Content Themes and Brand Pillars
Content themes give us an overall approach, while our brand pillars — embodied in the message map — help us clearly delineate the value of what we offer.
Content themes and brand pillars should be used together. Themes are a helpful starting point for developing a message, while pillars help us hone in on the specific attributes of the university that are at play in any given communications piece — and how those attributes become benefits for our intended audience(s).
Themes align naturally with our brand pillars. Common points of alignment are shown below, but any theme can be aligned with any pillar.
Our content themes are:
- Sharing UofSC’s unique hospitality (often linked with Pillar 2)
- Championing the Gamecock family, (often linked with Pillar 2)
- Making an impact in the world (often linked with Pillar 3)
- Highlighting high achievers (often linked with Pillar 1)
- Uplifting South Carolina (often linked with Pillars 1,3)
- Shaping the future (often linked with Pillars 1,3)
The message map helps us move from a general content theme to a specific benefit-focused message, guiding and prioritizing how we tell the university story. It lays out our key attributes and how those attributes become benefits for our audiences. In short, it explains the value of what we offer.
What the message map is:
- An internal tool to help South Carolina communicators develop both written and verbal content
- A way to capture the bigger ideas that we need to communicate
- A flexible framework that is meant to grow with the brand and flex to its various extensions and entities
What the message map isn't:
- The exact words we use in our communications (but the words can be used)
- An external-facing communications piece
Understanding the Message Map
At the center of the map is our core value proposition: what we offer and why it matters.
The top half of the message map lays out the attributes that collectively make up
what we offer. The bottom half demonstrates the benefits that flow from those attributes.
Each attribute connects to the benefit below it.
Core Value Proposition
All of our messaging — from social media posts and digital boards to brochures, e-newsletters
and long-form stories — should align with and support the university's core value
Attributes: "The What"
Our attributes are “the what” of our core value proposition. They encapsulate the
unique essence of what we offer.
Benefits: "The Why"
Our benefits are “the why” of our core value proposition. They encapsulate the benefits
of what we offer: in essence, why what we offer matters.
Read the message map from top to bottom, with each attribute (top) aligning with its
corresponding benefit (bottom). Our mission — creating innovative models of learning
and research — is the first of our three key attributes, or pillars.
Pillar 1: Academic and Research Excellence
Pillar 1 emphasizes our goal of academic and research excellence. Starting from the
upper left column, this attribute/benefit relationship can be paraphrased as: UofSC creates innovative models of research and learning so that we can develop critical
thinkers who create knowledge to drive innovation and positive change.
Pillar 2: Superior Student Experience
Our approach — a welcoming and intellectually stimulating student experience — is
the second of our three key attributes, or pillars. Starting from the top of the middle
column, this attribute/benefit relationship can be paraphrased as: UofSC offers a welcoming and intellectually stimulating student experience so that
our graduates become part of a lifelong family bound by fierce loyalty to those who
came before and those who follow.
Pillar 3: Economic and Social Impact
Our mission — driving entrepreneurship and visionary leadership in order to positively
impact South Carolina — speaks to our economic and social leadership and is the third
of our three key attributes, or pillars. Starting from the top right column, this
attribute/benefit relationship can be paraphrased as: UofSC drives entrepreneurship and visionary leadership in the thriving capital city
so that the university can serve as an economic and social engine for our city, state
Make It Your Own
As a whole, the message map [pdf] lays out our core value proposition, attributes and benefits that support that proposition, and supporting points that validate our attributes and benefits. As you develop messages, think about how the stories in your own area support our core value proposition, serving to validate the key attributes of the university and the benefits of those attributes to our audiences.