UW Brand

Writing on brand: Where do I start?

With so many incredible stories to tell, it can be tough to know where to start. Here’s a quick guide to help you craft content that will meet your communication objectives while staying under the umbrella of the UW brand.

  1. Choose your story: Identify a story from your college, unit or department that demonstrates at least one of the four brand pillars.
  2. Narrow your story’s lens: Use the brand tenets as a guide for shaping your story. You can use a tenet as a headline or subhead, or just use it as a source of inspiration for how you communicate your story.
  3. Apply brand personality and tone of voice: Embody the UW personality and tone of voice through your word choice, syntax and style. Check that your language is personable, engaging and clear (see below for tips on how to achieve this), not stuffy or didactic.

Getting the “right” tone: Using language that is personable, engaging and clear

While there are multiple characteristics that form our personality — and you may want to emphasize different aspects at different times for different audiences — we always want our tone of voice to come across as personable. We’re a trusted, knowledgeable source thanks to our position as a renowned research university, but we’re approachable. We don’t use pedantic jargon, and while we’re confident, we’re never arrogant. We’re people-oriented, engaging and passionate about making a difference in the world. That passion comes through with energetic, vibrant language.

Of course, the way you apply tone will vary depending on the audience, platform and your objectives. While you will make subtle shifts to ensure the tone suits your audience and communication goals, the overall tone — or feeling conveyed through copy — should embody the UW brand.

Here are some suggestions on ways to sound personable, engaging and clear:

  • Always consider your audience first. What kind of language and content will they connect with?
  • Be personal and direct. Use first person (“we,” “our,” “us”) and second person (“you,” “your”) when appropriate to maintain a conversational feel. Lead with details about students, faculty, alumni, donors, etc., when possible.
  • Avoid the thesaurus. Stick to everyday language. Strive to address complex issues using smart but clear language that is inclusive rather than alienating to readers.
  • Be concise. Use active rather than passive language.
  • Since we want to sound like a person, not an ivory tower institution, use contractions when it suits your target audience and the medium you’re using to communicate.

Editorial tips

In addition to the personality traits and tone of voice as well as the writing on brand section, here are some general editorial guidelines to help you write content that showcases your story while remaining on brand.

  • Lead with personal stories and connections. We want to sound human, not institutional. And we want people — including prospective students, current students, alumni and the public — to identify with what we’re saying. Sharing stories of the people behind the UW helps us do that. If you’re talking about a specific program, for example, include who is participating and how people are benefitting rather than simply sharing facts about the program itself. Delve into who, not just what.
  • Address the impact. We tackle a lot of issues, big and small. And as a result, we impact a lot of lives. So, don’t just talk about the challenges we’re addressing; talk about how people are affected as a result. Again, connect on a personal level by incorporating issues of shared human concern.
  • Give examples. Whenever possible, be specific. Provide compelling, vivid details and adhere to that old writing adage: Show, don’t tell.