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Posted August 29, 2014

Charting a new communications strategy for Harris School of Public Policy


At our first meeting with faculty and staff, we asked a seemingly simple question: “How should we fill the blank in ‘If you want ______, go to Harris.’”?

We weren’t being facetious or glib. Harris, located at The University of Chicago, is widely regarded as one of the best graduate policy schools in the world, in a class with much older institutions like Harvard’s Kennedy School and Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. But why exactly should someone choose Harris instead of those other top schools?

This was just one of many questions we pondered as we worked with key staff to clarify Harris’s position and develop a new approach to telling the school’s story. Getting the entire community on board with our vision was a critical part of our mission.

Thorough, systematic research was key, especially at an institution renowned for its quantitative, evidence-based approach to policy. We started by conducting in-depth conversations with over 60 stakeholders, including Harris staff, faculty, applicants, alumni, and supporters, as well as University leaders. These discussions helped shape our goals for future messaging and visuals, including a more vigorous celebration of the leadership and achievements of prominent alumni.

Over the past few months, we completed market testing for key elements of the strategy (including formal adoption of the “Chicago Harris” moniker), brand guides, an identity system, a system of responsive email templates, and a new viewbook — titled “Prepare to Lead” — to attract prospective students and supporters with a concise and compelling narrative.

All of these exciting developments have coincided with the school’s 25th anniversary and the arrival of a new dean, Daniel Diermeier. We’re pleased to see a new level of engagement and community energy at Chicago Harris and are proud to have been involved in this journey.

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