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Branding at Every Level in Higher Education

What is the state of your brand? Is it visible? Is it consistent? Is it strong?

Last week, a peer of mine reminded me how important branding is at all levels of a university. Whether you are an admissions officer traveling around the country, a student affairs administrator in a small office or an academic department’s coordinator, remember, you are a reflection of your university’s brand. This is especially important with the start of the new school year, where many of us will devote significant time to introduce, and to increase awareness of, our offices to new and returning students.  Help them remember your name, and more importantly recommend you to their friends, by making sure your efforts are unified.

Social media can help, but so can traditional methods like handouts and staffing booths at resource fairs. Here are a few considerations to make sure your department, and your colleagues, are branding your office and actions consistently. It’s important to also note, a lot of these projects can be done by your student assistants since the beginning of the school year can be a little busy.

Check the Basics: Logo and Slogan.
Make sure the basics, your logo and/or slogan, are in place.  I don’t mean just your university’s brand, but your specific department’s brand and/or slogan. Are they on everything you distribute? Everything you promote? Are they easy to find and read? Are your social media handles consistent? Review your handouts, powerpoint presentations, flyers, posters, website and social media platforms.  This is a great project for student workers, because as they review these items, they will become familiar with your resources and services.  In fact, they can also identify any materials that are out-dated and need to be revamped.

Go through and add your name, logo and/or slogan as needed, which can be another good project for your students.  Another good project, if you have not done so already, is to create a template for handouts, newsletters and powerpoint presentations. Create two or three templates for each of these areas and store them in a central place on your department’s computer network.

Get Creative: Promotions and Partnerships.
Get your name out there through various communication mediums and partnerships. Here is where social media can help and can take your brand’s visibility to a new level on campus.  And, once again, these can be great projects for students.

More and more universities have central lists of their social media channels.  Among some great examples are University of Pennsylvania with an A-Z directory,  University of Oregon has their social media index page, or Harvard with their social media directory. Here’s a list from StudentAdvisor.com and their top social media colleges with other examples.

If your institution has one of these lists, leverage the social nature of these platforms to interact with one another for events big and small. Tweet at other departments, tag them in an update on Facebook or share a relevant video of their’s from YouTube.   If your institution does not have a centralized list, I recommend it. I know it’s not an easy task, but it’s an incredible resources for students and staff.

Challenge your students to learn about you.  Create a contest, either through social media or around campus. This summer, the AlumPics was a contest among the Ivy League institutions. Each school posted a photo on Facebook and challenged their students and alumni to like their photos. This semester, I’m organizing a social media challenge, to educate students to learn about career services via clues shared throughout our social media accounts and a SurveyMonkey response form.  Think about what incentives your specific students will respond to – gift cards? Campus pride? It varies and does not need to be financial.  The goal with a contest, or campus partnership, is two-fold: promote your own department’s brand and live your brand. A partnership demonstrates unity and interest in one another at the same school, a contest showcases your creativity and your resources.

As the new school year commences, consider the state of your brand. Review your branding on a visible level, with your logo/slogan on handouts, posters and websites.  Get creative with your branding on a promotional level, strategize with partnerships and challenges.  Your department and your colleagues are all part of your brand, regardless of your title or level within your larger institution.

By Shannon

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