Supporting the Illinois Brand in News Writing

Supporting the Illinois Brand in News Writing


The quality of our news writing influences how external audiences, including news media personnel, view Illinois as a brand and as an institution. Media perception can determine whether and how the university and Illinois research are covered.

Target Audience

  • Content Creators/Writers

Brand Guidance

Highlighting the Brand Pillars: Show, Don’t Tell

  1. We can showcase each of our brand pillars in news writing without overusing the specific terms describing the pillars. These terms are often overused and cliché in news writing, and could negatively affect perception among journalists.
  2. It is possible to maintain both a journalistic tone and the brand tone. Though fact-focused, a journalistic approach is not dry or unengaging.
  3. Let your description of the work/findings and its importance stand on its own as a showcase of the Illinois brand. Here are some examples that organically highlight the pillars within the framework of a news release.
    1. Innovation: What scholarly work or research was conducted? Why is it important? Are there new findings with a significant impact?
    2. Discovery: What have been the challenges of addressing this issue or studying this area? How did the new work overcome those challenges?
    3. Momentum: What was known before the research study? What is known now that wasn’t before? What new doors does this open?
    4. Community: Who was involved in the work? Is there a multidisciplinary aspect or special facilities/equipment to mention? How does the work serve the public?

Tips and Tricks:

Avoid hyperbole, exaggeration or marketing taglines. Do not overstate, overpromise or use absolutist language.

Adhere to AP Style and the Editorial and Style Guide.


How NOT to write a headline and lede:

Scientists find immune therapy cure for ovarian cancer

In an innovative discovery that will save millions of lives and end chemotherapy regimens for patients, University of Illinois scientists say that one dose of CAR-T immune therapy cures ovarian cancer.

  • This lede erroneously claims the treatment is a cure, an inaccurate exaggeration. It claims an “innovative discovery,” a trite, non-descriptive phrase. It also overpromises—foretelling an end to chemotherapy regimens—without disclosing that the work was done in mice.

Better example:

CAR-T immune therapy attacks ovarian cancer in mice with a single dose

CAR-T immune therapies could be effective against solid tumors if the right targets are identified, a new study led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers suggests. The researchers successfully deployed CAR-T in a mouse model of ovarian cancer, a type of aggressive, solid-tumor cancer that has eluded such therapies until now.

  • This description is more detailed and nuanced, yet maintains an upbeat tone. The findings and their importance are emphasized, leading the reader to want to click to read the rest of the story without using “clickbait” tropes.

Additional Resources

Editorial and style guide

AP Stylebook


Liz Touchstone, News Bureau,

Utilizing the Illinois Brand Personality, Voice and Tone


The Illinois brand has its own distinctive personality, voice and tone—our strengths and characteristics expressed in human terms. Our brand personality and voice are an extension of our brand pillars: innovation, community, momentum and discovery. They reflect the character of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and help people understand the heart and soul of the university.

Target Audience

  • Campus communicators

Brand Guidance


Consider these steps to help your communications achieve the desired results with the intended audience by conveying the Illinois brand personality through effective tone and voice.

  1. Know the brand: Which attribute or feature of the university most readily distinguishes the Illinois brand? Can you easily think of adjectives that describe the university? Can you identify recent communications from your unit that achieved a specific goal where our Illinois brand personality was distinct?
  2. Make sure voice reflects personality: If you surveyed the spectrum of your communications and channels would you say an identifiable brand voice – our unique personality – emerged? If not, where are the gaps? Do you have techniques you’ve developed to ensure your communications output expressed our brand personality?
  3. Adapt tone for maximum effectiveness: Is it consistent? If you examined a year’s worth of your unit’s communications specifically for tone, would there be a pattern of messages nuanced to match an audience, issue or subject matter? Do you have a protocol to monitor or adapt communications for tone? Are you more alert to tone depending on the audience – students, faculty, staff, community or alumni?
  4. Consider brand pillars: Every time you communicate with any internal or external audience, consider which brand pillar to incorporate into your message, with the goal to illustrate a brand pillar—not directly telling audiences what they are.
  5. Tailor your message to your audience and channel: Customize content to resonate with your audience’s needs. By tailoring your message, you ensure the communication resonates with the specific group.
  6. Guiding thoughts: When preparing communications do you consider whether the personality, tone and voice of the message fits the audience and represents the Illinois brand? Is it instinctive? For example, would it be helpful after writing a news release or other communication to pause and reflect on whether relevant brand messaging components will help the intended audience embrace the message?

Tone component examples


If you are worried that a student may need support with their basic needs, submit a referral to the Student Assistance Center. Our staff will reach out to provide the appropriate resources.


Not everyone always has access to basic needs. In the unlikely event you detect a student is grappling with their basic needs, please feel free to contact the Student Assistance Center. Your thoughtful diligence and concern are much appreciated.


The opportunity to participate in the university’s summer oceanography program will bring to life a world Mason has only seen on television. The biology major grew up fascinated with the ocean after a television travel series introduced him to marine biology.


Before participating in the university’s summer oceanography program, the only open waters Mason saw in the summer were in the flooded basement of his family’s apartment building. He said he didn’t have many good life choices until the university gave him a chance to avoid the hardships his parents had known.


A gift of medieval paintings from the private collection of an alumna will highlight a period in the artist’s career not previously seen by the public.


A gift of rare medieval paintings from the private collection of a first-time donor to the university will mark the inaugural public viewing of the artworks thought to surpass other donations of art to an educational institution.


The university has announced plans to open three new satellite campuses based on population growth projections. The new expansion coincides with the 150th anniversary of the university becoming the nation’s first college to establish a campus outside the U.S.


The university has announced plans to open three new satellite campuses, easily outdistancing peer institutions as the sole American university with more than 20% growth in foreign nations within a five-year period.


Why do I need to consider the brand when writing?
Aligning with the Illinois brand promotes cohesion and consistency. It also helps to build trust with key university audiences. When we speak with consistency, both the brand and accompanying messages are strengthened.


Anthony Hicks, Writer/Editor,

Maeve Reilly, Writer/Editor,

Katie Watson, Associate Director of Institutional Communications,

Common Editorial Mistakes and How to Avoid Them


Communicating in a coherent and consistent manner is important to strengthening the Illinois brand. Our messaging is stronger when we utilize a consistent editorial style.

Target Audience

  • Content Creators/Writers
  • Design
  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Video/Photo

Brand Guidance

Common Editorial Questions

How do we refer to the UNIVERSITY?

  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Illinois
  • U. of I.

Do not use UIUC.

Do not capitalize “university” when it is used on its own.

How do we refer to faculty members?
Faculty members are typically referred to as professors. We do not include assistant or associate with the professor title.

Do not use “Dr.” unless the faculty member is a medical doctor or veterinarian.

How do we refer to students?
The preference is to use first-year instead of freshman.

Graduate students should be referred to as graduate students without specifying if they are master’s students or doctoral candidates. Postdoctoral employees are most likely postdoctoral researchers.

Can we use the Oxford/serial comma?
AP style does NOT use a serial comma. Our official recommendation is to follow AP style.

When should I utilize capitalization?
Heavy use of capitalizations in copy, particularly in titles, is discouraged. Please review the Illinois writing style guide and the AP stylebook if you have questions about a specific instance.

The university has many acronyms. How should I refer to them in writing?
AP style does NOT use an acronym after the name of an organization or agency. If you are writing about the National Science Foundation, spell it out in your copy on the first reference, but do NOT put (NSF) after the name. If it appears later in your copy, just refer to it as NSF.

How do I write dates and times?
AP style uses a lowercase a.m. and p.m. (with periods). It is NOT necessary to use :00 for the hours—8 a.m. – 3 p.m. is sufficient.

For dates with months, use the Arabic numeral WITHOUT –th, -rd, -st, -nd. Capitalize the first letter of the month and use the abbreviation if the month is with a date: Jan. 1; Feb. 2, 2023

A comma should go after the numeric date and between the year and the next word if in a complete sentence: Feb. 2, 1999, marks the date of the great debate.

Spell out the month and do NOT use a comma if no date is specified: February 2024 was the coldest month on record.

How many spaces go after a period?
Only ONE space is needed after a period.

How can I ensure my copy looks good?
Take time to read and re-read your copy before you post or publish it. It can be difficult to catch mistakes on your own. We recommended sharing writing with a colleague who can proofread it for you.


Anthony Hicks, Writer/Editor,

Maeve Reilly, Writer/Editor,

Katie Watson, Associate Director of Institutional Communications,