As Will Rogers once said, “It takes a lifetime to build a good reputation, but you can lose it in a minute.” Never has this been more true than in a world of instant communication, where opinion can be influenced on a global scale in the blink of an eye. Your brand vision is a barometer against which your authenticity can be measured; defining your values, characteristics, identity and representing the full experience that your communities can expect from their first interaction to their last. We have previously explored how universities can build a differentiated brand, in this article we’ll explore how leaders can support this by setting the tone to resonate through the institution and extend to the audience. The reality is that each decision made has the potential to impact your brand perception, for better or worse.
We don’t have to look far to see the impact of getting it wrong on degrading trust. Who can forget the recent footage of world leaders descending on COP26 in private jets, eroding the message of climate change. Or Matt Hancock’s Covid kiss undermining government efforts against the virus. When set in the context of higher education, the importance of getting it right comes into sharper focus. The incredibly competitive marketplace, varied communities, civic responsibilities, ever changing policies and media scrutiny all compound the need for a strong reputation. With similar brand narratives evident across the sector, what others say about you, rather than what you say about yourself, can be a distinguishing factor.
Cries of hypocrisy, inauthenticity and disconnection can all have a negative impact on a carefully considered brand and vision. But there is much to be gained from getting it right; building credibility, connection, commitment, respect, inspiration and trust. Leaders have it within their remit to create a powerful ripple effect that starts with internal culture and extends to audience interaction and brand perception. To bring this to life we have explored some examples from leaders bringing this into effect: