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Internal College Branding: Learn the Brand. Live the Brand. Be the Brand.

Strategies to develop inspired and effective internal brand advocates for your college.

In communicating brand promises and messages, it’s easy to spend time and dollars focusing on external audiences. And it makes sense–Students, donors and alumni drive business and are the reason our organizations exist.

But at the end of the day, realizing the full benefits of brand initiatives or messaging platforms, large or small, requires achieving several very critical checkpoints that must start first inside the organization. Often, the need to engage with internal stakeholders to drive change is not fully understood or appreciated and thus not sufficiently accomplished. The results can have a profound effect on the success of the delivery of external messages.

In simple terms, a huge part of student, alumni and donor loyalty resides in the individual and cumulative efforts of the college faculty, staff, etc. to deliver the brand promise or messages in a very personal way. So, it is vital to communicate about brand management internally to ensure that:

  • Staff clearly understands the brand, its messages, pillars and guidelines. This will make them proud and empowered to deliver on the brand promise with others.
  • Students and their families, alumni and donors can properly experience, connect and appreciate what the message means to them.

Like any internal communications, we recommend deploying change management strategies to activate new brand communications internally. It follows the change process of inspiring with education and knowledge, guiding on-brand actions, and reinforcing positive brand behaviors through operational incentives. We distill this simply into:

  1. Learn the Brand
  2. Live the Brand
  3. Be the Brand

For the highest degree of permanent change, it is key that all three components of the internal communication process work together. Individually, each addresses a different aspect of change and collectively plays a significant role in providing the template for a successful internal outcome:

Learn the Brand: Engage and Inspire

  • Effectively communicate the positioning and the importance of the brand/messaging
  • Provide ready access to information
  • Inspire pride, engagement and commitment
  • Create unity and belonging

Live the Brand: Align Behaviors

  • Create champions and role models from the top down
  • CEOs and leadership should lead the charge
  • Connect the brand to roles and responsibilities
  • Empower faculty and staff to act differently, providing tools to aid on-brand decisions

Be the Brand: Transform Experience

  • Offer reinforcement to sustain change
  • Align operations and systems to better deliver brand promise
  • Provide incentives and rewards
  • Plan for resistance and backsliding

There should be no shortcuts when it comes to developing internal brand stewards; rather the opposite is true. Careful planning and diligence need to be taken to ensure the brand lives and breathes within the walls of your college among all the faculty and staff. That’s the proven way to truly reap dividends in terms of delivering the brand promise to your many external audiences.

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