Havre Daily News
Branding. The word likely evokes images of hot irons and roped calves, especially at this time of year. For Havre Public Schools superintendent Kirk Miller the word means something different. When he speaks of “branding the pony,” he is talking about marketing the HPS logo and image to the public.
Miller has been working with HPS staff and marketing consultants on public relations efforts, which include a revamped Web site, television and radio ads, new signs for all HPS buildings, a weekly calendar of school-related events.
He said the projects will help those who are newcomers to town get acquainted with the schools and what they have to offer and showcase the schools to people who might be thinking of relocating to the area.
The HPS board also voted to apply for a copyright on the Blue Pony image at Tuesday's meeting.
Assistant superintendent Dennis Parman said the public relations efforts take a lead from the advertising industry.
“Havre Public Schools need to be promoted because those of us who live here are ingrained to think these programs are always there, but not everyone has children in school,” Parman said.
Scott Strobel, who designed the current Web site, the new signs and the latest Blue Pony logo, said the idea is to attract more attention to the school districts and possibly sway those who are looking at moving to Montana to move to Havre because of the schools.
Everything from letters to mouse pads to school buildings will be branded with the Blue Pony logo. Brochures with information about the schools and programs offered will be designed by students and given to local businesses and organizations in town. Although all the schools' signs will have the Blue Pony logo, the mascots, like the Sunnyside Intermediate Bulldogs, will remain the same, Miller said.
The consultants and materials have been covered by a grant set up by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Miller said.
He said the branding efforts will be launched at the beginning of the new school year in September.
All of the projects will be done by students, with the exception of the Web site. Students have started filming an ad promoting the use of the Parent @ School computer program, which allows parents access to their childrens' grades, bus schedules and eating habits at school.
A few Havre High School students from Jane Hedstrom's business class at first were skeptical of the idea of branding. When they were told the majority of the work would be done by students, their interest and support grew.
Senior Mike Hipple said he liked the idea of installing new signs at each school. The signs will include the grades taught at the school and the school's phone number.
Hedstrom said the use of students talent for the projects will save money and be good experience for the kids.
Hipple said he agreed.
“It's nice to have kids be able to put their learning in action,” Hipple said Wednesday.
Junior Brittany Stingley said the weekly events calendar in the Havre Daily News would increase her attendance at Havre events. “Sometimes I don't find out about the event until the last minute,” she said.
Stingley said she likes the fact that the column would focus on events not related to sports.
A few students said they don't use the Web site now because the layout is boring and there is nothing on the site of interest.
Junior Cody Cech said he would be more apt to use the HPS Web site if it displayed more photos and is generally more eye appealing.
After filming a scene for the ad on the Parent @ School program, HHS media students Jeff McCormick and McKayla Patterson said they are working a little harder on the ad now that they know it will be broadcast on local television stations. The two students, both seniors, think the ad will help awareness of the Web site.
“If I saw the ad on the television I would probably run to a computer and check it out,” McCormick said.
The duo came up with the premise for the ad and wrote the script.
Senior Kyle MacKay, who is an actor in the ad, said he didn't learn that the ad would be broadcast on local stations until after he had signed on but “that made it more fun.”
Concepts for upcoming ads include the school-to-work program, the schools' libraries and technology in the schools, HHS media teacher Vicki Proctor said.