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Planning Your Marketing

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Creating A Consistent Identity

Developing your college’s or unit’s identity is a crucial first step in the marketing process. Your message, which is the way you write or talk about your college or unit, is a big part of your identity. If you have not developed a messaging platform, you should. Your messages should be based on the college or unit's mission, strategic priorities, and unique attributes. The messages will be used consistently in all communications developed in the marketing plan.

Public Affairs offers a Messaging Exercise PowerPoint presentation to assist you in leading a message development session in your unit. (Note: choose "save file" in order to view the information in the notes pages.)

Step-by-Step Process:

A. Identify messages and images that represent your unit.

Use the Messaging Exercise PowerPoint to conduct exercises with two to three groups to determine key messages.  Each group of eight to 12 participants should consist of a mix of interested faculty, administrators, students and staff. Meetings should last approximately one hour. Participants are asked to describe how the unit defines itself; how it is positioned with peer units; its mission, values, and personality. Responses to these questions provide key concepts and messages. This process may need to be repeated until core themes begin to surface.

Analyze the results from the exercises above and find core messages that define the college or unit as well as the factors that make it unique. Craft three to four messages that reflect broad themes and multiple associated talking points that are more specific. Consider using compelling stories in your communications to demonstrate the value and validity of the message. An example of a message and its associated talking point and story is demonstrated below:

Message:
Faculty research benefits students in multiple and compelling ways.

Talking point:  
Students reap the rewards of cutting-edge research through information the professor brings into the classroom, through the professor’s industry contacts, and potential opportunities to work in the professor’s research group.

Story:  
Professor Johnson, Nobel Laureate, has redefined the role of undergraduate students in research through his innovative laboratory-focused curriculum. (continue)

It is important to test messages on multiple audiences to determine their validity and appeal. Public Affairs can provide consultation in the development of surveys of these audiences. Be sure to massage messages as necessary before the final approval process.

Each unit's administrators should authorize use of these messages and require their consistent inclusion in all marketing pieces within their larger college or department structure. Within Colleges, departments should integrate messages about each other and the college into marketing pieces, as appropriate, to reinforce the College identity.

In order to make the messaging platform accessible to everyone creating marketing pieces, it’s helpful to create a web page or print handbook that includes the full set of messages and guidelines for their use. You may want to consider conducting informational workshops on using messages in communications or sending periodic reminders that direct people to the web page or print handbook.

B. Develop a visual identity

A visual identity refers to standards for consistent use of messages and graphics (photos, fonts, colors) throughout unit communications. A visual identity is more than just a symbol, logo, or icon. A well-crafted visual identity represents and reflects an organization’s unique product, service and mission. It is the sum of all of the visual elements used by an organization or company to distinguish itself from its competitors.

Your visual identity should define your unit’s story and messages—state who you are through content, images, text, color, formats, and other visual elements. Images should represent the many different facets that are distinctive qualities of your organization.  Keep in mind as you develop a visual identity that it should be used consistently from print to Web and other media. Your visual identity should adhere to the Illinois Identity Standards. Creative Services at Public Affairs has developed visual identities for many units across campus. Contact a professional at 333-9200.

Next: Developing a Marketing Plan