How do you uncover the genuine voice of your institution? What unique signifier separates you from your competitors? It starts with a conversation, several of them. Combine that with a look into your past and a glimpse at your future. These varied perspectives will help you uncover clear and recurrent themes. That discovery will give you a road map for creating your institution’s genuine voice.
Look to the Past
Study existing research, materials and strategies to ensure stakeholders are on board. Review current and historical communications materials as well as other information about your institution to establish a fundamental knowledge base. Focus on core values, strategic goals and objectives, recently conducted research, and past and current marketing and communications strategies. Legacy information helps to inform your current situation and sometimes leads to questions that expose issues and opportunities.
Discuss the Present
Meet with key people, conduct interviews, and facilitate group sessions. Combine what you learn from research with conversations and interviews that explore the goals and aspirations of the institution. Your institution’s brand must be everyone’s brand, and finding powerful and recurrent themes among thought leaders, constituencies, and stakeholders is the goal of this endeavor. It will give you a clear snapshot of the current impression your institution is sending.
Glimpse the Future
Looking into the past informs the present. Discussing the present informs current perceptions. But looking for perspectives from outside the institution can give you a glimpse at what the future might hold. Future audiences primarily exist in the social media realm: a group of individuals from younger generations producing unfiltered opinions about the voice your institution is projecting. This audience can also provide information about what your institution should aspire to.
Build your Platform
With these varied perspectives (past, present, future), a platform can be developed that includes a brand statement and rationale along with key messages. This platform can be used as the foundation for applying your newly defined brand to communications, templates, and final products. The goal is for all aspects of your institutional communications plan to become a coordinated and sophisticated family of messages, and to express these messages through a complementary design system. Only then will your brand become an unspoken endorsement: our institution does an outstanding job of communicating who we are, who we want to be, and our most valued distinctions.
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