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,