How to develop your University's Messaging Framework

If you want to lose faith in the running of your organisation, try this exercise. Go around to each individual and department in your institution and ask them these two questions: Who are we? What do we do? If you get a bunch of different answers and discover a major identity crisis, this article is definitely for you.

The success or failure of any organisation or institution is heavily reliant on a unified understanding of your corporate and social identity. Misalignment in your goals, offering and audience can be a major roadblock in achieving your growth goals, but we have a solution. A Messaging Framework is a single source of truth and authority for your institution. It clearly defines who you are, what you do, and who your audience is with pre-packaged one-liners and statements that can be used across marketing, admissions and sales. We’ve done this many times before, so we’ve put together a handy framework with all of our tips and tricks so can simply fill in the gaps!

Start your framework here with page one being, What is a Messaging Framework and why is it important?

 

What is a Messaging Framework and why is it important?

They key to an effective framework is having institution-wide buy-in. So, it’s important that teams and individuals can quickly understand the document, see it’s value, and apply the messaging in their role. A blanket statement like the one below is short, simple and gets the job done.  

The purpose of the Messaging Framework is to act as a single source of truth for messaging both internally and externally. The messaging should be applied to all public facing marketing, sales, and admissions collateral such as websites, brochures, signage, etc.  The messaging in this document should also be used internally when discussing the institution, your target audience, and offerings.”

 

Who are we and what we do

This should be less of a marketing spin and more of a quick overview of your institution. You can talk about who you are, what you do, and when and where your school was established.

Bellevue University is a four year institution that specializes in preparing students for the real world.  The University, which is based in Savannah, Georgia has an enrollment of over 60,000 degree candidates, and was founded in 1849.”

 

Market need: Our courses and programs

Here, you will Identify the gaps and problems in the market that your institution solves. It’s helpful to focus in on what your school offers that’s different to – and better than – those within a close radius. Develop this content in a way that really resonates with your audience and makes them understand why they should care.

Finding the right college, with the right courses, that’s affordable, and offers extensive career opportunities is hard to find. Our goal is simplify this process and make world class education available to a diverse range of students regardless of financial situation or geographical restrictions. We do this by…. “

 

Differentiation: How are we different and better?

This section will expand on the above by clearly defining your key value propositions and how they make your institution a better option than your competitors. You can list different solutions for different sub-schools (Business, Finance, Law) or have one table with the high level value propositions.   

 

Offering Competing institutions Why your institution is better
On-campus housing High cost / low availability Extensive housing options

Below the table, expand on each offering with key statements that can be used to articulate each in marketing, sales or admissions collateral.  

“On-campus housing

For students going off to university, their dorms and on-campus housing becomes their new home. It’s a major make or break for both parents and students when considering a school. At [Insert institution] the average dorm will have a walk-in closet, a fireplace, and a window seat. Heating is excellent, and each dorm is clean and well-kept….”

 

Target audience

The target audience section of your framework will help shape your content marketing plan by detailing exactly who it is that you’re trying to reach. Start by categorizing characteristics of ideal student profiles, the problems they have, and the solutions you offer. Once you have a clearly defined ideal customer profile you can use this to create more targeted advertising and marketing campaigns for student recruitment. You can start building out your audience by answering these questions:

 

  1. Who are they
  2. What they need
  3. What are their anxieties
  4. How do we help them

 

Key messaging themes

Next, you’ll want to  clearly define your key messaging themes based on the market needs, differentiators, and target audience sections above. Think about your institutions key value propositions and write a one-liner suited to each. For example, your school might be a leader in MBA programs for your region. Your one-liner might sound something like this:

 

“McDowell University helps graduate students jump ahead of the competition with the states best MBA programs.”     

PR boilerplate

The last step is writing your taglines and PR boilerplate’s. This is essentially taking everything you already developed above and putting it into an easily digestible format that be used internally for marketing and sales purposes, but also for PR opportunities. The goal here is too set your own narrative, regardless of the author.

 

Taglines

The tagline is the main statement visible on the header of your website and all other collateral. It’s the one-liner that sums up your institution and offerings. For example, on the Princeton University website, their tagline is prominently positioned above the fold and reads ‘Through teaching and research, we educate people who will contribute to society and develop knowledge that will make a difference in the world.’ It’s also used throughout their SEM and social campaigns.

 

25 word and 50 word boilerplate’s

Next, you’ll  want to expand on the tagline to create your PR boilerplate’s. Most publications will add either a 25 or 50 word section at the bottom of a press release or article explaining the who, what, when, where and why of your institution. Include information like your tagline, the ‘who we are and what we do’, and be sure to keep within the word limits.

 

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