The Sweet Briar Brand Imperative: Trust


The recent legal victory that keeps Sweet Briar College open this fall puts its brand on the line.

A year from now, will students, parents, prospects, faculty, staff and alumnae perceive a college of new direction and ideas? Or will they continue to perceive business-as-usual uncertainty?

New president Phillip Stonwill set the course when he takes office June 29. Job one: establishing trust.

With a to-do list a mile long after months of legal limbo, he’ll have plenty of opportunity to earn it. Stone’s priorities include meeting financial obligations, uniting faculty, administrators and students, convincing new students to come and, of course, raising more money.

All of this with fires raging. Saving Sweet Briar Inc., the nonprofit group that mounted a fundraising effort to keep the college open, must provide $12 million to the college’s ongoing operations. Of the $21 million in pledges secured by the group, however, only five percent of the money has been received. Many professors have taken other jobs since the closing announcement in February. Many students, too, have made arrangements to attend other schools. And the enrollment challenges that prompted the decision to close haven’t gone anywhere.

Earning trust in this environment will require transparent, decisive leadership and clear communications about difficult decisions affecting Sweet Briar’s future in the weeks ahead.

With trust comes confidence in leadership that will give Stone and his team the flexibility to explore new ideas. With exploration of new ideas, they can put Sweet Briar on a path to a brighter future and reinvigorate the school’s brand position, one that will help raise money, recruit students, attract faculty and rally Vixens everywhere.


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