Working within a brand

Few of us are islands, completely disconnected from any larger brand. Where those connections exist, they’re usually to your benefit.

The question, “What is a brand?” is a Pandora’s box we won’t open much here, but we like to say that it is the wrapper that value comes in. For your purposes, know that you probably don’t have what most people consider a brand, and you probably never will. Many small organizations get worked up about their logo and looking “unique,” but compared to whom? Let your messaging articulate your brand and its promise, and leave decisions about fonts and colors up to your “parent” brand and the (likely) uptight people who control it.

Brand is the wrapper that value comes in.

The look and tone of your marketing and communications should reflect you or your organization and it should be consistent, despite the fact that you may have multiple people on multiple teams working on different initiatives. Set up your workflow to account for this by putting specific individuals in charge of editing content. You might dedicate one person to reviewing visual elements for consistency and one person to reviewing copy.

If this isn’t possible, start building organizational tools that will help provide consistency such as a brand guide that contains visual standards and requirements for use of logos, colors, fonts, etc. Many organizations maintain a style guide, which is essentially a list of rules for how to refer to program names, frequently used terms, names of people, and other elements. These guides are living documents that are constantly being updated and added to. They provide consistency and serve as a resource to the members of your communications team. Maintaining a collection of key messages can also aid you in these efforts (see below).

You can help establish consistency in your communications by creating a style guide for your organization. For a sample style guide, go to If you’re part of a larger brand, like a university or center, there’s a good chance they have one of these.