Monday, December 06, 2010

The University Brand: from the governing board perspective

The primary responsibilities of college and university governing boards have always been minding the mission and the money. But in recent years, a new responsibility has arisen: brand management.

This according to Robert Moore, PhD, a managing partner at LipmanHearne brand consultancy specializing in universities and other nonprofit organizations, in a recent article in Trusteeship, the journal of the AGB.

As competition for high-achieving students has grown more intense and as alumni and donor response to publicized rankings has grown more strident, trustees have begun to focus on brand strength and positioning as a way to affect these and related issues.

"I've been on the board at Trinity University for more than 10 years," Walter Huntley is quoted in the article, "but being involved in the branding process has made me a better trustee. I knew quite a lot about the university from my days as a student and my work as a trustee, but digging into how Trinity addresses its markets has really increased my understanding."  Huntley's experience at Trinity mirrors that of many volunteer leaders at colleges and universities.

Because our firm works with universities to commercialize their health science technologies, we at Stinson Brand Innovation have seen that the branding process can be a very valuable tool.

Here are the conclusions of Dr. Moore's article:
  • A college or university's "branding" process allows trustees to learn more about the institution, including how it positions itself in the student market and responds to competition.
  • It  helps to have someone on the board with professional experience in marketing and branding, but trustees at institutions with successful brand management stress that the role of the board is to set the direction of communications and let campus officials execute the substance.
  • Market research sometimes reveals considerable gaps between what insiders view as important about an institution and what the market values.

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