University of California

University of California

Redefining the World’s Greatest Public Research University

Situation

The University of California (UC) is widely regarded as the world’s greatest public research university. Its 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories, and countless additional programs, institutes and initiatives contribute immeasurably to education, business, technology, culture and society around the nation and the world.

Despite its unquestionable importance, there is general concern over the future of UC, and of public education in general. Concerns range from reduced state funding, increasing tuition, and higher selectivity, to dissatisfaction over perceived broken promises between the University and California. The scale, diversity and campus-based autonomy of the UC system also made it difficult to either comprehend or appreciate the university as a whole, resulting in a focus on a few stand-out campuses. With a recently centralized communications team, the UC Office of the President sought to better tell UC’s story.

Strategy

Through a rigorous process that spanned nearly 100 interviews with campus leaders, UC Regents, students, alumni, and thought leaders across the country, we concluded that UC lacked a cohesive vision for its future as a leader in public education. Similarly, while UC has a tripartite mission of Research, Education, and Public Service, the public’s overall perception of the university is generally rooted in undergraduate education. Finally, while UC has made great strides in providing a high-quality education to the most deserving and accomplished students, it was perceived to have failed to deliver on promises of diversity, accessibility, affordability, and other key obligations of a public research university.

To help the University be perceived as both unique and critical, we framed a vision for the future of public education, and UC’s role in delivering on the vision. We identified UC as a system of interconnected, yet autonomous parts, much like the federalist construct of the United States itself, but with a unified set of values and commitments. The positioning statement for UC, under the headline “Boldly Californian”, highlights its critical role within California, as well as the commitment it conveys to students, faculty, researchers, and staff members: UC embodies the ambition of California and ignites the potential of its people.

We created key messages to critical audience segments that support this statement, orchestrating them in a playbook for introducing the story to UC leadership, communicators, faculty and staff. The playbook demonstrates to stakeholders across the system that there is a way to tell the overall UC story in a way that is unique, meaningful, sustainable, critical, and inspires them to tell a coherent, connected story.

Results

The new positioning and messaging has served as the foundation for efforts to redesign the University’s undergraduate admissions website, campus-wide publications, numerous campus initiatives, and a new visual identity for the UC System. Its impact is beginning to be felt as it is rolled out statewide.

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Date

April 7, 2016

Category

All Case Studies, Brand Research, Messaging Strategy, Positioning Strategy

Tags
Brand Research, Messaging, Positioning, University of California