Not long ago in a galaxy not so far away, colleges and universities were looking for ways to broaden marketing input and welcome more diverse viewpoints in key institutional branding and communication decisions. Enter the Branding Task Force. Acting as their institution’s personal branding Jedi knights, members of the task force share essential information with the campus community and provide the president and his/her leadership team with valuable advice and direct feedback from constituents on a host of branding initiatives related to public relations, advancement and fund-raising, and student recruitment.
Though each task force is unique, the focus, duties, and goals of these groups tend to be consistent across schools. Here are the foundational duties of a branding task force and why each of those duties is crucial to institutional branding success:
- Share Information: The branding task force updates the alliance (i.e., your campus community) regularly about ongoing activities. This serves two purposes: First, it maintains transparency and visibility. Second, it encourages active feedback—an essential component of institution-wide participation in marketing, recruitment, and identity efforts.
- Analyze and Recommend: Serving as a sort of Jedi High Council, part of a branding task force’s duties is to prepare a marketing resource analysis—a review of the combined marketing expenditures in each area of your college or university. Since, no single person at an institution knows the full extent of financial and staff resources devoted to marketing activities, the task force can coordinate with the finance office and individual administrative departments to prepare an analysis of how current marketing resources are allocated. It can then make recommendations to leadership on how best to achieve institutional branding goals.
- Audit Communications: Information is your lightsaber; wield it with skill and purpose. An effective branding task force should review communications every 12 months to determine the consistency of primary branding messages and of brand identity symbols. Offices usually involved in a communications audit include admissions, advancement, alumni relations, public relations, athletics, and the president’s office. When the review is complete, the task force can share results with the president, the leadership team, and the broader campus community.
- Survey Students: Not sure if your brand promise is fully reflected in the student experience? Well, in the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, “Use the force.” By sponsoring an opinion survey of new students early in the second semester each year, your branding task force can identify which expectations have been met, which haven’t been met, and what changes need to be made to improve brand alignment.
- Survey Alumni: A task-force-sponsored alumni opinion survey can help determine the consistency of brand image and engagement among this key constituency. Pay special attention to the differences between alumni who support the annual fund and alumni graduates of the past three years.
- Keep an Eye on the Competition: In a marketplace that goes at hyper drive, competitors need to be carefully scrutinized. With that in mind, your institution’s branding task force should monitor the recruitment efforts of three to five of your primary competitors on a regular basis. Engage a task force member to inquire as both an undergraduate and graduate student at each competitive institution. By examining the content, quality, and timing of the responses received (both print and digital), the group can develop a set of actionable recommendations.
- Provide Branding Input: The task force provides content input for the president’s annual State of the Brand Report—a comprehensive document that covers major branding topics, ongoing initiatives, and goals.
- Coordinate Plans: An institution’s strategic plan should serve as the foundation for its branding communications plan. The challenge is making sure that the internal campus community not only believes in the strategic plan, but lives it on a daily basis. An essential role of the branding task force is to coordinate these plans and discover new ways each person and each department can exemplify the institutional brand and truly “be one with the force.”
At Stamats, we travel the galaxy looking for new ways to help colleges and universities apply their brands in innovative ways, reach a wider audience, and create meaningful connections with their constituents. If you’d like to learn more about our branding services, give us a call at 800-553-8878. In the meantime, may the (brand) force be with you.