Telum Talks To: Justina Tan from the Singapore University of Social Sciences

Telum Talks To: Justina Tan from the Singapore University of Social Sciences

Telum caught up with Justina Tan, Associate Professor and Vice President, Strategic Partnership and Engagement at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), who talked about the recent brand refresh initiative undertaken by the university, the hurdles in between and keeping up with the younger generation in its communications strategies.

Walk us through SUSS’ brand refresh process - how did your team carry out the planning involving all stakeholders?
Refreshing the SUSS brand is a crucial step in our brand growth roadmap as we celebrate our seventh year as an autonomous university in Singapore.

Throughout the process, our team consistently consulted with internal and external stakeholders to gain insights on staying relevant to key target audiences as a brand. These takeaways would later guide our brand refresh strategies.

In 2023, together with our leaders, we conceptualised our brand refresh, or “Brand 2.0”. It is anchored on an enhanced vision, mission and values. We conducted a stakeholder dipstick study, updated our brand elements and developed an integrated omnichannel communications campaign. All these efforts culminated in the official kick-off on 9 Jan 2024.

In the course of the brand refresh effort, what challenges did your team encounter and what valuable lessons resulted from it?
The process of achieving consensus on our Brand 2.0 elements was challenging due to varying perceptions and interpretations amongst our stakeholders. We realise the importance of balancing each individual's perspectives and preferences to achieve the best outcome.

To address this challenge, our team adopted a proactive and inclusive approach by seeking and analysing feedback from diverse audiences. From the various viewpoints, we were able to discern patterns and identify common grounds amid the subjective nuances. This feedback analysis yielded valuable insights, providing positive data points that ultimately steered us in the right direction for our brand refresh.

The lesson learnt is to stay open-minded, adaptable and resilient, while ensuring our brand reflects the values of our diverse stakeholders. This brand refresh journey has also deepened our commitment to sustaining a brand that authentically resonates with our community.

What are some proactive steps your communications team has taken to shape and cultivate positive narratives surrounding the university’s brand refresh?
Our communications approach at SUSS has always been people-centric; placing students, graduates, faculty members and staff stories at the heart of our brand narrative.

To shape positive narratives surrounding our university’s brand refresh, we’ve embraced a 360° omnichannel strategy. This method allows us to effectively connect with our diverse communities - both internally and externally, online and offline, locally and overseas.

Our team also recognised the importance of tailoring our outreach to different audience demographics. We prioritised using digital channels to engage with the youths while utilising events and mainstream media as key touchpoints to reach more mature audiences, including seniors.

Given the current prominence of Gen Z in discussions, how does your team craft communications strategies that are fresh and engaging to them? Have specific trends or insights about Gen Z influenced the way you develop these strategies?
To keep our communications fresh to Gen Z, staying accessible on evolving channels is critical. In fact, we’re preparing to launch new digital platforms for SUSS, strategically selecting "watering holes" where youths congregate. Notably, social media platforms like TikTok are increasingly becoming their preferred sources of information, often surpassing traditional search engines like Google. The interactive and collaborative content on TikTok adds an extra layer of engagement.

But it’s not just about where we talk to them; it’s also about what we say. We listen to our students and include topics that matter to them across our messages and content. This way, we keep things interesting and relevant for the younger crowd.

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