It’s been said that a brand is a story always being told. I couldn’t agree more. Today, products and services are inseparable from the stories they tell. Stories capture the history, the culture, the mission, and momentum of a place. They are a collection of images, words, and experiences that go beyond simply conveying value—they express a purpose and promise.

In our hyper-connected world, the key to building a more effective brand is to take control of the story—to actively tell it instead of letting it be told. Through social media, the tools to consciously shape that story are at our fingertips. Colleges and universities can now connect with their constituents instantly, spark conversations, design highly responsive and adaptable campaigns, and engage with audiences through a rich array of media. That’s the stuff of powerful storytelling. That’s real connection.

If your brand isn’t as effective as it once was, maybe it’s simply languishing under layers of competing messages. Maybe its shine has been dulled by years of reactive, instead of proactive branding initiatives. If so, it’s time rediscover your brand and shape a more powerful story. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started:

Clarify Your Reason for Being: Effective storytelling begins with one simple question: Why do you exist? In other words, what does your school offer the world that’s distinctive and true? What draws students to your campus and motivates your faculty and staff every day? The answer is the central theme of your story. It’s the idea you own. It’s your narrative stake in the ground.

Share It: According to a 2015 study conducted by GlobalWebIndex, 28 percent of all online activity is social media related. Audiences—the ones you have and the ones you hope to have—are consuming and sharing content every day. Be part of their dynamic dialogue. Make your story enticing and instantly sharable through videos, photos, infographics, student and faculty profiles, and alumni success stories. Connect your message to current events, relevant social trends, and the spirit of contemporary culture.

Showcase It: Your story isn’t just part of your brand; it’s the heart of your brand. Give it greater real estate on the home page of your website; reflect it in recruitment materials; echo it in prospective student tours; and blend it into faculty blog posts. Amplify your story by making it part of every interaction and every touchpoint.

I’ll wrap things up with another compelling quote, this one by the well-known host of This American Life, Ira Glass: “Great stories happen to those who can tell them.” It’s likely that your college or university is already living a great story, but are you telling it? Is your story clear and consistent? Does it strike an emotional chord with the audiences you value most? Is it fueling the future of your brand?

At Stamats, we help colleges and universities share their stories with the world. Through a suite of research-driven strategic, creative, and communication solutions, we elevate brands by clarifying their stories and telling those stories with intention. For more information on our brand development services, please call me directly at 319-861-5146 or email beatrice.szalas@stamats.com

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