John Middleton is Director of Innovation at University Schools Trust, headquartered in East London.
Here, John talks about the process of establishing a strong, distinctive brand for the trust and why their trust website is so critical to success.
University Schools Trust
I’ll begin by telling you a bit about our trust.
University Schools Trust (UST) is a unique partnership of six world-leading universities and five sector-leading bodies. We work together to deliver a shared vision of inclusive, high-quality and transformational education delivered by schools which are deeply rooted in the communities they serve.
We take a rigorous approach – educating from nursery to university and beyond – to all aspects of our work. Our teaching practice is effective, our students are challenged to achieve their best and we use our resources efficiently. Our values of communication, investigation, participation, networking, scholarship and vision are core to all our work.
As a reasonably new trust, it’s very important for us to invest in the right channels to communicate our vision and raise the profile of our brand to prospective partners, member schools, teaching staff and other stakeholders, particularly through our trust website. Alongside marketing our brand, we also need to keep our statutory information up to date and visible, maintain governance over member schools and ensure that all marketing materials across the trust adhere to GDPR and compliance standards.
Our trust website was the first port of call as part of our branding strategy because we know that our biggest opportunity to market our trust is online.
I know a lot of schools don’t understand or believe in the value of SEO but to us, appearing in Google is the equivalent of advertising on an unmissable billboard. If our brand is not appearing prominently in the search results, another trust is going to be seen instead!
So, we needed a trust website that would rank highly in Google’s search results and showcase the strength of our brand, but also provide a great user experience to our key audience segments. Critically, we needed a stable, secure and scalable platform onto which we could eventually migrate all member schools.
So, how to create a trust website that would strengthen our brand and show off what makes UST unique?
Well, we know that our partners, schools and students are what bring our trust to life, so we wanted to communicate the feel of being part of a powerful network as soon as someone landed on the homepage of our trust website. This was achieved using striking design and imagery that represents the connected arms of our trust and the relevant sections of the website.
We’re proud that our homepage looks completely distinctive and different to any other schools trust website in the UK.
As part of our brand building strategy, we’ve written a series of press releases and case studies, which feature on the News and Media section of our website.
This content is optimised for Google to find, so our trust will appear in the search results against a wide range of search terms. This is sure to extend the reach of our brand and has no doubt contributed to our trust ranking number 1 in Google for the search term “schools trust in London”.
Our website also allows us to celebrate the success of our students, which is a glowing testimonial to the strength of our trust!
There’s a dedicated section on the website where we can shine a spotlight onto students who have excelled after graduating from member schools.
We’ve used a similar approach to recruitment, using case studies of our teachers to show the calibre of staff we recruit across our network. Again, because our website is so highly optimised for Google, the website acts as a recruitment tool for us, exposing more teachers to our brand than we could possibly achieve using offline marketing or paid recruitment sites alone.
Scalability and future plans for the brand
As our trust matures, we are now in the process of migrating all schools within our network onto the same website platform.
This is important for our brand for a number of reasons:
- Consistency of experience: we’re extremely proud of our trust brand and would like to offer a consistent experience to anyone who is exposed to our trust, whether they visit our trust website, view a brochure or physically visit one of our schools
- Compliance: by incorporating all schools onto our website platform, we’ll be able to manage statutory information across all schools from one CMS login. This will reduce admin time and mitigate any risk to the trust by ensuring all schools are up to date and ready for an Ofsted inspection
- Security: by maintaining a central platform for all school websites, we’ll be confident that all sites comply to GDPR standards, to protect the data and information that sits behind our websites
- Design: our branding will be instantly recognisable across any of our member school websites, whilst still reflecting the unique ethos and offering of individual schools. This is reflected in the design of our trust website and each of the schools we are migrating to the trust website platform
Speaking about bringing their schools onto the UST website platform, both of the UST schools’ Headteachers are excited with this critical development for their schools under the UST brand.
The team behind the University Schools Trust brand website
The UST website was conceptualised, designed, built and launched by Cleverbox.
About working with Cleverbox, John Middleton says:
Cleverbox have nearly 20 years’ experience working alongside school trusts to develop their trust branding and marketing. We provide a fully consultative service to our trust clients and work alongside some of the leading trusts in the UK, including Harris Federation and TKAT.
If you’d like to find out how we can help raise the profile of your trust brand, call us on 0208 466 7222 or email [email protected].