I advise people in the scientific community on communication and branding. I advise individual scientists as well as larger groups and institutions on how to get their message out in the public. I was a part of the new communication strategy for Danish Women in Physics and Nordic Network for Diversity in Physics, where I also built both websites.
My work with science communication and public engagement in research groups differs from institution to institution. But there is one topic that keeps popping up: core values. They make up the hidden foundation of a good communication strategy and are vital for a consistent brand.
In this post I will share some tips on how to choose and use good core values for your brand.
The Value Of Core Values
Core values are words that describe you and your vision. They are the foundation of your professional presence and they set the frame for your strategy.
A core value is a word that defines your ideal and what you strive for. It frames your communication and can keep you rooted when your communication moves down paths you did not foresee. A core value acts as a guideline that will ensure your brand is consistent across time, platforms and topics. It will also help you to build a solid and coherent communication strategy.
Core values should describe which ideals you want to live up to. You can choose freely among all words and concepts in the world – and this by nature can lead to passiveness. Too many choices will often lead to no choices at all. So finding them will take some time and effort.
If you want a solid brand you should not change your core values (at least not too often), so it is important to chose them wisely from the start.
How Do You Choose Your Values?
First of all, you need to know what you are striving for and what your ideals are.
If this seems like too big a task, start by clarifying what your core values are not. You probably do not strive for fraud and plagiarism. Maybe a core value could be ‘original’? Create a Yes-list and a No-list. The more words you can put on the No-list, the more you can also put on the Yes-list.
Secondly, do not make it too generic. In the example above it would be difficult to find someone who actually would strive for fraud, and therefore the opposite word might not be a very telling core value. For instance “Good, true, nice” are not good core values as they would be way too broad to actually describe you and your brand.
See if you can find words that are narrow without being too narrow. This is probably the most fluffy advice ever, so let us see if we can make it more specific.
Use these questions to test if your core value candidate is solid:
- Why did you choose this value?
- How does it represent your work and your goal?
- How do you implement it in your work? Where/how does it show?
Example: A Set Of Core Values
Let us construct an example of core values and see how we implement them in real life.
Let us assume that we are a group of scientists, and we want to brand our group publicly. We have chosen the words “Knowledge – Imagination – Curiosity” as our set of core values. This means that from now on our communication should be rooted in (at least) one of these words. If you can not find a common denominator between your project/statement/speech/press release or whatever you are working on, and your core value then chances are that a) you either have a wrong core value or b) you should not be working on that project/statement/whatever.
Say we are building a website for our group of scientists. The content on that website should be in line with your core values. The same goes for social media. If you are in doubt what to post in your feed (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc) then do a consistency check with your core values.
Maybe you want to share a post with your opinion on a current topic in the media? Check if your post either provides knowledge, triggers curiosity or expands the imagination! If it does not, then maybe you should not share it. Or if you do anyway, then be prepared that this will distort your brand. Sometimes it can be worth it, of course, but if you have chosen the right set of core values, there will be coherency between your values and your public engagements.
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.