Transparency Is Important to Branding


Your staff, faculty, parents, alumni, friends and students will determine your branding project’s success.

Why do these people have such a profound impact? Because if an institution’s own people don’t understand, can’t buy in, aren’t motivated and don’t get excited in all the ways external audiences should, your institution will struggle to achieve its branding goals.

Sixty-nine percent of employees believe building trust is the number one job of CEOs today: “Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf—they will advocate for the organization, are more engaged, and remain far more loyal and committed than their more skeptical counterparts” (Edelman, 2019).


Transparency builds trust. Trust builds a culture where communities believe in and live out the brand every day in everything they do. Truly brand-centric organizations implement ways to involve their people in their brand.

Here’s how transparency can impact branding:

 It sets community expectations.
An open and honest conversation about branding ensures there is a common understanding around the project goals, what part stakeholders will play and why the project is important to your entire community. In short, it prevents misunderstandings about the project and helps all community members see the value in branding.

It builds buy-in for brand launch and marketing efforts.
Your community needs to be on board with your strategic efforts. Building true buy-in takes planning, time and resources. When you commit to ensuring your project has communitywide buy-in, the result is brand momentum that helps strengthen your institutional culture and create a sense of ownership. It also provides internal support for staff directly tasked with brand launch activities and future marketing deliverables.

It highlights unexpected champions and converts cynics.
A comprehensive branding process should include many opportunities to engage your community. Involvement in brand research activities can reveal how faculty, parents and other community members are championing the brand. Involvement also gives your “non-believers” a chance to feel heard and see how others are respected and admired for reflecting key attributes of your brand. Active participants in research activities see beyond daily responsibilities, gaining context and rationale for branding efforts. 

It illustrates how success supports institutional goals.
Help your community understand that great branding is powerful. It influences word-of-mouth, impacts market position, changes external and internal perceptions, and in turn, strengthens admissions, increases fundraising and so much more. Great branding can help you advance the important work you do. It can help provide for professional development opportunities, curricular improvements, financial assistance, instructional technology and facility enhancements.


Furthermore, a reliable discovery process will be data-driven, giving the school the confidence to say “no” and “yes” to opportunities—allowing it to become more strategic in everyday and schoolwide decisions.

The consumer demand for authenticity and transparency presents great opportunity for 57 percent of companies (2018 Top of Mind Survey, KPMG International and CGF). If you reserve brand building for leadership, admissions, advancement and key stakeholders, your school is missing out on the most powerful asset in branding—community.

Successful branding is not just about uniquely articulating your promise, strengths and vision. Equally important is engaging your people in a process that seeks to listen and learn. Transparency helps you identify the genuine human interactions that fully communicate your brand story.

 How to Achieve Transparency

  • Have a thoughtful and proactive conversation about transparency with major stakeholders before your project begins.

  • Lean on your branding partner for ideas and suggestions—they’ve done this before.

  • Announce your partnership and clearly state the school’s goals in an email, faculty meeting or institutionwide communication.

  • Ensure every constituent voice has an opportunity to be heard through at least one research activity and, if possible, more than one.

  • Share a midway report or sampling of initial findings to keep the community involved and avoid surprises.

  • Give your community time to ask questions of your branding partner so they get answers directly.

  • Identify champions and critics, and personally ask for their help in your brand-building efforts.

  • Offer a communitywide presentation to share the data, findings and analysis of the brand research.

  • Hold brand training sessions with staff, faculty, parents and board members to empower your community.

  • Make sure your branding project’s scope of work includes the appropriate level of engagement necessary to ensure community buy-in.

You know your school best. How to achieve success differs for every institution. Whatever you do, approach branding in a way that involves your whole community—you can’t be successful without them.

Emily Hajjar