Branding Task Force Recommendations

Adopt a Unified Identity 

External messaging should be unified around one umbrella name. This will help eliminate rampant confusion about what services we provide, and free patrons from having to familiarize themselves with the latest iterations of our numerous departments and teams. Our services will be more marketable when faculty can immediately connect them with our organization, which they feel positively about. Faculty will also have a much easier time identifying which messaging is coming from us when sorting through their overflowing inboxes. This doesn’t mean individual areas within LET need to remove their name from their programming, but the umbrella term should always be prominently featured.  

Tell Our Story 

We need to tell a cohesive story to explain value behind all our services, including instructional design, makerspaces, and the relationship between libraries, digital projects, instructional design, and creative learning space. Our mission, vision, and values are well articulated internally, but our faculty need to see how our goals — and JMU’s goals — are reflected in everything we do. This is also highly supported by the student survey, in which students repeatedly stated the need for us to better advertise all we offer. Newer library services are foreign to many patrons, who need help connecting them to our mission and understanding how they fit alongside more traditional library services, such as interlibrary loan or reference. Faculty notice how we resource different areas of our organization, and we should make more visible connections between what we prioritize and what they need. Face-to-face communication is highly valued, and finding more opportunities to pitch ourselves can help familiarize the broader campus with our identity. 

Improve Access 

Faculty and students would like us to continue to improve physical and virtual access and accessibility to our resources and spaces. Physical accessibility concerns from students included: adequate space for wheelchairs, chest-level power outlets, and less bar-height seating. Faculty participants also requested our website be made easier to navigate for various tasks such as locating a particular person in a readily available directory and locating particular expertise or services in a comprehensive A-Z list. Student data from our library service quality survey confirms that student perceptions of our website have dropped steadily over the last several years.  System upgrades were also seen as a barrier to accessing and using systems by faculty. One group acknowledged they “hate change” and wished everything related to their workflows could remain the same. The group laughed at themselves, noting change will always happen. The inevitability of this problem makes it easy to dismiss or accept, but faculty made a nuanced point.  Anything that adds complexity to accessing physical resources (people, expertise, etc.) or digital resources (Canvas, support, research resources, etc.) hinders their work. This highlights how the concept of cognitive load (a concept traditionally applied to digital resources) could become a key ingredient in high-level organizational planning. Such ideas concern branding because how people experience LET buildings, services, and digital spaces results in their affective perception of the organization. Affective perception shapes the brand students, faculty, and staff formulate on their own about LET. Branding also relates directly to accessibility for differently abled people. Making physical and virtual spaces consistently reflect a brand focused with universal design principles will help the organization move towards greater accessibility for all people. 

Leverage LET’s Human Expertise 

JMU faculty see LET’s staff and faculty as experts. Students feel that LET is helpful. Our new brand should build on these positive perceptions, and our customer service should reflect them as well. Better, more consistent customer service at all tiers can lessen patron confusion about how to find help. Human capital is our greatest asset, and should be leveraged to improve patron experience. Patrons asking where to go shouldn’t just be pointed in the right direction. Their first point of contact within LET should determine where the patron needs to be, and then personally hand them off to another staff member. Personal contact and human expertise are highly valued, and this approach showcases both. Based on the internal feedback received, LET employees appear ready and willing to step up to this challenge. We should highlight our people and their expertise in advertising and promotional materials.  

Engage External Experts 

We recommend that LET enlist the help of external experts to build on the research this task force has done. External experts could include a marketing agency, a JMU marketing class, a student organization such as the local chapter of the American Marketing Association, or a staff member or team from JMU’s University Communications & Marketing office. Working with experts would help us move through the next phases of developing a new brand or evolving our current brand within the JMU brand guidelines, and would offer 2 important benefits: 

  • Expertise: An experienced faculty member or agency would bring more in-depth knowledge, skill, and expertise in marketing than LET currently has. 
  • Perspective: A fresh, outside perspective that is not influenced by in-depth knowledge of (and experience in) LET. 

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