Always Thinking

We think (a lot) about everything from sushi to voter registration to SNL skits. Mostly, though, we think about all things branding and marketing. Dive in to some of our latest thoughts.

Thinking Brand Training and Education

Congratulations. You did it! After a year or more of research, strategy, and creative development, you have a stunning, on-strategy brand platform ready to share with the world. It’s exciting. And it comes with a whole lot of work. Oftentimes this is when your internal team can get especially stretched. One area that can get sidelined – but that is critical to the long-term success of the investment – is the education and training of internal teams and external partners.


Here are a few things we’ve learned along the way to help guide this very important process.


First things first: Start with your team. Acknowledge and celebrate them. They’ve likely been working around the clock in some form of semi-lockdown, and they need to feel the love (and the win). Whether they were actively involved in the brand development process, or did the heavy-lifting to keep day-to-day efforts going, they were essential in reaching this milestone.


Next, take the time to map out a clear education and training plan. Think leadership. Core marketing communications team. Campus communicators in colleges and schools. Enrollment and development staff. Career services. Student Life. External partners/vendors. Anyone and everyone who might use the brand platform to develop communications. They should all be included in your plan and invited into the process.


A tiered approach to training

Step 1: Use your brand guidelines document as a tool for explaining and educating. Present it to leadership (cabinet, board committees, etc.) and give them time to ask questions and understand where you are in the process.


Step 2: Share your brand guidelines with your marketers, communicators, and content generators (both your central team and those in other units throughout campus), giving them an opportunity to submit questions in advance of a walk through. Then schedule focused sessions to talk through the guidelines in detail and address their questions.


Step 3: Don’t forget your external partners/vendors. Schedule a share with them as well, being clear about your expectation that the brand will be adhered to as it’s translated into different communications – from recruitment marketing to alumni relations to any form of program advertising, etc. Depending on how your institution is structured, and whether or not marketing is centralized, it’s easy for a brand platform to be underleveraged as it extends out from your core team and into the hands of different partners/vendors.


Note: If you have an branding agency, they can be immensely helpful. Have them lead the training whenever possible so nothing gets lost in translation.


Keep the momentum going

Don’t think of the internal rollout sessions as “one and done” per group; instead, make sure it’s an ongoing conversation.


For leadership, schedule an update on what’s in development and how the brand will be deployed externally. Show them some marquee items: environmental graphics, enrollment solutions, advertising examples, social media assets, anything that shows the application of the brand in a way that builds excitement and points to the future. Share plans for content collection and the importance of an ongoing story collection process. Share plans for an institutional brand campaign. What does advertising look like? How will it synch up to and buoy other efforts like enrollment and fundraising? It’s important your leadership team understands the ongoing investment needed to sustain the brand and ensure results. Consider a quarterly or bi-annual share to show what has been accomplished and what comes next.


With other campus communicators, schedule monthly content planning and gathering sessions to remind everyone of the need for fresh content that’s shared correctly (this will be critical to the long-term success of the work). This is also a great time to highlight areas of emphasis, the kinds of stories you’re seeking, and where and how you might need their help with photo and video shoots, scheduling interviews with students, faculty and alums you’d like to highlight, etc. Share successes. Plan for what’s next. Celebrate their involvement and keep the momentum going.


We know. It’s a lot. There’s so much that goes into launching, nurturing and sustaining a brand. It can be exhausting. But keep your eye on the prize. This work, when done with care and energy and enough resources, has a lasting impact and can help move an institution forward in remarkable ways.


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