The Brand Voice
The University’s brand voice embodies U of G’s unique personality and identity. It’s how we communicate, the language we use, the way we convey information, and the values we portray.
Imagine the University as a person — its voice is consistent, but its tone changes depending on the audience and conversation. It should always be authentic and recognizable.
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Our voice is thoughtful and thought-provoking, inclusive and inviting, colloquial and conversational, friendly and authoritative. We ask great questions and develop shared, transformative answers.
Our voice is savvy and creative, but not pretentious; bold, but not boastful; intelligent, but never elitist. It challenges convention while being respectful.
And it’s never just about “you”; the University’s voice is always about “us.” We use our common voice to share ideas, create knowledge, inspire inquiry and collaboration, and Improve Life.
The University has a personality with defined traits. This personality should remain consistent in all communications. Use the personality traits below to inform content and style:
- Provocative, inspiring, inquiring
- Aspirational, positive, empowering
- Collaborative, compassionate
- Intelligent, experienced, credible
- Responsible, resilient
The University’s voice is consistent, but its tone and manner should adapt to suit the audience and to make it relevant. For example, the tone of a social media post reminding alumni to attend a reunion will be different from that of a printed annual donor report or a brochure targeted at potential students.
The tone and manner of our voice should always be age and gender neutral, and free from bias. Use language that is personable, engaging and clear.
Keywords that inform our tone and manner in design and content writing are:
- Bold, thought-provoking
- Energetic, passionate
- Thoughtful, inclusive
- Pragmatic, layered for depth
- Responsible, resilient
These keywords are an important reference for U of G communicators. Think of them as having volume control — their use and intensity can be dialed up or down depending on the context or audience.
When and how often should the University be referred to by its full and proper name in communications? When should it be called “U of G?”
The decision is often left to the discretion of the storyteller, who best understands the context and syntax of the communication that they are producing.
Typically, in written communications including news releases or feature stories, “the University of Guelph” or “University of Guelph” is used on first reference, and “the University” or “U of G” on subsequent reference.
In brochures, annual reports or on websites “the University of Guelph” may appear more than once as such communications are often read in sections rather than in their entirety. Even in a news or feature story, “University of Guelph” may be fully spelled out in subsequent reference if the writer deems it appropriate.
The following are some general nomenclature guidelines:
The University of Guelph
Proper noun: “The University of Guelph is unique in Canada.”
Adjective: “University of Guelph students…” or “A University of Guelph professor.”
U of G
Noun and/or adjective on second reference: “U of G students,” “U of G professor Jane Doe,” “She graduated from U of G.” No article “the” before U of G and include spaces between letters, except in social media where characters are limited.
Proper noun capitalized, use on second reference, best in written materials where reference to the University is clear. Do not use in social media “the University has a rich history”; “Our University is a place that respects differing opinions,” said president Franco Vaccarino.
Adjective or noun, used for describing U of G athletes or U of G athletics, or students in the context of a team/unit. “Gryphon Athletics,” “Gryphon runners won the championships,” “I am proud to be a Gryphon.” Primarily used internally; external use should be limited to student recruitment/ athletic communications.
Noun and verb, capitalize when used as a proper noun, such as referring to the University’s official brand, “The University’s brand is ‘Improve Life.’” Lowercase when used to reinforce the University’s purpose, but not as a proper noun, “Our goal is to improve life.” Avoid overuse to prevent the term from becoming jargon or gratuitous.
Use only in reference to the City of Guelph or Guelph region. Do not use as shorthand reference to the University.
Storytelling has been used to create knowledge, challenge convention, connect communities and inspire change through the ages. We’ve evolved as individuals and a society listening to and learning from stories; our minds retain stories longer than facts and statistics.
Stories tell us about the culture of a place. They embrace the past and shape the future; they entice, connect and compel.
External U of G communications should be story-based, whether told in images, ideas or words. Stories give the University an identity and create experiences others want to have.
Telling our stories well is fundamental to effective communications.
Audience relevance and empathy are critical starting points. Ask yourself: “Who am I trying to reach?” “Why should they care?” This will determine your audience, and set tone and manner.
All of U of G stories should demonstrate how the University – through research, teaching, leadership, community involvement or other outcomes and activities – is helping improve life.
Develop stories that will resonate with people — they should be emotional, memorable and inspire action. They should spark conversations about the University and the things we are accomplishing, as opposed to communicating department/college/University messaging.
Use the Improve Life narrative to help you determine the stories to tell, and to connect key ideas or messages to the University’s larger story.
The University’s voice and message will remain consistent, but our story will continue to evolve as our goals and objectives expand and shift. New initiatives and directions may propel new angles and ideas.
University of Guelph story-writing for media (traditional, digital, social) should follow the fundamentals of style as set out above. The guidelines below should be considered when structuring the story.
Identify a specific audience before you begin writing and empathize with that audience from the start to help ensure engagement.
Identify a challenge or need that is relevant to the audience and quickly connect to a relevant, positive outcome or U of G solution summary that is aligned with Improve Life.
The ‘what’ should be a U of G solution in the context of a challenge. Define the details and features; align University positioning with individual or program/research positioning.
Be timely! Old news is not news.
Always include U of G and/or explain the connection between U of G and the work/research/outcomes, etc.
All stories should end with Improve Life (literally or referenced in the context of the outcome).