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Communications and Public Affairs

Benefit-Focused Messaging

Our content themes and brand pillars help us tell the University of South Carolina story in a way that will resonate with external audiences. We should never assume that the value of what we offer is self-evident; instead, it is our job to explain why what we offer matters.

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)

 

Message Map

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. An alternative version of the map's details can be found on the Accessible Message Map page.

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    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
  • The whole message map focuses on the Core Value Proposition, which is made up of two parts: What We Offer and Why It Matters. Each of these two parts can also be broken down further, What We Offer into attributes and Why It Matters into benefits. There are three primary attributes and three primary benefits. Attributes come from what UofSC offers, while benefits come from why it matters. The What We Offer part of the Core Value Proposition is defined as “UofSC is home for individuals who challenge themselves and each other to go beyond what is expected.” The Why It Matters part, beneath What We Offer, finishes the sentence and is defined as “So that collectively, we are a force multiplier in advancing the world.” This part of the map shows that attributes will inform the first part of the Core Value Proposition Statement and benefits will inform the second part. The first of the three attributes is Academic & Research Excellence, described by the statement, “Create innovative models of learning and research that uphold the highest standards.” This pillar includes Attribute Supporting Elements of: A comprehensive top-tier research institution, opportunities for self-directed curriculum, a broad range of study abroad programs, and a hub for immersive research in a collaborative setting. The second attribute is Superior Student Experience, described by the statement “United by a welcoming and intellectually stimulating student experience.” This pillar includes the attribute supporting elements: abundant opportunities for experiential learning and service, unmatched student affairs support, and a rich tradition of southern charm and civility. The third attribute is Economic & Social Impact, described by the statement, “Driving entrepreneurship and visionary leadership in a thriving capital city, surrounded by opportunity.” This pillar includes the attribute supporting elements: partnerships with leading companies who invest in the university’s talent and expertise, cross-disciplinary collaborations to solve societal challenges, and collaboration between the university community and state leaders. The first of the three benefits is personal purpose, described by the statement “Develop critical thinkers who create knowledge to drive innovation and positive change.” This pillar includes the benefit supporting elements: expansive individual growth and development, the confidence and motiavatin to be a self-directed contributor, and mastery of creative thought and expression. The second benefit is Communal Purpose, described by the statement, “Lifelong family bound by a fierce loyalty to those who came before and those to follow.” This pillar includes the benefit supporting elements: ethical and determined leadership, dedication to service before self, inclusion in a global alumni network, and enthusiastic pride as a Gamecock in the spirited SEC. The third benefit is Societal Purpose, described by the statement “Economic and social engine for our city, state, and beyond.” This pillar includes the benefit supporting messages: enriching the quality of life in our state, advancing social, cultural and political understanding, the perspective to adapt to change circumstances, and a commitment to social equity and civil discourse.

  

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. 

  • A focus on the central portion of the map showing that the Core Value Proposition is made up of two parts: What We Offer and Why It Matters. Each of these two parts can also be broken down further, What We Offer into attributes and Why It Matters into benefits.
     

 

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 proposition.

  • This portion of the map shows the Core Value Proposition statement in action. The What We Offer part of the Core Value Proposition is defined as “UofSC is home for individuals who challenge themselves and each other to go beyond what is expected.” The Why It Matters part, beneath What We Offer, finishes the sentence and is defined as “So that collectively, we are a force multiplier in advancing the world.” This part of the map shows that attributes will inform the first part of the Core Value Proposition Statement and benefits will inform the second part.
     

  

Attributes: "The What"

Our attributes are “the what” of our core value proposition. They encapsulate the unique essence of what we offer.

  • A focus on the What We Offer part of the Core Value Proposition. What We Offer is broken down into three secondary messages, each of which is broken down further into three supporting elements. These secondary messages and supporting elements form the brand attributes.
     

  

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.

  • A focus on the Why It Matters part of the Core Value Proposition. Why It Matters is broken down into three secondary messages, each of which is broken down further into three supporting elements. These secondary messages and supporting elements form the brand benefits.
     

  

Pillars

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.

  • A view highlighting what forms the three pillars of the Message Map. Each pillar is formed by a secondary message from the What We Offer section and its three supporting elements and the corresponding secondary message and supporting elements from the Why It Matters section.
     

 

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.

  • This portion of the map shows details of the first pillar, Academic & Research Excellence, which is What we deliver. Academic & Research Excellence is formed by the combination of what we offer and why it matters. The attribute for the first pillar is described as “Create innovative models of learning and research that uphold the highest standard,” while the benefit is described as “Develop critical thinkers who create knowledge to drive innovation and positive change.” The attribute and benefit come from the combined statements of the Core Value Proposition, “UofSC is home for individuals who challenge themselves and each other to go beyond what is expected so that collectively, we are a force multiplier in advancing the world.”
     

 

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.

  • This portion of the map highlights details of the second pillar next to the details of the first pillar. While the first pillar, Academic & Research Excellence, is what we deliver, the second pillar is Superior Student Experience, which is the unique way in which we deliver it. The second pillar’s attribute is described as “United by a welcoming and intellectually stimulating student experience,” while the benefit is described as “Lifelong family bound by a fierce loyalty to those who came before and those to follow.” These mirror the first pillar’s attribute, described as “Create innovative models of learning and research that uphold the highest standards,” and benefit, described as “Develop critical thinkers who create knowledge to drive innovation and positive change.” These attributes and benefits come from the combined statements of the Core Value Proposition, “UofSC is home for individuals who challenge themselves and each other to go beyond what is expected so that collectively, we are a force multiplier in advancing the world.”
     

  

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 and beyond.

  • This portion of the map highlights details of the third pillar next to the details of the first two pillars. The third pillar is Economic & Social Impact, which is the larger goal that keeps us aiming higher and moving forward. The first pillar, Academic & Research Excellence, is what we deliver, while the second pillar is Superior Student Experience, which is the unique way in which we deliver it. The attribute for the third pillar is described as “Driving entrepreneurship and visionary leadership in a thriving capital city, surrounded by opportunity,” while the benefit is described as “Economic and social engine for our city, state, and beyond.” The first two pillars have similar attribute and benefit statements. The first pillar’s attribute is described as “Create innovative models of learning and research that uphold the highest standards,” and benefit is described as “Develop critical thinkers who create knowledge to drive innovation and positive change.” The second pillar’s attribute is described as “United by a welcoming and intellectually stimulating student experience,” while the benefit is described as “Lifelong family bound by a fierce loyalty to those who came before and those to follow.” These attributes and benefits come from the combined statements of the Core Value Proposition, “UofSC is home for individuals who challenge themselves and each other to go beyond what is expected so that collectively, we are a force multiplier in advancing the world.”
     

 

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.

  • The whole message map focuses on the Core Value Proposition, which is made up of two parts: What We Offer and Why It Matters. Each of these two parts can also be broken down further, What We Offer into attributes and Why It Matters into benefits. There are three primary attributes and three primary benefits. Attributes come from what UofSC offers, while benefits come from why it matters. The What We Offer part of the Core Value Proposition is defined as “UofSC is home for individuals who challenge themselves and each other to go beyond what is expected.” The Why It Matters part, beneath What We Offer, finishes the sentence and is defined as “So that collectively, we are a force multiplier in advancing the world.” This part of the map shows that attributes will inform the first part of the Core Value Proposition Statement and benefits will inform the second part. The first of the three attributes is Academic & Research Excellence, described by the statement, “Create innovative models of learning and research that uphold the highest standards.” The second attribute is Superior Student Experience, described by the statement “United by a welcoming and intellectually stimulating student experience.” The third attribute is Economic & Social Impact, described by the statement, “Driving entrepreneurship and visionary leadership in a thriving capital city, surrounded by opportunity.” The first of the three benefits is personal purpose, described by the statement “Develop critical thinkers who create knowledge to drive innovation and positive change.” The second benefit is Communal Purpose, described by the statement, “Lifelong family bound by a fierce loyalty to those who came before and those to follow.” The third benefit is Societal Purpose, described by the statement “Economic and social engine for our city, state, and beyond.”
     

 

 

 


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