Writing in the UNCG voice
Text. Written content. Copy. Many terms are used to describe the words we write and read in marketing and communication materials. Whether or not you consider yourself a copywriter, chances are you’ve crafted messages to UNCG’s target audiences at one time or another.
This page provides brief tips for developing your voice and understanding how to align it with the voice of UNCG. While there are a number of copywriting mechanics and styles to consider, effectively crafting messages boils down to two central objectives – understanding what makes UNCG distinctive and understanding your audience’s needs and goals. Always craft messages with the intention of speaking directly to readers, sparking a curiosity within them, and motivating them to be part of the UNCG community.
It may seem obvious, but we can’t expect audiences to know UNCG if we are not well-versed and consistent in how we speak about UNCG ourselves. Each time you write copy, remind yourself what was confirmed by the research conducted by the Integrated Marketing and Strategic Communication (IMSC) Committee: The UNCG experience is distinguished by a challenging, supportive and engaged community in which the lessons learned are carried forth with the desire to Do something bigger altogether.
The Brand Guide offers a variety of resources for better understanding and communicating who we are as a university community and why it is critical for us to present a shared voice. If you haven’t already, take a moment to read the “Why is this important” page, which describes some of the communication challenges and opportunities before us. You’ll also find it helpful to become familiar with the “Why-How-What” Strategy. For additional resources that are outcomes from the IMSC initiative, refer to UNCG’s Brand Personality, UNCG’s Elevator Speech and UNCG’s Brand Chart.
Understanding your audience
Many colleges and universities make the mistake of over-promoting their accolades like rankings and accreditation. While points of pride have a place, they should not be the main focus because as such, they take the spotlight off of our audience. There are ways to make readers feel as though you are talking directly to them and understand where they are coming from. One helpful technique is to imagine your ideal target. Are you communicating to prospective students, current students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends or the greater community?
Employing the “Why-How-What” Strategy
Once you are familiar with UNCG’s “Why-How-What” Strategy, you can begin crafting your copy around “Why,” “How” and “What” messages. Remember that “Why” messages convey the call to Do something bigger altogether and should therefore serve as the attention-grabbers or first impressions in your marketing and communication. Couple them with evocative black and white photography and place them primarily as headlines.
“How” messages may also be present in prominent areas like headlines, subheads or as part of your main body copy.
“What” messages should always seek to promote UNCG’s challenging academic programs, supportive environment and engaged community. They can form the bulk of your content, but they should not appear in lead positions like brochure covers, headlines or subheads.
Writing headlines that are consistent with the “Why-How-What” Strategy requires a specific approach. Follow these tips and refer to the examples in the Brand Guide.
• Never be “What” focused. That is, do not use a headline to tout details like ranking, accreditation, campus beauty, class size, etc.
• Reflect either “Why” or “How” messaging. Readers should sense the call to Do something bigger altogether or they should be intrigued by the notion of UNCG’s approach to learning.
• Have a storytelling feel, even in just a few words.
• Possess a sense of wisdom, like sage advice from a trusted mentor.
• Convey an underlying feeling of excitement coupled with a reverence for the moment being captured in the black and white photography.
• Carry a richness of voice, no matter whether they are written in first, second or third person.
Brand Standards training covered the “Why-How-What” Strategy in detail in March 2012. In addition to brand standards training, units will receive a customized, two-part strategy session. While Brand Standards Training was available for individual sign up, customized unit strategy sessions are coordinated between University Relations and unit deans or vice chancellors. These sessions began in the summer and will continue through the 2013-14 academic year. For more information, please see the Training site.