Just how much can a re-branding go to improving public perception? Get your notebook out as we’re going to school…
An issue really heating up in Congress is the debate over for-profit colleges. Industry regulations were loosened under the Bush administration, and enrollment soared. Unfortunately, many graduating students got saddled with huge debts so the Obama administration proposed “Gainful Employment” regulations to address this problem. Both for-profit colleges and investors see these regulations as a threat, as might be inferred from falling stock prices.
From the PR standpoint, the label “for-profit college” invites scrutiny; certainly these organizations are aware of that. So they coined “career college” to focus on the service they provide, i.e., educating professionals. We can see these themes on the University of Phoenix website, and in their op-ed and on the APSCU website. And, career colleges rightly associated themselves with more tangible outcomes a long time ago, such as graduating IT and healthcare professionals.
But just like they changed from the Career College Association to the APSCU, their brand must continue to evolve. For example, why aren’t their graduates in the arts emphasized more, or those in green jobs? Smart brand evolution would stress that a career college fulfills not just one need but many needs. Quick op-eds won’t cut it when facing PR quicksand like this. And, while the APSCU website gives many examples of success stories, it has too much buzz-word infused information.
Re-branding is not an uncommon thing and your organization shouldn’t be afraid to take a few risks. Take Starbucks for instance. Their logo offers a nice visual of how gradual brand evolution can benefit a company. Lesson: embrace change. And if you’re still afraid that change might ruin your brand, remember one thing – there’s nothing like a return to a classic.