5 Brand Elements That Are Key to Your Quality Rating and Improvement System’s Success

A quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) succeeds only when it’s seen as valuable by all those involved in early care and education. And it can only be seen as valuable when it is valued.

In order to be valued, providers, families, and policymakers must know (a) that there is such a thing as a quality rating and improvement system, and (b) that continuous improvement through a QRIS is a critical part of improved outcomes for children and families.

That’s where branding comes in.

According to Marty Neumeier in his book Zag, “a brand is a customer’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company.“ Strong brand work in support of your state’s quality rating and improvement system is vital in that it creates a positive “gut feeling” by building awareness about the system, and creates a platform for you to tell the story.

Following is a list of the five brand elements every quality rating and improvement system needs to succeed.

  1. Brand Purpose
  2. Brand Positioning
  3. Brand Promise
  4. Brand Personality
  5. Brand Identity

Each brand element works together to make up the entire picture of how a quality rating and improvement system enhances quality in early care and education programs. Understanding what each element is, and why it matters, will ensure the success that your state’s QRIS needs to achieve.

1. Brand Purpose

The “why” of your Quality Rating and Improvement effort

Brand Purpose
First things first: why does a quality rating and improvement system matter? What is the purpose? According to recent reports from BUILD Initiative, the purpose of a QRIS has at least five parts:

  1. Improve early care and education workforce activities and outcomes
  2. Improve family outcomes
  3. Improve child outcomes
  4. Raise the floor on basic health and safety in early care and education
  5. Raise the floor of quality in early care and education

Note that these are not just goals; they are the purpose behind the work, and all of these aspects relate to one another. What other purposes can you identify for your state’s quality rating and improvement system?

2. Brand Positioning

Standing out from the crowd

Standing out from the crowd
For providers, families, and policymakers, it can be confusing to understand how your quality rating and improvement system is different from—yet related to—the other efforts in your state focused on early care and education. Defining your brand positioning is about owning how you are different.

A key message to share is that a quality rating and improvement system is the only systems-building strategy that states can use to IMPROVE, ASSESS, and COMMUNICATE the level of quality in child care and early-learning settings. It builds an infrastructure that supports a clear path to higher quality.

More than just about defining standards, QRIS is a three-part connected system for continuous quality improvement which includes.

  1. Regulating authority
  2. Quality standards
  3. Professional development

continuous quality improvement

In developing the brand positioning, there are several important aspects to discuss related to your state’s quality rating and improvement system:

  • Your brand position describes the key activities taking place in your QRIS.
  • Your brand position includes mention of the number or percentage of participating programs in your state that are dedicated to continuous quality improvement.
  • Your brand position references the various sectors involved in this work:
    • Child Care
    • Head Start
    • Schools
    • Pre-K
    • Early Intervention
    • Provider Education
    • Others
  • Your brand position recaps all of the agencies engaged in, or responsible for, quality rating and improvement in early care and education.
    • Department of Education
    • Department of Human Services
    • Department of Health
    • Head Start Collaboration Office
    • Local agencies
    • Others

For those not regularly engaged with early care and education, it can be difficult to distinguish between governmental bodies, private foundations, and educational agencies, which could result in resistance from various groups. Sometimes this resistance comes from not understanding how a quality rating and improvement system is different from other efforts like it, and how this system intersects with, engages with, and can unify aspects of the very important efforts in your state related to early care and education.

Building a strong brand position can help you address barriers to political support, both in the public and private sectors.

3. Brand Promise

The unique benefit and value that Quality Rating and Improvement Systems deliver

The unique benefit and value that Quality Rating and Improvement Systems deliver

Depending on the audience you’re trying to reach, this aspect of your brand serves a number of important functions. Through it, you can:

  • Express how your quality rating and improvement system improves early care and education by
    • Empowering providers to make continuous quality improvements
    • Improving child outcomes
    • Unifying the sectors of early education and education (child care centers, home based providers, Pre-K and Head Start)
    • Raising the bar on workforce supports and improvements
    • Supporting child and family services
    • Raising the floor of early care and education
    • Improving communications about state efforts to improve quality in early care and education
  • Motivate providers to make a commitment to continuous quality improvement
  • Communicate to providers the benefits of joining a community of leaders and learners, which may include:
    • No cost to participate (or any financial incentives to participate)
    • An effective framework to support continuous quality improvement
    • Opportunities to be recognized for the quality their program delivers to families and children
    • Support for the provider’s continuous quality improvement efforts
    • Ways to learn about best practices in early care and education
    • Access to professional development, technical assistance, and grants linked to achieving and maintaining quality
    • Opportunities to share with families, policymakers, and the community about the good work the provider is doing every day, and its ongoing efforts to continually improve quality.
    • Help to retain the best, most qualified workforce and reduce employee turnover
  • Help parents and families find and identify quality education and care
  • Explain the QRIS standards
  • Explain the instruments used to determine levels within the quality rating and improvement system
    • Environment Rating Scales (ERS)
    • Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS)
    • Other
  • Build support from foundations, the business community, and others committed to quality early care and education who are engaged in public/private partnerships

4. Brand Personality

The Way Your Brand Behaves, Speaks, and Engages

The Way Your Brand Behaves, Speaks, and Engages

It’s important to remember that a quality rating and improvement system must attract providers to participate, and it must communicate to parents that your QRIS is an effective way for them to both define and find quality early learning. It’s also important to remember that the people you’re trying to reach with your brand are just that – people. So, you need them to connect with your brand in a human way.

Your brand personality is essentially defined as the human characteristics that are attributed to your brand. These attributes create your “reputation,” and they come across based on the way your brand behaves, speaks, and engages with the outside world. It’s the impressions you make, the voice you use when communicating and how authentic you are in your efforts to improve the quality of early care and education, and the results of that work.

For a quality rating and improvement systems, here are some of the personality traits your brand will probably want to convey.

  • Professional
  • Confident
  • Inspired
  • Engaged
  • Hopeful
  • Community-oriented
  • Honest
  • Meaningful
  • Quality-based
  • Inclusive

Building a brand personality that captures all of these aspects is not an overnight matter. Yet, having this framework in mind as you develop and expand your brand identity efforts will give you a filter for growth that ensures your reputation is the best it can be.

5. Brand Identity

The visual expression of your brand

The visual expression of your brand

Your identity is the look and feel of your brand. This brand identity gives visual form to your organization and identifies its:

  • Name
  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Photography
  • Fonts
  • Illustrations
  • Icons
  • Tone

Your brand identity needs to convey “quality early learning” to many different audiences, including:

  • State agencies
  • Foundations and businesses engaged in public-private partnerships
  • Legislative leaders and policymakers
  • Opinion leaders
  • Providers, directors, teachers
  • Parents and families
  • General state community

When developing a brand look for a quality rating and improvement system, it’s critical that the brand is clear and memorable, conveys quality, and embodies professional care and education. The brand identity should represent and connect diverse cultures and languages. It needs to stand out in a very crowded marketing environment—enticing providers to participate and improve their quality, and serving as a beacon brand that parents look for in order to find quality care for their families.

These 5 brand elements work together to tell a complete story. Through this comprehensive and interconnected suite of expectations, experiences, promises, benefits, and visual expression, your quality rating and improvement system brand conveys to parents, providers, and policymakers what it really means to build an effective system that prepares your state’s youngest children for a more successful future.

Summary

These 5 brand elements work together to tell a complete story. Through this comprehensive and interconnected suite of expectations, experiences, promises, benefits, and visual expression, your quality rating and improvement system brand conveys to parents, providers, and policymakers what it really means to build an effective system that prepares your state’s youngest children for a more successful future.

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