Outreach Kit, Section 3: Branding & Messaging

Overview  |  Outreach Inventory  |  Branding & Messaging  |  Outreach Planning  |  Further Reading & Final Thoughts

Download Outreach Template & Planning Table 


Whether you are leading a small project or a national center, creating some basic branding and messaging for your ATE funded work can be extremely helpful and save you time and energy. By considering branding early on, you will create materials that feel connected and cohesive from the start of your project or center. Similarly, taking a bit of time to think about your messaging will ensure you use language that resonates with your audiences and keeps your outreach and dissemination efforts on point. Here are some examples of how branding and messaging supports your efforts.

  • Your materials look professional and polished – the look is cohesive across types of resources (slides, handouts, website)
  • All staff and partners know which colors or fonts to use when creating materials
  • Text created for blog posts, newsletters, and social media is consistent and the message is clear
  • Audiences can easily recognize your brand and identify resources created by you and your team

Branding Quick-StartA smiling person presents image options

In thinking about your brand here are a few ideas to help you get started.  As you go through each of the exercises below, record your answers on your template.

  • Describe your project or center using any six words. Some examples might include – innovative, educational, inclusive, student-focused, friendly, supportive, exciting, cutting-edge.
  • Pick three descriptors that describe your project or center’s personality. Friendly, open, smart, calm, intense, powerful – this can be a little difficult at first but have fun with it - it’s an interesting way to see how each person on the team thinks about the project or center.
  • Find websites that resonate with your descriptive words, personality, your audiences. Look at other ATE projects and centers, professional associations, educational institutions and industries related to your field. What do you think of their branding? Which ones are appealing to you and your team?

As you consider the words you chose and the personality you’ve come up with, as well as the look and feel of the websites that are particularly appealing, you can begin to think about several other aspects of your brand. These are listed below and there is space on your template to record your ideas and choices.

  • Colors – Bright primary, pale soft pastel, or jewel tone – which color palette tells your story and aligns with the description and personality that’s evolving as you think about your brand?
  • Fonts – different fonts have different connotations. Whether you go with a serif or sans serif font, just make sure it’s readily available.
  • Logo – You may or may not want to create a logo for your project or center. If you feel a logo would be useful, take a look at what others in the community have done and think about the type of logo (abstract or representational) that fits the brand you’re creating. Record links to logos you find that are appealing. You may be able to get help from your campus design or marketing team to create a logo.

Messaging Quick-Start

In the context of outreach, an easy way to think about messaging is that it refers to how your project or center communicates to your audiences and highlights the value and impact of what you’re doing. At a subtler level, the words you choose and the overall tone of your writing communicates a lot about your brand. Let’s consider a few aspects of messaging:

1. Finding Your Voice

How do you want to sound to your various audiences? What matches your brand personality? Should the tone of your messages be academic, complex, simple, friendly, down to earth?

A quick exercise to help find (or refine) your voice:

  • List three or more characteristics of your ideal voice (funny, authoritative, smart, warm, open) on your template based on the info you’ve pulled together about your overall brand.
  • Provide some description – when you think of “funny” do you mean dry and witty OR silly and playful?
  • Finally list examples of social media, websites, or other written text that exemplifies that characteristic and your description.

2. Creating a Tagline & Elevator Pitch

Review the descriptive words you chose, the personality you articulated, and the info from the exercise above use it to help create a Tagline and an Elevator Pitch.  

3. Evergreen vs Ephemeral Content

Begin putting your messaging into practice by creating basic content you can use over and over, often referred to as evergreen content – your elevator pitch, a brief one or two paragraph description of your project or center, some very general tweets or posts about the nature of your project or center goals.

Then try creating some ephemeral content (content that probably can’t be re-used unlike evergreen content) – this might be something related to a current news item relevant to your field or a recent meeting, completion, or conference.

Here are some ideas to jumpstart your content creation as you create evergreen and ephemeral content: 

  • Special Events: Webinars, workshops, conferences, and other special events are great to share. Try to find a hook, such as a unique speaker, a major award or milestone, or information about how the event or program will affect the community or your institution.
  • Services and Programs: Describe how the demand for your services or program is changing, and how that change is tied to external situations – for example, the economic situation, a change in demographics, or new legislation.
  • Reports, Studies, and Nuggets: Share the results of a new study or report in your field. Or share a nugget of data from your work or the work of an industry partner. Focus on how the information provided will affect areas of interest to your audience and partners – the effects on industry, the community, education, or the workforce.
  • Participant Stories: Ask students, faculty, staff, and partners to share their experiences and discuss how technician education, their work in STEM, or other related topics have positively affected their education and career.
  • Partnerships and Collaborations: Talk about how you’ve created strong partnerships or collaborations with others, especially those that will lead to new opportunities or innovations.