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The Role of President as Brand Builder

In the world of enhancing the brand of your higher education institution, an important consideration is what is the role of your most senior leader?  Most higher education Presidents or CEOs don’t consider themselves brand builders or communicators – they have a staff for that after all. But the way they are engaged throughout the process can make or break even the best laid strategies or plans.

So how can the President successfully champion high-profile branding, marketing and communication initiatives? In short, it starts with senior leadership harnessing the characteristics to not only live the brand, but also to radiate it. We have seen good results when senior leaders possess these 6 traits:

  • Strong Vision: They have a good feel for what’s ahead and can clearly articulate what that looks like and what changes are needed to get there.
  • Drive for Excellence: They have an uncompromising set of values and a relentless desire for success and understand that success begins with their support.
  • Strong Affinity to the Institution: They and their institution are a “kindred soul” and have an innate orientation for and a deep-rooted respect of the heritage and traditions on which the institution’s brand was forged – even if they are brand new.
  • Collaborative Orientation: They understanding the power of  “we” is always better and more sustainable than the power of “me.” They know in the higher education environment there are many important stakeholders who need to be heard and perspectives considered.
  • Inspired Spirit: They are wired with passion and heart to be among the first to see what’s next and to make it a desirable and inviting destination for many.
  • Advocate for Change: They are never fully satisfied and know the world is in a state of flux. They understand change is the currency for competitive leverage and to maintain a leadership position – especially with institutions’ brands.

The more of these traits a senior leader embodies, the stronger the outcome. The good leaders will champion the cause, set the tone and then step back to allow their staff and faculty to help effect and shape the direction of the brand. However, even the best leaders are unlikely to wield all of these traits, which is where marketing leaders and other leaders across the organization come in. Identify the traits that your President has in spades and those they lack. Then, find other champions to fill in the gaps in order to demonstrate a full breadth of passion and support from organizational leadership throughout your institution.

This can be challenging and often times daunting, but a strong leader with a vision of the brand can see the entire field and has the ability to gain the support and interaction needed for success.

How have you fared when undergoing brand optimizations or revitalizations from new leadership?  We would love to hear your experiences.

For more perspectives on common characteristics of successful higher education leaders, check out Scott Newman’s recent piece in Inside Higher Ed.

 

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