Brand Ambassadors: Promoting Academic Brands from Within
Education is a pretty wide field, containing a lot of different types of institutions with all levels of available marketing resources. Whether yours is a private university with an internal marketing division or a small parochial elementary school relying on whatever help it can get, one thing remains the same: You need brand ambassadors.
No, you don't necessarily need to start hitting up local and national celebrities for endorsements... though it would be completely awesome and immensely helpful to have someone like that in your back pocket! The best place to start your search is actually right in your own back yard.
Schools are full of passionate people:
- Educators who are shaping the learning environment.
- Administrators who are managing daily operations and driving future growth
- Students who identify with and benefit from their learning community.
- Parents who actively support the school and its programs.
- Alumni who understand firsthand the impact of an exceptional education.
Each one of these groups is connected by being fully invested in the success of the institution. They are drawn together by a shared sense of pride in what the school has to offer – its mission, its curriculum, its programs, its community. These are your brand ambassadors.
Defining Your Brand
Before you start asking your colleagues to go around extolling the virtues of your institution, though, you'll want to make sure your brand is a solid representation of your mission, your identity, and your institutional personality. An authentic brand is the outward expression of everything that is happening internally -- a promise of meaningful, relevant value, consistently delivered. It starts with the mission and is reflected in everything from curriculum design to communications to community interactions. Schools need to ask themselves -- as their markets are doing -- what do we believe in, stand for, and do that really matters? Why do we exist? What difference are we making, and want to make -- in the lives of our students, stakeholders, and broader community? What value are we delivering?
It all boils down to one thing -- know exactly who you are and what you're all about.
Putting Your Brand Ambassadors to Work
If you've been through the branding process and have a solid brand essence under your belt, you can mobilize your army of ambassadors to bring your brand to life, both on campus and out in the world. Engage them in:
- Forming a Brand Stewardship Committee or Brand Recognition Program to drive and maintain branding efforts.
- Analyzing their own work to determine where the brand is currently being reflected.
- Identifying new areas that can be brought into alignment with the brand essence.
- Brainstorming ideas for new ways in which the institution can fulfill its mission and strengthen its brand.
- Spreading the word to family, friends, and colleagues about all the amazing things happening at their institution.
A strong brand is built and maintained from within, and it's really not such a difficult task to promote something when you believe in it and when you're surrounded by like-minded individuals. So, reach out to your institutional community and make those connections. Your brand will be better for it!