How to build brand respect

As you try to build respect for your brand, be careful. You are seeking honor for your own institution. Increasingly, a jaded audience doubts any self-seeking claims, and looks for a self-effacing, even humorous kind of honor. They are looking for authenticity, and the best way to see that is in the praise of outsiders or students who presumably are not on the university payroll. So prospectives want to find honor that is bestowed by outsiders (including their peers).

Documentary-style interviews remain an excellent source of authentic testimony, if the interviewees are comfortable and the video is not over-produced. If you interview profs, ask them to talk about their research or the growth they see in their students. Don’t ask them to say how great the school is…

If you interview administration, ask them to talk about the students who define the institutional personality. If the Pres starts to make stump speeches about the school, your Millennials will tune it out as hubris.

Let the current students talk about the institution itself. (though you need to filter out simplistic, trite comments like “the profs really care” or “I’m not a number here”) And though you want deep thinking, articulate kids to talk, make sure they aren’t too perfect at towing the party line. Let diversity, surprises, and especially self-effacing humor shine through. In short, let people tell their stories in their own words, not the college’s. That’s the best way to build the respect… a brand your audience will embrace.


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