Strengthening our “Voice” through Collaboration

Michelle Peng, Fall/Winter Graphic Design and Marketing Intern

The Office of Academic Innovation aims to create large-scale digital tools, learning pedagogies and online learning experiences that are personalized for the diverse needs of learners. In the past few years, our portfolio of digital EdTech tools and other initiatives have grown and so has our outreach to the University of Michigan student body, faculty and beyond. With an expanding audience comes the task to align the way we communicate our mission, vision and values. Throughout the past few months, we have been working toward creating a set of Office of Academic Innovation Brand Guidelines that clearly convey our assets and goals. A reoccuring challenge came from the question, “How can we establish our brand ‘tone of voice’ when we aspire to reach a large variety of audiences?” We opened these discussions up to our entire team with an involved, hands-on exercise to help us continue to define our brand “voice.”

The Brand “Voice” Exercise

Several members of the Academic Innovation team at tables writing on stick notes with two members of the team standing and placing sticky notes on a glass wallThe activity began with a short presentation providing context on our brand guidelines, and showing different methods that other companies use in order to define their brand “voice.” With the help of Eric Joyce, Marketing Specialist, and Trevor Parnell, Events and Marketing Specialist, we facilitated the exercise by asking staff from across the Office of Academic Innovation to think of adjectives that may describe the way we, as an office, speak. We posed the common question, “If you were at a party with the Office of Academic Innovation, how would they speak? What would they say?”

The exercise contained three areas of focus, how we would describe our office, how we think others would describe our office and, finally, how we want others to describe our office. The purpose of the first area of focus was to determine what we internally believe the Office of Academic Innovation represents. The next focus placed us in our audiences’ shoes, helping us materialize how we work with others and present our work. The last focus helped us to articulate our goals and what our office still aspires to achieve.

Four individuals standing in front of a glass wall covered in sticky notes

We spent ten minutes diving into each area of focus separately, asking everyone to write adjectives on sticky notes, which led to an incredible collection of a couple hundred descriptive words and phrases. After collecting and displaying all of the sticky notes for area of focus, we debriefed with the team discussing where there was alignment and/or contradiction.

Next Steps

It was really beneficial to have our entire team involved in the process and this exercise helped us take another tangible step toward better defining our brand “voice.” I compiled all of the adjectives into word clouds so the information was visually appealing and easy to read. The team can now get a better idea of what words and phrases were used most and how we would like to be perceived. As a next step, we hope to continue to shape our brand “voice” with our innovative partners across the university.

A word cloud including words such as collaborative, creative, fun, helpful, supportive, and more

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