In working closely with colleges and universities on a wide range of brand development initiatives over the years, I’ve noticed one stubborn misconception: that branding is done primarily for external audiences and is less important for internal audiences. Few things could be further from the truth.

Today more than ever before, brands must be born from authenticity—cultivated from the history, stories, and values that only your school can provide. As astute marketers in their own right, prospective students have come to expect that brands they engage with will have a “soul”—a unique message that’s rooted in truth, embraced holistically, and proven through personal experience. Each one of those qualities begins inside your institution.

Internal branding, then, sets the stage for proper (and powerful) external expression. Your institution is where your brand begins and, ultimately, where it’s either affirmed or refuted. Still not convinced? Here are a few more reasons why internal branding is crucial to success.

Your Brand Is an Experience. Effective brands are far more than logos and taglines. They are lived experiences that are strengthened every day through countless interactions between faculty and staff, students, alumni, donors, and community members. By cultivating and communicating your brand values internally first, you create a thriving culture around it. In turn, that culture reinforces your message across every touchpoint, helps attract and retain talented employees, and creates a ripple effect that expands your reach in the marketplace.

Your People Are Brand Ambassadors. Ideally, everyone associated with your institution is an active and enthusiastic brand ambassador. Effective internal branding not only helps people understand exactly what your brand stands for; but it also promotes investment, engagement, excitement, and action. Faculty, staff, and constituents of every type are your brand’s foot soldiers. Beyond simply repeating your brand message, they’re participating in, collecting, and sharing the stories that vividly bring that brand to life.

Your Brand Must Be Cohesive and Consistent. If faculty, staff, students, and other constituents don’t understand and embrace your brand, there’ll be a disconnect between how that brand is expressed and how it’s experienced. That’s why consistency in the marketplace begins on campus—in every department, in every office, in every classroom, and at every event. Internal branding aligns all forces around a common message. In other words, it gets everyone associated with your institution singing the same song, in the same key, at the same time. Together, they echo and amplify your brand message in powerful concert.

If your institutional brand is going through a simple reboot or a complete redesign, it’s important to make internal branding central to your launch plans. And remember, rather than a singular event, the most effective internal branding initiatives are part of ongoing and coordinated processes that are designed to respond to evolving institutional culture, organizational expansions or contractions, brand challenges, and shifts in the competitive landscape.

At Stamats, we believe your brand is your most valuable asset. Every day we help colleges and universities cultivate, refine, and share their authentic stories with the world. To learn more about what we do, please call me directly at 319-861-5146 or email beatrice.szalas@stamats.com

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