What is Georgia State’s Identity?

There is only one Georgia State University. No other institution shares its history, its culture and personality, its vision and mission, the members of its university community or its relationships with others.

These elements—and more—compose Georgia State’s unique identity. Defining the university’s distinctive identity in a way that is clear, understandable, memorable and authentic is important and challenging.

As a member of Georgia State’s family, you play a special role in helping students, elected officials, business leaders and others understand what makes this university uniquely important to them and to citizens across the state and beyond.


Brand Positioning

The positioning statement and key messages allow for vigorous and productive communication that support all of Georgia State, while at the same time establishing common threads that can be reinforced in unit communications to maximize the impact of Georgia State’s distinctive position. We hope you’ll align with the university’s position as appropriate to your unit-level goals and the university’s overall strategic plan.

Download the identity positioning document 


Identity Pillars

There are five supporting concepts that further clarify the university’s distinctive identity. While the sum of these key messages speaks to the uniqueness of the university, some of the pillars are more relevant than others to the university’s key audiences.


Positioning Statement

A positioning statement is lens through which we communicate and emphasizes the authentic, distinct attributes of the university.

Georgia State, an urban public research university and national model for student success, provides students and faculty with unsurpassed access to opportunities in Atlanta, the cultural and economic center of the Southeast.


The United States is home to thousands of universities and colleges, about a third of all the world's higher education institutions. These institutions compete for students, world-class faculty and researchers, and funding from philanthropic and governmental entities. For Georgia State to be recognized and heard amid other higher education voices requires a commitment to clear, concise and focused communications.

To help faculty, students and others make informed decisions—and to attract the attention and investment of individuals and organizations who might not otherwise consider Georgia State — members of the university community must communicate and operate in ways that consistently and transparently reflect the university’s unique mission, vision and position.

Individually and collectively, our actions and the many ways in which we carry out the mission of the university build credibility for the university’s  identity.

In early 2010, Georgia State began work on parallel projects—strategic planning and branding identity—to build a stronger university.  Both of these projects drew on research gathered from 4,200 participants in nine key university constituency groups. This research reaffirmed the university's strategic plan’s direction and led to the creation of the university’s position statement and supporting messages detailed on this site.

The research began with a review of existing data and communications, competitor strategies and internal perceptions of Georgia State’s distinctive characteristics. The findings were supplemented by in-person interviews conducted with members of the university community and key external constituencies.

These interviews probed audience perceptions about the attributes and personality traits that make Georgia State “different and better than competitor institutions.” The identity findings were then used in quantitative research with the university’s most important internal and external stakeholders.

This research was analyzed and synthesized by a group of communications and marketing experts across the university, led by Don Hale, vice president for public relations and marketing communications.  This committee consisted of:

  • Ken Bernhardt, the Regents Professor of Marketing Emeritus, J. Mack Robinson College of Business
  • Ann Claycombe, director of communications, College of Arts & Sciences; Staff Council
  • Pam Ellen, associate professor of marketing, J. Mack Robinson College of Business
  • Andrea Jones, assistant vice president of communications, public relations and marketing communications
  • Ellen Powell, director of branding and creative services, public relations and marketing communication
  • Tim Renick, vice provost and chief enrollment officer

This committee’s work resulted in the university’s position statement, which in aggregate reflects the key messages.

Strengthening the awareness of and appreciation for Georgia State’s distinctive identity requires incorporating as many of the key messages that compose the university’s position statement, as appropriate, in every communications channel.

These communications channels run the gamut—from printed materials and digital communications to the university’s website, advertising, presentations and speeches, media relations, special events and other activities.

Communicating the university’s distinctive identity is not intended to be limiting. Georgia State is a large and complex set of units, each with varying target audiences, messages, strengths and differentiators. Share examples and tell your stories in your own words, but remember that aligning them with at least one of the key messages increases their value by building on the equity created by other similar communications.

The positioning statement and key messages will allow more vigorous and productive communication that supports all of Georgia State, while at the same time establishing common threads that can be reinforced in unit communications to maximize the impact of Georgia State’s distinctive position. We hope you’ll align with the university’s position as appropriate to your unit-level goals and the university’s overall strategic plan.

While creative concepts and communication tactics can be refreshed frequently, the university’s distinctive identity is enduring.

It bears repeating that while the university’s Public Relations and Marketing Communications team is responsible for the strategic communications positioning of the university, all members of the Georgia State community are responsible for:

  • Understanding the promise of Georgia State’s identity, why it’s important and what it means to them;
  • Living up to the university’s promises in their daily activities;
  • Reinforcing Georgia State’s distinctiveness in every interaction and communication with key audiences; and
  • Making strategic operational decisions and ensuring that tactics and activities reinforce the university’s distinctive position.

When considering appropriate communications channels and options, first consider your audience and its expectations and needs—and tailor your engagement with that group appropriately.

No matter the audience, there is always an opportunity to positively shape perceptions and awareness of Georgia State, along with its unique role and impact on Atlanta and beyond.  And don’t forget the ongoing chances you have to share what you do at the university, and to talk about all the interesting things happening at Georgia State with your neighbors or your fellow commuters.

It’s important that as each of us has these opportunities, we talk about Georgia State’s distinctive position. This is because over time, with repetition of its unique aspects, people and organizations will begin to shape a more cohesive and consistent understanding of what Georgia State stands for and how it is distinctive from other colleges and universities.

To plan your communications, we encourage you to first study the position statement and key messages.  Then, think of the messages as a “checklist” as you prepare to share Georgia State’s unique position orally, verbally and visually.  The more key messages your story supports, the stronger the story and the greater the support for the university’s distinctive position.

For instance, let’s say you want to talk about how many internships students in your college or school pursue across the Atlanta metropolitan area in a year.  Perhaps you’ve noticed that the number of student internships is growing every year because Atlanta employers value the interaction they have with Georgia State students.  And maybe your college or school actively reaches out to new employers to influence them to create more internships for your socioeconomically and ethnically diverse students.

What message pillar(s) does this example support?

Depending on how that story is communicated, it could support at least two of the key messages—providing students with unparalleled access to Atlanta and reflecting the university’s diverse student body.

If the story also involves students with scholarships, who then graduate and begin careers with multinational companies or even move outside the U.S., that story also could support the university’s commitment to student success.

To become more familiar with this communications approach, we have archived a number of popular Georgia State feature stories, print materials and visual examples along with a communications and identity toolkit. We hope these items will give you a better sense of how to capture the strategic thinking and tactical implementation required to effectively communicate the university’s distinctive position.