Branding workshops seek to present a unified message about Pitt’s personality


What is Pitt’s personality?

That’s the question that the Office of University Communications, with help from Boston-based marketing firm Carnegie Dartlet, is trying to answer as it holds workshops with staff, faculty and students.

The University hired the company to help develop a cohesive branding strategy for Pitt.

“Schools and other units have been doing some of this work over the years absent a centralized University strategy, and that is grossly inefficient,” said Ellen Moran, vice chancellor for strategic communications and marketing. “This is a much more efficient approach, and one I think that will also benefit … schools and business units who haven’t been able to allocate resources to do this.”

About 400 people from all parts of the University participated in six workshops over two days last week.

Moran said this is part of the research phase to try to hone a common approach to the University’s message as it markets to potential students and to others outside of Pitt. Communications also solicited comments online from the University community and received more than 800 responses.

Those participating in the workshops led by Carnegie Dartlet were asked to say how certain words — such as innovative, neighborly, creative, friendly, collaborative, experimental, inclusive and more — applied to Pitt now and how they would apply ideally. The words were used in many ways, including ranking which were the most important for Pitt’s “personality.”

University Communications is now hoping to expand inclusion of the research with an online survey that is similar in content to the in-person workshops. The survey, which takes about 20 minutes to complete, is for those who know and understand Pitt very well. It is limited to 1,600 participants and preferably for people who didn’t have a chance to participate in the on-campus workshops. Those who complete the survey will be entered into a drawing for a $50 gift card to the University Store on Fifth. Look for a link posted on and @Pitt in the next week.

“This work should result in something that will be effected University-wide, and we will be sharing and briefing all of our stakeholders on the results,” Moran said. “Our hope is that we'll have a more unified approach moving forward.”

Kate Ledger, who was recently named assistant vice chancellor for marketing in the Office of University Communications, is heading up this project. She said that after each of the workshops last week, “people from across the University were coming up and giving very positive feedback, excited to be part of the process and to see what the university is doing.”

The research phase of the project will continue through this semester and then University Communications will refine the messaging and hopefully roll out a new platform by the new academic year.

“Our goal is to share this broadly with the university community, because we see it as a platform that everyone will be able to use,” Ledger said. “It really is a lens through which they can tell their story.”

Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at or 412-648-4294.