When Heather arrived at EF Academy’s global headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, she had a mission. Her first 365 days on the job would be focused on achieving one important goal: finding new and powerful ways to share the EF Academy story with the world.
“As Brand Director, my role is to tell the EF Academy story. I’m responsible for defining brand guidelines and setting our voice and visual tone,” says Heather, a Pennsylvania native and self-described “storyteller at heart.”
With initial dreams of becoming a journalist, Heather worked in newsrooms before starting her career as a communications consultant. Early on, she discovered she was passionate about work in the educational sphere, and as a “young 20-something who was keen on living abroad,” she was determined to launch a career in international education. “I love being surrounded by diversity and working in an international environment, because it broadens the depth of my work and my own perspectives,” says Heather.
After a lot of networking, she landed a marketing communications job at Franklin University in Switzerland, and said “auf wiedersehen” to life in the United States. At Franklin, Heather grew to love expat life and the opportunities it presented for swapping stories with colleagues, students, and staff from all over the globe. During the university’s rebranding, she played a pivotal role in shaping the Franklin story, an experience that not only pushed her to realize her talent for brand work, but also opened the door to her current position at EF Education First.
Defining the EF Academy Brand
“I was excited to join EF Academy, to build its brand and reinforce its mission to open a future without borders,” she says. In her role as Brand Director, Heather set out to unify EF Academy’s three international boarding schools in the U.S. and U.K. under a shared brand voice and vision. That meant gaining an up-close understanding of the EF Academy experience from the perspectives of leadership, staff, teachers, families, and most importantly—students.
EF Academy students come from all over the world, representing approximately 75 nationalities and speaking nearly 20 languages. But according to Heather, there’s one important quality they all have in common. “EF Academy students are so cool,” says Heather. “They’re such impressive, ambitious young people who want to make an impact in the world. They’re open-minded. They’re inclusive of all cultures. Difference is embraced here.”
In order to show the world what EF Academy is made of, Heather knew she needed to highlight the differences that bond its students. So, she traveled from Europe to the UK and the US, interviewing communities, holding focus groups, performing market research, and working with her team in Zurich to distill EF Academy’s key differentiators into its brand personality.
Taking a ‘People-Focused’ Approach
“Having the opportunity to visit our campuses and interact with the communities has been essential for me to hone in on our brand essence and build content that best showcases our schools. We now describe our brand as curious, personal, and transformative. Those three elements are what set us apart, but the personal part is what really stands out for me,” says Heather.
Personalization has guided Heather’s content building strategy, as seen throughout the academy’s recently refreshed website, print materials, and videos. Within her first year at EF, Heather developed a suite of what she calls “people-focused communications” that leverage student voices to tell the EF Academy story with power and authenticity.
“I really enjoy finding, crafting and telling the stories of our people¬. They are the voice of our brand,” reflects Heather. “I’m proud to have created a new series of class trailers and student testimonials that aim to give our prospective families a better view into what it’s like to study at EF Academy.”
Bringing the EF Academy brand to life in two new video series was the highlight of Heather’s career at EF so far. According to Heather, these stories were not only fun to produce, but they also validated what she already knew: an EF Academy education changes lives. As she continues to define the academy’s brand, she remembers why its schools were established: to bring young people together to build a better future.
“Education is one of the most important components of our society. An international education offers knowledge of the world around us, breaks down misconceptions, and builds bridges of understanding,” says Heather. “Our students are inspiring and I’m excited to see what difference they will make in the world.”