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Penn State Communications to Launch “Brand Storybook”

Penn State communications is notorious for terrible attempts at #branding our university. Though its last campaign was an ever-helpful reminder of where Penn State lives, this year the Penn State brand is heading in a new direction.

At the Board of Trustees’ Committee on Outreach, Development, and Communications Relations meeting today, Vice President for Strategic Communications Lawrence Lokman presented the department’s newest video campaign, called the “Brand Storybook,” set to launch on Feb. 1. The video storytelling campaign will highlight the personal stories and endeavors of Penn Staters.

A targeted, genuine, not-at-all vague marketing campaign for Penn State? Unbelievably, yes.

The “Brand Storybook” looks to expand Penn State’s online video storytelling efforts, Lokman said, by highlighting not just who Penn State is, but what we do. The campaign showcases what are being called the “inspired doers” of Penn State, people using their opportunities at the university to make a difference. The concept of “inspired doers” was discussed in preliminary brand meetings before the Penn State Lives Here campaign, and Lokman identified it as a meaningful concept to move forward with for this new initiative. Lokman referenced THON and the Alumni Association as examples of “inspired doers,” but the campaign will “amplify the number of stories we tell” beyond the usual tropes.

The short video vignettes highlight Penn Staters as high academic achievers as well as “inspired doers.” One video featured wounded warrior adult student Max Rohn, and his experience in the Ability Athletics Club, which gives people with disabilities the opportunity to compete in sports events.

Another sample video recapped a conservation biology engaged scholarship experience in Panama. The program was run by a faculty member from Penn State Lehigh Valley, and gave students the opportunity to do research on sea turtles and their dwindling population numbers around the globe.

The campaign will run from Feb. 1 to Mar. 1, and will be publicly launched via banner ads in newspapers, as well as over Penn State’s social media accounts. Lokman said the video stories are targeting the general public through online ads in major PA media markets like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the local State College area, which will hopefully engage the strong alumni base.

President Barron has been an important part of Penn State’s new branding initiatives. Remember the Nittany Lion Shrine coming to life in a video a few months back? “I wasn’t very happy with the first proposal,” he said. He thus asked the team to be more creative. Barron said every university’s campaign looks the same, and he wanted Penn State to differentiate. We have a lot of creative people at Penn State, he said, “we just need to let loose!” Finally, someone who gets it.

A genuine campaign is a welcome change in the Penn State community. In a critique of the Penn State Lives Here campaign, Onward State wrote:

So what are Penn State’s real strengths — our actual DNA? Those things are too numerous to adequately list. Most of all, we have an immeasurable spirit that is chiefly unique to the people who have come to know it in this Happy Valley. Publicly spirited men like Evan Pugh, George Atherton, and Joe Paterno, along with generations of Penn Staters, have created a Penn State spirit that can be felt far and wide throughout this town and campus. When you walk by where Old Willow used to stand — Penn State’s first real tradition — you can feel it inside you. When you look up at the sun rising above Mount Nittany on a beautiful morning, and realize how many thousands of other Penn Staters have experienced that same feeling since 1855 — now that’s our shared identity.

It is through the success of our students that this spirit continues to resonate, which a keen appreciation for our history. Look at all the students doing incredible things in THON, the Lunar Lion, TEDxPSU, State of State, or any one of the hundreds of Penn State student groups or athletic teams on campus. These students — not influenced or organized by administrators or marketers — are what define our strength and DNA.

It is these things that make Penn State special, and it is these uniquenesses that deserve to be highlighted in any campaign for our university.

You can check out the “Brand Storybook” website right now at none other than the Penn State Lives Here website.




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About the Author

Melissa McCleery

Melissa is a senior majoring in Women’s Studies, Political Science, and Spanish. In the little free time she has, Melissa likes to cook, spend all her money at The Phyrst, and add to her collection of blue and white striped clothing. She can be reached via Twitter (@mkmccleery) or email ([email protected]).


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