What is Branding, as it pertains to UNCP?

Branding is simple, really. Think of it as a way of telling folks what makes you different and better ---the answer to the ‘why should I choose you?’ question. It is, if you will, a conversation between someone or some organization who has a product or service and the people they want to choose them. In the case of UNCP, ‘branding’ is about answering that ‘why’ question by explaining what makes UNCP a different and better choice for prospects, donors, faculty, staff, alumni, public and private partners, the community at large and the greater public. We all have our reasons for why UNCP is that different and better choice, and the fact is, there are lots of good answers. The problem is that we can’t list all the reasons in one place, because those reasons are based on lots of personal experiences and we can’t run an ad or give a speech or even create a website that covers every good, true reason for why UNCP is a different and better choice. All this means is that we have to figure out a way to take all those good, true reasons and turn them into a simple, powerful synthesis of what makes UNCP such a special place. And that is what branding is all about. It’s not marketing mumbo-jumbo. It’s not advertising. It’s not magic. It’s just shorthand for all the good true things about the place, UNCP. People process simple truths, not complicated ones, so we synthesize. It includes what we say, how we say it and the visual symbols we use throughout. It’s all branding.

My Part in the Branding Process

Q: Specifically, why does UNCP Branding matter for me?

A: Because you're going to be responsible for creating some content on the website. If you put something in your content that is different from the simple, powerful branded communication that everyone else ---other contributors like you and the marketing folks who will be doing the external communications will be doing ---the message might be confusing to viewers. Simple and true is always better than complicated and confusing in any way.

Q: How does my part fit with other parts? 

A: Most of the work on the UNCP website and publicly disseminated publications will be done by University Communications and Marketing, but much of the departmental content will be created by people in the departments, and once developed, it will be your responsibility to keep your section(s) updated. The great thing about having an approved Brand and agreed graphic standards is that you’ll be able to do your part in a relatively easy way. It’s not exactly ‘cookbook’, because you’ll need to capture information and write it up, but it’ll be for a specific format and we’ll give you templates to follow and a list of questions that need to be answered. But to answer the ‘fitting in’ part, you’ll be telling your part of the UNCP Story, and using the same key elements and message that everyone else will be using. The cumulative effect of that process will be that, in quick order, people who ask the ‘why UNCP?’ question will have a simple, powerful, true reason to choose us. And your part helps us get there.

What is My Responsibility in This - and How Do I Get Started?

Q: I’m my department’s designated web coordinator. What are you expecting me to do?

A: First of all, congratulations, and thanks! The folks in University Communications and Marketing are responsible for the overall website and the public face UNCP shows via communications, but they just cannot physically do all content creation at UNCP. This is because they're a small group and because there’s a lot of specialized knowledge in our University that they simply don't know, so we need you ---as an expert for your department ---- to help us communicate what makes your department different and better (just like the branding program is designed to do for the school as a whole). You see, those brand pillars we mentioned earlier ---the support for the overall branding message --- have their origins throughout the school and throughout its history, its faculty, its mission and its alumni. And they’re no doubt evident in your department, as well. Your responsibility is to translate how your department contributes to what makes UNCP different and better. We’ll help guide you to do that.

Q: OK, I know the general responsibility. How do I go about it? 

A: You start by thinking about the things your department does really well –and we mean compared to other departments elsewhere, places where people might compare you. Think in terms of meaningful differences –the things that are different in a positive way that matters to the people who study/do research/whatever with you. It could be anything, but it needs to be special. Start there. Once you have that in mind, we have a few other questions that you’ll need to answer to be able to create good content: 

  • What do the students who come through your department say about you? What do they look for, first? And how do you provide what they need? Think in terms of deliverables that anyone could understand, like hands-on research, ability to participate in class, etc.
  • Has anyone in your department been published, given a major address or paper that is recognized by peers outside UNCP?
  • How do you address first-year students and has that changed over time?
  • Can you identify examples of any of the brand pillars for the new branding (transformative, high-impact academics, right-sized, students first and heritage/diversity)?

Q: All right. I’ve answered the questions and am ready to create content. What should I include? 

A: First of all, it’s important to understand that when we say ‘content’, it could mean writing the copy for the main departmental page (like all the other section pages) or it could mean a video or audio interview with someone in your department—student or faculty or staff. The point of the content you create is for it to show your department in the best possible light for someone who may be interested in what you do but who needs convinced. Here are some guidelines for producing content that does that: 

  • Write in conversational English. What people see on your part of the site is a proxy for a conversation (until and unless you initiate one with someone who is interested). Use it wisely.
  • What you create is for prospects, not for you. Always think in terms of what benefits you can offer the viewer. Listing what you do isn’t enough. If you want to list something, always make sure that you list it as a benefit for the viewer, not just a fact. For example, if you have some kind of magnificent lab equipment, don’t just say that. Say what that lab equipment allows the user to do. Same with something you’ve published. It’s not that you published, but what that accomplishment means to a prospective student or donor or the pride it brings to a graduate.
  • Don’t force anything. And where possible, tell a story. People remember and can relate to stories and you want to create relationships.

 Who Does What?

Q: Who is responsible for what? 

A: That’s simple. University Communications and Marketing is responsible for the content of everything that goes out about the school ---online as well as through more traditional channels. And they’ll do the main web work, all publications and ads. But the departmental news and content will be created in the departments, though University Marketing will have to approve it before posting.

Q: When is my content due? 

A: The simple answer is as soon as possible. This needs to be a priority, because there are still several parts of our new website that have old content and which have not been migrated to the new look. We’d like to migrate the look at the same time we refresh the content.

Q: What kind of content are you expecting? 

A: Primary need is for copy. We can start the ‘new look’ migration from there. Take a look at the copy length that will fit a single screen, if you can. Minimize the text links, where possible. Again, be conversational and tell stories wherever possible. We’ll be glad to help you. 

If you have visual needs (photography or video capture), please request it (link?) and we’ll get it for you. If it’s video you want, a script or at least a shooting guide/objectives list would help.

What Are the Rules?

Q: Is there some kind of protocol and schedule we need to follow? 

A: We need your content as soon as you can get to it, as mentioned before, but to get things started, please get in touch with us to give us an idea for when to expect it.

Q: How about the Brand Standards Guide? What are we supposed to do with it? 

A: It’s more about publications, but it includes how the logos need to be used (size, location, color, etc.). In the case of your web content, you’ll be working within the confines of the template, which already has all the proper colors, sizes of UNCP logo and brand marks, so you won’t have to worry about it. For publications that you design yourselves, you’ll need to follow the Brand Standards Guide. It’s self-explanatory, but if you have questions, contact us.

Q: What approvals do I need to get? 

A: Make sure your departmental head has signed off on your content: 

  • Does it identify something special about the department?
  • Does it reflect the brand in a natural, unforced way?
  • Is it conversational? Does it focus on the benefits it provides its audiences?
  • If brand marks or logos are used, are they in compliance with the Brand Standards Guide?

What Kind of Help is Available?

Q: If I am having trouble coming up with content, what do I do? 

A: We’d suggest you take a breath, and think of it like a conversation. What would you tell someone who asked you ‘why should I consider you department'? If you were talking to someone, you probably wouldn’t tell them to look up a bunch of references or rattle off a list of facts. Instead, you’d tell them a story that represents what makes your department different and better. That’s a good place to start. Write it up, then edit and make sure it makes sense to someone who doesn’t know anything about you or your department.

Q: What if I tried your suggestion and it still isn’t working? 

A: Then, make a list with two columns; one with all the good things about your department and then another with the reasons each one of those things are true. Then, see if you can find evidence of any of the ‘brand pillars’ in your list. Then, write about that pillar, as exemplified by those good things. 

If you’re still stuck, ask someone else in your department for ideas. If all of you are stuck, call University Marketing, but be aware that they’ll require you show them your list. That’ll help them.

Q: Am I going to have to make any of these changes on the website itself? 

A: The website template is designed so that you can make lots of text and minor photo changes yourself. The user interface is quite easy to navigate, actually. We’ve creating an online tutorial that explains how to access your pages and make minor changes.