Eric Sickler, a friend and colleague at Stamats, recently said something that really caught my interest. He mentioned that effective brands must have an inside-out orientation.

I queried him about what he meant, and he stressed the importance of having the brand deeply and intimately aligned with an organization’s people and culture.

Eric is absolutely right. Alignment is critical.

But I think alignment is the means to the more important end of enthusiastic endorsement. In other words, your faculty, staff, and even alumni become over-the-top brand advocates.

For this level of advocacy to occur, the brand must flow naturally and intentionally from those institutional qualities and characteristics that the campus community values most.

Advocates not only live out the brand, but they actively pursue opportunities to convey the brand story to their colleagues and their formal and informal social networks.

While brand communication involves multiple channels, personal advocacy is critical. What faculty and staff say at PTA meetings, church and synagogue, and in grocery store aisles is much more believable than any billboard or 30-second TV spot that the college or university might purchase.

Conversations that begin with “let me tell you a story” are more believable than copy that is often overly crafted and sanitized. A selfie that summarizes brand engagement is more believable than the most artfully directed video.

In the final analysis, what matters most is the degree to which your faculty, staff, and others tell your story. More often than not, this telegraphs that the brand clarification process was successful long before data on external response has been gathered.

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