Why Is This Important?
You may be wondering, why is integrating our marketing efforts so important and why must we make a campus commitment to being strategic in our communication? In short, the answer is this: The UNCG story defines who we are and differentiates us among other universities. Communicating with a unified voice will position us to take huge leaps forward by building our identity as well as people’s understanding of who we are as a university. Conversely, ignoring this opportunity is costly. Here are four reasons why:
1. Perception gap: Research reviewed by the Integrated Marketing and Strategic Communication (IMSC) Committee showed that audiences familiar with us (current students, faculty and staff, alumni) see UNCG for the university it is. One example cited was academic rigor; familiar audiences speak from experience about our challenging academic programs. However, groups less familiar with us (prospective students or a portion of the local community) do not have a relationship with UNCG and therefore often have misperceptions. By speaking with a unified voice about topics like the quality of our academics, we can close the gap between perception and reality, an important factor in our ability to take significant steps forward.
2. Message fragmentation: An IMSC Committee audit of more than 250 UNCG communication pieces showed that we tell many different and unrelated stories to multiple audiences. This makes it difficult for audiences to understand who we are. By focusing on fewer, more important and authentic messages, we stand a better chance of changing perceptions and behaviors.
3. Inconsistent visual brand presentation: This same audit of 250+ communications showed alarmingly inconsistent use of UNCG’s core brand elements such as logo, colors, type, how we write our university’s name, and, in some cases, whether we even connect the piece to UNCG. Highly successful organizations use their brand assets consistently when they send messages into the marketplace. We can, too.
4. Non-differentiating messages: The IMSC Committee’s audit of 10 key competitor schools (coupled with observations about many other universities) showed that universities typically focus on “what” they do (rather than “why” they do it or “how” they do it). These marketing messages include topics such as majors, location, residence halls, campus assets and other characteristics that just about every campus can say they offer. The result? There is very little differentiation. In order to stand apart from the competition, UNCG’s unified story must also include information about what makes us unique, which exists in the “Why” and “How” of who we are. Furthermore, our “What” message should be consistent across the university. This guide will demonstrate how to move from focusing on generic “What” messages to true uniqueness that resonates.
How can UNCG reach people and make a meaningful connection? There is a way, and it involves going about things differently than other universities. Our charge as a campus community is to accomplish two objectives that, until now, had never been lifted up as a university-wide priority.
1. Shift the conversation. In a competitive higher education environment where universities (including our own) have focused solely on the many things (“whats”) that they offer, UNCG must dig deeper. We must shift the conversation by connecting with audiences about how we do what we do and, most importantly, why we do what we do. “How” and “Why” are the key differentiators — the ultimate and lasting benefits of engaging with UNCG. Also, we need to make sure our “What” messages are consistent. A variety of different messages about what UNCG offers will erode our marketing strategy.
2. Be more visually consistent. We must present a more visually consistent UNCG brand, using the UNCG logo, typefaces, colors and messages that have been created based on research and approved across a variety of stakeholders. These brand elements lead to a consistent, compelling story and help ensure there’s no mistaking UNCG.
The time has come for a collective commitment to a consistent university message that follows a strategy for communicating what makes UNCG distinctive.
What is the strategy? To define why and how our learning experience is more meaningful. Lead photography and copy should focus first on “Why” we do what we do and “How” the UNCG experience is different. “What” messages should support “Why” and “How.” Below is an abbreviated description of the “Why-How-What” Strategy. More detailed information and guidelines can be found on the “Why-How-What” Strategy web page:
The WHY piece: Make a connection with audiences around why we do what we do. UNCG students often share similar motivators for why they are pursuing a degree and why they chose UNCG. It’s about much more than a diploma or a bragging right to claim they attended “X” university. Our students have a bigger “Why” — one that is very similar to what motivates our work each day — the drive to Do something bigger altogether. This shared value connects us at a deep level to many different audiences.
The HOW piece: Include content that showcases how we approach the learning experience differently. Research demonstrated that UNCG brings learning to life by connecting theory and practice through supportive, engaging experiences that students carry with them throughout their lives. Students (and many faculty and staff) come to UNCG because we foster their desire to make a meaningful contribution. Few universities focus their messages around the “How.” We have strength in this area; let’s showcase it.
The WHAT piece: Streamline “What” messages by ensuring they demonstrate challenging academic programs, a supportive environment, and an engaged community. “What” messages include any of the supporting details to describe what you are promoting, including points of pride, program information, statistics and rankings.
WHAT IS MY ROLE?
As a campus community, we contribute to the UNCG learning experience and perpetuate the call to Do something bigger altogether each day. Now we have an opportunity to share it with the world. We all play a part in shaping what others believe about our university. Together, we can enhance UNCG’s reputation and bring it more in line with the UNCG experience, using a full suite of resources and a strategy that reflects who we are.
Your role is simple but vital: Use this guide as a resource for understanding the UNCG brand and how to leverage it. Become comfortable using the “Why-How-What” Strategy in communications with every audience. Attend a Brand Standards Training Session. And start putting our unique message to work.