A Brand Full of Possible
As the world around us is quickly changing and branding and marketing has become more important than ever to Career Services, our office hired a professional to lead, develop and implement a strategy for branding and marketing. For the first time we have a deliberately planned department-wide brand strategy. We are excited to share with you what we’ve learned and how you can benefit from defining your brand.
What is a brand anyways?
Think of it as the essence of who you are as a department. It’s how you interact with your audience. It’s how someone experiences your office. The message that is perceived on and off campus. It’s what you believe in. It’s even about the staff and their stories as well as what you hope to achieve as an office. Branding is the common thread and touch point in everything that you do, building from your vision and mission.
So why do you need a brand?
As a University, we believe that our thinking, our research and, most importantly, our people, impact and positively change the world around us. So each audience that we connect with helps to magnify UB’s impact on the world doing so one individual at a time. Our brand brings students, alumni and employers to our office to have a meaningful experience elevating the UB experience.
Building a Brand as “Full of Possible”
For UB Career Services our path to exploring our new “Full of Possible” brand started with our big hairy audacious goal of “lifelong career fulfillment” for our students. Then we developed an engaging and inclusive process to discover our brand. Here’s the process that we used:
- Reviewed stakeholder research that was conducted by the entire staff.
- Held a 2-day strategic planning session with the leadership team developing out big hairy audacious goal.
- Examined career literature, employment and marketing trend information seeking words or thoughts to capture those trends.
- The leadership team selected words they were drawn to that captured the essence of our department.
- Created themes based on leadership team word selections.
- Staff provided feedback by completing branding worksheets individually to reaffirm themes.
- Developed three concepts based on those themes detailing what it might look like, how it would be executed, what it might impact. Then the leadership team selected one concept to present to staff.
- All of the above captured using the following formula
- At a staff retreat, in small groups staff defined specific brand promises.
- A professional art director/designer was hired to execute the creative look and some messaging.
- We began by rolling out the brand, transforming our physical office space, publications and website to match our brand, always connecting back to the brand promises.
Tips to Overcoming Common Road Blocks in Developing Your Unique Brand
You need to figure out what your big hairy audacious goal is and be fearless in pursuing it.
1.) The brand development process is ambiguous, embrace it and open your mind to new possibilities.
2.) Get out of the mindset of the services you offer and instead focus on why your office exists.
3.) Work toward your “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” and be fearless in pursuing it, even if it doesn’t seem attainable.
4.) ALWAYS be true to who you are as an office. If you don’t believe in it, don’t promise it.
- Watch the Simon Sinek TedX Talk Start with Why and talk about how it relates to your office.
- Start thinking about your “Big Hairy Audacious Goal.” If you had no limitations, what would that look like? Be clear, descriptive and vivid because this will motivate you.
- Think about a process that works for your staff. Does it start with a leadership team? Does it engage the full staff? Does it require research?
For us, the world is “Full of Possible” because that’s who we are. We hope you find your “Full of Possible” too.
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Jenna Smith is the Coordinator of Assessment and Marketing in Career Services at the University at Buffalo (UB), the largest of the 64-institutions in the State University of New York system. Smith’s position focuses on transforming the UB Career Services brand experience internally and externally as well as building an assessment culture to inform leadership, strategic and departmental decisions.
In addition, Smith is the Co-Founder and Director of Adventure and Curriculum Design at The Beyonder Academy, an education initiative focusing on empowering youth, educators and parents to achieve creative potential through innovative education. Smith has worked primarily in higher education marketing, development and alumni relations but has also held positions in healthcare events management. She is trained in group facilitation and holds a bachelor’s degree in public communication, a master’s degree in creative studies and is certified in Foursight, a breakthrough thinking preference measure. In her spare time she works on developing her company Jennaration Nest which is a creative makerspace experiment, constraints such as low funds, a limited do-it-yourself skill set and a need to re-purpose items are imposed with the goal of making beautiful things to teach or share with others.