Spotlight for Career Services ProfessionalsJanuary 8, 2014
by Gary Alan Miller
This past fall, I began this series on marketing with articles
segmentation, storytelling, and
analytics. In this New Year, I challenge you to do a serious
analysis of one primary piece of your marketing efforts: your
brand. But, I'd like to acknowledge up front that the "brand"
concept is abstract and difficult to discuss without context.
Let's start with history. In literal terms, branding means to
burn. Think of the designs that ranchers used to identify which
cattle belonged to their farm. However, in modern marketing
parlance, a brand is not a design. Nor is it a motto. It's not a
color scheme or a logo. While all of these things can help
convey a brand, at its core, a brand is what
establishes your organization as unique and authentic to the
reputation you carry among your stakeholders.
The true language of branding is around "essence," "identity,"
and "value." We have a tendency to not think about our centers in
those terms. However, they do exist and our students internalize
them whether or not we are intentional about them.
Case in point, when I first arrived at the University of North
Carolina (UNC), everyone in our center dressed in business
professional attire. The idea was that we needed to model
appropriate dress for our students. But, it led to our center being
a pretty intimidating place, especially for first-years and
sophomores. We relaxed our dress code and gave ourselves permission
to be more light-hearted with some of our communication efforts. In
doing so, we were able to soften our image and be a less
intimidating place. Those were brand decisions, even though we
weren't talking in those terms.
Your brand tends to be a reflection of your efforts, but you are
not fully defined by them. It is a participatory experience between
you and your students. A given organization may want to brand
itself as the most efficient. But if the customer actually
experiences regular inefficiencies, they won't consider the
organization efficient just because their communication messages
say so. Your career center may want to think of itself as being
student-centered. However, if the students don't
experience that, it won't be your brand. Just saying
it doesn't make it so!
As a next step, let's define some relevant terms. Within these
definitions are some things that you can control or affect to
better serve your center:
This year, I encourage you to think deeply about what it is that
we do as career professionals and how you want your students to
understand and experience your center. What characteristics define
your center? What is your reputation among students and other
stakeholders? What would need to change in order to emphasize or
positively impact that reputation?
Interested in reading more about branding? Here are a few good
articles and resources:
Gary Alan Miller is co-founder of the Innovation Forum for
Career Services, is director of external relations and
communication for SoACE, and currently serves as senior assistant
dean at UNC Chapel Hill. Find him on twitter@garyalanmiller
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