising program. It meant sharpening messages, creating a clear MBS “look,” and documenting both in a form that people across the MBS community could use
A Sustained Conversation
The goal of a comprehensive messaging program is to create an ongoing conversation—making a school’s major messages part of the way people talk about the place every day. Coincidentally, orchestrating a sustained conversation is also at the heart of Kelsh Wilson’s process. At MBS, we spoke with students and faculty, alumni and parents, administrators and board members, sifting their thoughts for common themes that became the foundation of the messaging program.
An Exercise in Message Building
Of course, careful listening alone will not yield marketing impact. To develop effective ways of expressing key points for MBS, Kelsh Wilson launched a creative exploration using a flexible tool we call Message Panels. Rough sketches that can morph into ads, web displays, or printed pages, the panels let us test options for taglines, headlines, and more. At MBS, they helped identify ways to unpack and illustrate ideas such as student engagement and educational innovation, making them meaningful to a broad audience.
Mapping the Way
The MBS branding program is built on the foundation of two major documents. The Message and Graphic Standards Guide, a user’s manual for the brand, provides a kit of tools for everyone who communicates on the school’s behalf. These tools range from a message map, an outline of key themes, and an elevator speech to a robust set of design guidelines. The second essential document, the Communications Plan, identifies and prioritizes opportunities to add impact to the marketing program, with action points related to advertising, web content, special events, and more.
Beyond the Basics
Most schools have some sort of graphic standards manual in place, prescribing a set of typefaces and the correct use of the logo. For MBS, however, Kelsh Wilson developed a much more complete guide, with sample layouts for a variety of commonly produced pieces, from ads to invitations. The goal is to help MBS staff meet a range of daily needs and help the school project an image of quality, establishing a recognizable look across an entire program of print and digital communications.
It is increasingly important for schools to carefully structure how they craft their messages—both in the content of those messages and the consistency with which their story is told.
To learn more about how Kelsh Wilson can assist you, contact Fred Wilson at 267.765.0700 x701.