Building consensus when it comes to rolling out higher education brands

Higher education institutions garner the utmost loyalty from their constituents. They attract top students, recruit talented faculty and staff, bolster pride in alumni and appeal to philanthropists. That’s why changes to their brands must be purposeful and thoughtfully implemented — this starts with building consensus.

Let’s take a scenario where a university is developing a new brand identity; there are many stakeholders who need to be aligned and energized around the brand change including: the Board of Trustees, faculty and staff, alumni, donors, volunteers, current and prospective parents and students, among others. Most marketing leaders recognize that these stakeholders must be included in the process of creating a new brand, however many don’t give enough thought to how to build consensus with these groups during launch and roll-out. This requires diligent planning starting with a few critical steps.‍

Craft a concise story that clearly articulates why the brand is changing

Start by defining the “why?” Understand and define a clear rationale around how the new brand will guide the organization forward internally and externally. This story of change should also answer the question, “why now?” Whether creating a comprehensive new brand or rebranding a sub-brand such as a college, school or program, being able to articulate why change is happening, along with the intended result, will prepare stakeholders for what’s to come.‍

Answer the who, what, when and how through brand implementation planning

Once a clear story and new identity has been created, brand implementation is the process of bringing the new brand to life everywhere it appears, closing the gap between brand identity guidelines and operationalizing it through the organization. Brand implementation planning helps answer most stakeholders’ questions, enabling the organization to confidently move forward with an intentional plan. Most often, these questions include:

  • What is needed to launch and roll-out the new brand?
  • When is the best time to launch?
  • How long will it take?
  • Who will be responsible?
  • How will internal and external audiences be engaged?
  • How much will it cost?
  • How will it be managed?

A brand implementation plan becomes the playbook to make the brand change happen — an objective approach everyone can agree on.‍

Communicate frequently, eliminating surprises and resistance

Once brand change is in motion, the impact moves beyond stakeholders to other audiences who will interact with the new brand. Planning the communication cadence is an important step to creating excitement and momentum around launch and roll out. This could mean announcing that there will be change to the name, brand architecture or logo before revealing it. It could also mean launching the new brand internally before launching externally to bring the organization along on the journey. Setting expectations around what’s happening eliminates surprises and engenders trust. In cases where audiences might not be favorable about brand change, they will at least be prepared for it.‍

Be proactive in addressing what’s important to stakeholders

Most frequently, stakeholders who advise on the business are looking for firm direction on budget and timing — how long the brand roll-out will take and what it will cost. Brand implementation planning clearly outlines these aspects, supported by hard facts and numbers. However brand implementation planning also accounts for the more qualitative aspects of brand changes, such as the emotional impact of evolving or replacing brands stakeholders have grown to love. Having a clear plan around when to engage stakeholders in either the planning or launch cadence creates more opportunities for consensus building and long-term support for the new brand.

Recognizing that brand change is an opportunity to build consensus among stakeholders is both energizing and impactful, giving everyone something to rally around. At TenTen, we are experts in implementing brand change. We understand the importance of moving all stakeholders and audiences towards a launch they are excited about. If you’re ready to start planning and building consensus in your organization — let’s talk! Reach out at hello@tentengroup.com.

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