A post by Tim Halloran on the Harvard Business Review blog is targeted toward businesses, but seminaries might find it worthwhile to look at these stages of love in relation to their own stakeholders.

  1. Know yourself: If you don’t know who you are as a brand, and what makes you different, better, and special, how do you expect a consumer to?” Schools might ask: "If we don’t know what makes us special, how do we expect students, potential students, and donors to know?"
  2. Know your type:Every brand has an ideal consumer -- someone who, when they connect with the brand, feels that that brand was made for her.” Does your school have an ideal student, an ideal trustee, and ideal donor? The ideal person is not just the one who shows up and pays the bills or takes the classes, but the one who makes you feel that, “Yes, this person really gets what we are trying to do, and why. This person loves us!”
  3. Meet memorably: “The first few meetings between brand and consumer dictate whether the relationship has potential or whether it remains in the mere acquaintance phase.” Every school can take a good look at how that first meeting -- with students, trustees, faculty, staff, donors -- can be structured to be better and more memorable.
  4. Make it mutual:When we are excited about our own relationships, we want to tell the world.” Are your students, trustees, faculty, and donors eager to spread the word about your school? If not, why not?
  5. Deepen the connection: “The emergence of a brand community, like the ones created by ardent fans of Disney or Harley Davidson, becomes a measurement of the depth of connection between brand and consumer.” Every school strives for this kind of community; determine whether or not your institution has this. If the answer is yes, how can you foster and strengthen it? If the answer is no, what steps can you take to make it a reality?
  6. Keep love alive: “All relationships go through ruts. As the brand and consumer relationship matures, it is essential to keep the spark going by rejuvenating the relationship through innovation and news.” This one speaks for itself. Does your institution have a process in place for self-reflection and renewal?
  7. Make up: “How a brand responds to a relationship crisis will dictate whether it reenergizes its relationship with the consumer or sends it into a tailspin.” There will be crises; use them to deepen your relationships with stakeholders.
  8. …Or break up: “Relationships end. We either recalibrate our existing brand and start engaging with a new consumer group or we fail forward, eliminate the brand, and use the lessons to develop consumer relationships with different product/service offerings.” Schools sometimes need to cut programs, change direction, or redefine key parts of their image and mission. Know when it’s time to change.


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