Communications Support

Branding, Marketing and Creative Direction

Communications bring your strategy to life. Creative determines whether it will survive—or thrive.

 “Creative is the least important, most important department” says Don Draper—and he’s right. Often treated as the “end of the line”—a place to announce institutional decision-making—savvy managers and administrators know that communications is the beginning of how your ideas impact your audience, stakeholders, and (dare we say) customers.  Communications strategy is incredibly important, but it can be lost in an instant of poor execution.

For most independent schools and colleges, the right place to start is with a Communications Audit.  We’ll review your communications—content, format, strategy, and structure—to help identify new opportunities for greater alignment and effectiveness for your whole organization.  Admission and advancement are clear foci of an audit effort since those departments manage the “promise” of your organization to its constituencies… but we also examine the supporting documents and internal communications that help or hinder your ability to deliver on that promise.  This match between promise and performance, between expectation and experience, is the essence of brand.

Most school communications simply mimic other schools—but brand is about difference. Let us help you express yours.

We know how to bridge the gap between planning and execution, business and creative—and we know how to create new, high quality, clutter-busting ideas that set you apart and deliver results. We’re happy to work with your internal team, or if they need extra support we have a network of outstanding creatives on which to draw.  Yes, our work has won a bazillion awards, but more importantly it’s delivered tens of thousands of increased efficiencies, hundreds of thousands of applicants, and hundreds of millions of dollars in donations. Examples of Communications and creative projects we’ve performed for schools:

  • comprehensive communications audits and competitive analysis
  • school magazine redesign, adding an issue and doubling of total page count—at a lower cost
  • brand promise, essence, and visual identity design
  • social media strategy and technology workflow
  • design of creative process workflow, maximizing output with the fewest possible resources
  • brand design for intra-campus program marketing (e.g. inclusion, sustainability, professional development, strategic priorities)
  • campaign communications strategy, case statements, video series, content, and material support 
  • templates designed to deliver great customer experience combined with efficient administrative processing
  • efficiency development via digital asset management systems (on the cheap), appropriate equipment specification, strategies for in/outsourced production processes, and project portfolio management systems.
  • effective nametags—an important, time consuming, and almost-always-overlooked design challenge
  • reimagined annual fund materials, ranging from high level annual fund messaging strategy to the details of direct mail and electronic solicitation components.
  • rebuild of college profile—a document that singularly represents your institution to what might be considered its primary customers
  • internal communications design, creating an effective strategy of email, newsletters, intranet materials, and printed documents
  • website and intranet redesign with new content management, form engines, and email integrations included
  • rebuild of “back to school” intake and onboarding process
  • electronic form systems, ranging in complexity from event registration to course registration materials to full-scale electronic attendance/signout systems
  • Crisis communications support

Contact us. We’d love to talk about your project.

Crisis Communications

Empathy, sincerity, and truth are the only way communicate in crisis.

We have worked with a wide variety of schools and for-profits, sometimes formally, sometimes behind the scenes. In nearly all cases, public statements are the easy part. The strategies, planning, and positioning work that informs such statements is the more critical work—and it must be done in a way that not only responds to the the crisis, but anticipates the changed institution—and changed lives—that result.

Don't let the stress of crisis lure you to easy, short-sighted solutions focused on "reputation management." Instead, earn a reputation—for doing the right thing.

Our experience in crisis communications is unfortunately vast, and we’ve consulted with many organizations over the years. Typically, crisis communications work is entirely confidential, including even the names of most clients. The work of crisis communications is often focus on public comments and media management, but it’s equally important to help people and organizations heal and make meaning from unfortunate events

The following examples are general in nature and don’t apply to any particular situation or client. A couple of these items are linked to high profile accompanying stories. For other specific, publicly available examples, please reach out to us:

  • Historical sexual misconduct, or professional misconduct, boundary violations, and sexual misconduct by current employees
  • Major donor or alumnus implicated in crime or scandal, or causing complexity for the institution through notoriety and/or political commentary
  • Death of beloved or high-profile community member
  • Arrest of alumnus on serious charges, or arrest of community member on grounds
  • Publication of memoirs, novels, and exposés unflattering to the school
  • Suit of school for various reasons such as discrimination (gender, age), disciplinary responses (to student), poor college placement results
  • Suit of a local vendor by school for poor quality, negligence, or criminal action
  • H1N1 Pandemic of 2009, Ebola outbreak of 2014, tuberculosis/measles diagnosis on campus, COVID Pandemic.
  • Elicit drug use, overdose, suicide attempts
  • Termination of a longstanding, highly popular employee
  • Economic downturns, layoffs, or other austerity measures
  • Suspension or cancellation of fundraising or capital campaign
  • Visiting head of state or celebrity
  • Top 25 music artist dating a current student
  • Illness, misconduct, boundary violations on school-led travel
  • Vehicular accident, breakdown on school-led travel
  • Fire in a major campus building

Broad Media Experience

While often it is alumni and parent relations which are most difficult to manage during times of crisis, we have also managed  interactions with a wide array of media outlets.

  • New York Times
  • Boston Globe Spotlight Team
  • Boston Globe Magazine
  • MassLive
  • National Public Radio
  • Fox News
  • Associated Press
  • Sports Illustrated
  • Vanity Fair
  • Town and Country
  • Local and regional papers
  • Regional and national television news