University Business - December 2008 - (Page 45)

How colleges and universities are successfully creating and communicating their brands OME ADMINISTRATORS AND EVEN MORE FACULTY MIGHT ARGUE THAT BRANDING AN EDUCA tional institution takes away from its academic mission. But from where Steve McKee sits, institutions whose leaders clearly know “their specialty will prosper, and those that don’t will languish.” McKee, who is president of the Albuquerque, N.M.-based advertising firm McKee Wallwork Cleveland, says most colleges and universities have a differentiation problem when communicating with prospective students. With the backlash against tuition increases, the explosion of online education, and the increasing mobility of students, he believes competition is going to become more of a fact of life than ever before in higher education. What about that mission issue? Done right, “institutional branding is meant to help propel an institution from its mission to its vision by creatively conveying the powerful strategy that will take it from where it is to where it wants to go,” argues Barbara O’Malley, chief communications officer at e University of Akron (Ohio). “When the strategy is clear and the creative and communication consistent and supportive of the strategy, branding is powerful and can benefit a university greatly.” Research has tied good branding to attracting students, faculty, and staff as well as to achieving success in fundraising and in getting media coverage. e big challenge in branding a “living, breathing institution” rather than a product, says Blair Garland, director of marketing at Roanoke College (Va.), is that the lives of its students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff are intimately tied to it. at’s why branding is serious strategic business. It shouldn’t just be “an exercise to develop a tagline or a great advertisement,” O’Malley says. e staff of University Business has compiled 50 ideas for developing and executing a brand strategy. We hope they’ll get you thinking about the promises you make to your constituents and how those promises might be better communicated. 50 Branding Ideas B EST BEST S BRAND DEVELOPMENT 1. Ground your brand in truth. During a daylong brainstorming session, administrators at Indiana State University kept coming back to a comment a student made about why Indiana State was different. On move-in day, he had seen a sign about a need for student newspaper reporters. He stopped by the office and was immediately put on staff. He commented on how surprised and pleased he was to be given this experience from the first day of his college career. That comment became the inspiration for Indiana State’s tagline “More. From day one.” Since the brand launched four years ago, officials have heard stories from others whose college experiences have mirrored that of this student’s. According to Steve McKee of McKee Wallwork Cleveland, institutions tend to focus their identities on things like research capabilities and academic reputation, but that’s not necessarily what hits the emotional buttons of prospective students. When undergraduates are asked about their school selection, they’ll say things like “I just fit in here” or “It is close to home.” 2. Act on perception study data. A 2006 study of Bucknell University (Pa.) constituents—from prospective students and their parents, to guidance counselors, donors, leaders of peer institutions, and higher education groups—revealed its strong, yet poorly defined, reputation. Audiences indicated that messages December 2008 | 45

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of University Business - December 2008

University Business - December 2008
Editor's Note
College Index
Company Index
Advisory Board
Behind the News
Sense of Place
Human Resources
2009 Annual Directory to Financial Services
Future Shock
Independent Outlook
Endowment Management
Look Before You Leap
50 Best Branding Ideas
Remedial Nation
What's New
Facilities Focus
End Note

University Business - December 2008