How to Effectively Brand Your Institution

Pete Schauer

Marketing Director

Just like any brand or business, your higher institution needs to know who you are, who you’re speaking to and what makes you different. To help shape the way you communicate with your audience, it’s helpful to build brand personas. As you create messages for these personas, consider how you’re speaking to them, not just what’s in the message.

Voice vs Tone: What’s the Difference?

The two components to your messages are voice and tone. Sometimes these words get used interchangeably, but they mean different things. Your voice is the personality that your school has when sharing messages. Your tone is the attitude shown in certain circumstances.

Personality is fixed, so it’s essential that your brand has a consistent voice whether you’re writing a blog, posting on social media or delivering a presentation. Your tone, on the other hand, can change depending on the message you’re delivering. A blog post may be fun and lighthearted, while an article on campus safety will be serious.

Finding Your Voice

To effectively brand your institution, you must have a distinct voice that your audience can recognize. How do you find your voice? It starts with speaking up!

Hold Focus Groups

It’s helpful to hold focus groups with various stakeholders to better understand why they chose to be a part of your community. Maybe you have a rich history or a focus on service work. It’s these subtle differences that make your school unique.

If you’ve already defined your key messages, ask the stakeholders if the communications are connecting with the right people. It may turn out that your messaging needs to be refined to better reach your target audience. To finalize your voice, think about your school as a person. What types of skills and personality traits define him/her?

Review Content

Review your content to determine which words, phrases and attitudes align with the message you want to convey. Specifically, target content that lacks in personality or sounds generic. Make the appropriate changes so that your message is clear, consistent and distinct.

Now is also a good time to put together a style guide or blueprint for your marketing and admissions teams to follow. You don’t want to send conflicting messages to students, which can happen if you have multiple groups sending out their own correspondences.

Talk with Prospects

Finally, speak with your prospects about why they’ve considered your school. Monitor activity on social media, in emails sent to the admissions department or in focus groups. Discover the questions prospects have and the types of words and phrases they use.

As you learn more about your audience, you can clean up loose ties and ensure that your voice successfully balances your values and personality while speaking to the right people.

Wrapping it Up

Once you feel comfortable describing your school’s values and personality, you can build a vocabulary around them. Are you formal or informal? Do you refer to your school as a “we” or an “it”? Over time, your voice will grow to be more distinct and identifiable. Until then, it all starts with a simple conversation: Who do you want to be?

 
About the Author: Pete Schauer

Born and raised at the Jersey Shore, Pete Schauer is the Marketing Director at SEMGeeks. He holds a M.A. in Digital Communications from William Paterson University and has 8+ years in the digital space with companies such as Bleacher Report and Social Media Today in addition to SEMGeeks. His background includes creative and professional writing as well as strategic digital marketing communications and management.

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