Just another WordPress weblog
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Our brand is North Carolina State University

For the past couple of months we’ve been talking about strategic communications planning at NC State and we’re about to get started putting that plan into  place.  We’ve got a long way to go, but I wanted to share some thinking around who we are and what sets us apart from other universities in the area and nation.

The work is still somewhat generic, but it’s a start.  Yeah, I know, we could all write chapters about branding and university communications (something I’ve actually done for other companies and universities I’ve worked for like UF and Harley) but I believe a successful plan will revolve around a few simple concepts; people, our performance, our position in the market and passion.  And in my book, Passion Rules!  But how do you create and nurture that passion.  Not sure, but you’ve got to start somewhere.  Here’s a take based on the work done at UF and adapted to NC State. http://www.president.ufl.edu/committees/strategiccommunication/

Have at it.

Our brand is North Carolina State University. We are known for our position as the largest university in North Carolina — with a presence in every county — the economic impact we have on the state, the innovation and success of our research, the value of our academic programs, and the passion and loyalty of our alumni.  We are located in the heart of the Research Triangle, one of the most economically robust and educationally rich areas in the country

We strive for excellence in our results and performance.  We seek to return high value for the support others invest in us. Our work is worthy of investment and has significant impact on the people of our community, state and nation.

We are stronger together and as disciples of NC State University we carry our messages far and wide.  We carry our passion with us too.

Key Messages

  • North Carolina State University is a preeminent research university and land grant institution.  Its statewide reach, diversity and proven ability to create productive partnerships enable it to take a unique interdisciplinary approach to solving issues critical to our community, state and nation
  • NC State’s wide range of teaching, research and extension programs have a profound impact in areas ranging from the economy to the environment to the fine arts and athletics and beyond
  • NC State offers a hands-on education built on the concepts of career-readiness, service to the community and consensus- and partnership-building.  On Centennial Campus, these concepts play out in an environment built on unique partnerships between business, government and higher education
  • Funding for NC State University is fundamental to developing an innovation economy for North Carolina
  • NC State’s alumni are loyal, powerful, and everywhere and the university welcomes everyone into the State family
  • NC State is North Carolina’s university. We produce more graduates than any other university in the state, we have more students than any other university in the state, we have the largest faculty and staff of any university in the state, we have facilities in every county in the state and we create more jobs and economic impact than any other university in the state.  In fact, we may be the most powerful economic engine in the state of North Carolina providing an $8 return for every $1 invested

Is six key messages too many or too few?  How would you expand or restrict the concepts.  Do these messages differentiate NC State from other universities in the state or nation?  How would you tell the NC State story in 30 seconds.  What other universities do this well and what can we learn from them?  What other universities don’t do it so well and what can we learn from them?  See, it’s not so easy.

Passion Rules!

42 0f 100

P.S.  I should note that my friends from UF, Harley-Davidson, Sea-Doo, Segway and others contributed to this process, albeit over a period of almost 35 years.  UF is going through a strategic planning process right now and because the two universities are so similar it will be fun to watch.


1 Mark Dearmon { 12.01.09 at 5:54 pm }

This is a very good start which seems to cover the waterfront of things to include in our communications plan. As I’ve read our marketing guidebook, one of the things I’ve struggled with is the differentiator(s) for NC State. Many of the statements included could be said about many universities, including two within 25 miles of Raleigh. The things that differentiate us from UNC and Duke are that we are the largest university in the state and have a presence in all 100 counties and the Cherokee Reservation. On a national level, many are larger and some have offices in most or all counties within their state.

I look forward to futher comments and much discussion about our plan, but it’s great to have a starting point. Passion definitely rules and if we can generate passion around the communications planning process, there’s no telling what we can accomplish.

2 Nate Johnson { 12.01.09 at 6:38 pm }

I appreciate the passion you’re bringing to the job — anything we can do to elevate the image of the University and the good work it is doing across the country is a Very Good Thing(tm).

My question is — what exactly is our brand name? Are we “NC State”? “North Carolina State University”? “NC State University”? “The North Carolina State University”? It may just be my faulty perception, but it seems that other (lesser 🙂 schools have a much better handle on this — or at least doing what they do consistently — than do we.

Beyond that, what are the preferred symbols of the university? We’ve got the “red brick”, the University seal, and half a dozen variations of mascots, as well as the diamond-NCS, the block NCS, etc. If we’re working to consolidate and strengthen our brand, it seems logical to be more consistent in our usage of not only the “brand name” but also the official symbols of the school.

Just my $0.02. Keep up the good work!

3 Joe Hice { 12.01.09 at 8:25 pm }

Or is it? The discussion around Our brand is North Carolina State University, NC State University, NC State, State, NCSU, is a good one and something we need to take up in our planning process. What do you think.

4 Joe Hice { 12.01.09 at 8:27 pm }

Differentiate or die, right. But finding those unique characteristics is the true challenge.

5 Dee Shore { 12.02.09 at 7:23 am }

As a graduate, a longtime employee, and the wife of a proud “legacy,” I give a passionate, “YES!” to what you’ve written. The trick may come in narrowing the focus, but I think it’s a fantastic start.

6 Mike Vysocka { 12.02.09 at 9:24 am }

“Our brand is North Carolina State University, NC State University, NC State, State, NCSU”… (I’ve also seen ‘NCST’) — Joe, you’ve touched on an excellent discussion point here… I think one of the things that Ripple Effects found with some of their focus groups while they were redesigning our university’s website was that many people simply don’t know what ‘NC’ stands for, especially our international audience. Does NC mean North Central? Northern California? Northern Colorado? We should make it a point to spell out the full name of the university where we can (and where it’s appropriate).

I think it’s also important to emphasize the extraordinary low cost and high value of the education our students are receiving here at NC State. My undergraduate tuition as an in-state student at the University of Vermont would have been eerily similar to the out of state rate at NC State many years ago. That’s something to think about…

7 Joe Hice { 12.02.09 at 9:29 am }

But it is just a start. It gets harder when we have to start focusing in on the handful of key messages we want to focus on for the university overall.

8 Joe Hice { 12.02.09 at 9:31 am }

I thought about the low cost but because all public universities in the state are “priced” well below the national average, I think that may be a key point for our National and International audiences. Still worth debating though.

9 David Hunt { 12.02.09 at 11:39 am }

Somehow I think branding comes down to trying to answer the question, what would you want people to say about you (or your product) if they said just one thing. For me, I want them to say, “I know this about NC State, you go to that university and you leave with a career in a growth industry.”

Brand statement: NC State. Our diplomas come with a matching career.

After all, why do most people go to college? It’s the place most people launch their careers. What makes us different than a lot of universities is not just the variety of careers you can launch here, but the 21 century, leading-edge nature of those careers. Check out the advanced analytics program, for example. Or textiles, or materials science, or industrial design, or global innovation management.

10 Chris Richter { 12.02.09 at 1:15 pm }

Nate brings up an interesting point about our “brand name.” We need to be consistent, but there needs to be some flexibility at the micro level. I know the use of “NCSU” has been discouraged, but on Twitter, that seems to be the dominant tag in tweets about the university. If nearly everyone talking about you there is using #ncsu, why not embrace and encourage its use in that context?

11 Craig McDuffie { 12.03.09 at 1:22 pm }

In my mind…

The NC State brand, right now, is only what each individual thinks it is, so basically there isn’t one. There’s been no sustained focus on a meaningful message. The passion people feel for NC State comes from their personal experiences, not from any past marketing plan. What little advertising the university has produced lacked passion, lacked a clear message and didn’t connect with people.

So how do you establish a clear brand that is meaningful to older alumni – who give most generously to the university and don’t use social media – while also connecting to potential students whose lives are in constant “tweet mode” (say it fast and make it count)?

You, Joe Hice, need a bigger budget!

Since that won’t happen, maybe a fresh approach with new ideas will work. I’m excited about the upcoming (Feb) IEI Emerging Issues Forum, “Creativity, Inc.”. As you know, there are a lot of smart, creative people out there looking at how to do things a little differently. I’m looking forward to hearing from some of them.

12 Joe Hice { 12.03.09 at 3:17 pm }

Amen to Craig’s budget comment. But without that bigger budget can we do enough to create 175,000 alumni disciples and another 32,00 student disciples for NC State? I don’t know either, but we’re sure going to give it a whirl.

Leave a Comment