Tone and Voice Guide
A unified brand. A unified mission.
At Oklahoma State University, our brand voice represents the university’s brand promise. As a land-grant institution, we exemplify access, scholarship, service and research that contribute to the greater good of society. Our voice and tone embodies our determination, forward-thinking vision and collaborative spirit. By using a voice and tone that is passionate, genuine and authentic, you will represent the university’s brand authentically and accurately.
We are focused on academic and athletic excellence, while also being approachable and personal; We strive to be elite, but never elitist. We want to use simple, plain language to address our audiences, tailoring messages to their needs.
By being conscious of our voice and tone, we can write empowering content that builds on our university’s mission to promote progress and envision a better way forward for all.
When we write marketing and communications copy, it is essential to remember who we are as an institution. Be sure to consider our Cowboy character of determination, collaboration and innovation.
- We are determined. Using a straightforward voice showcases our accomplished and competitive spirit in academics, athletics and more.
- We are genuine. By keeping our voice in a conversational style, we exemplify our Cowboy culture and community.
- We are visionary. Utilizing a dynamic and forward-thinking voice is essential when sharing our story.
Check out OSU's editorial style, brand identity research, strategy overview and more for helpful information on brand voice and messaging.
Our brand tone is typically informal, positive and active, but it is always more important to share a message that is clear and concise. Keep this in mind specifically when sharing department or area specific information. While our voice stays consistent, our tone changes depending on the target audience and type of writing.
A Note about Pete
OSU’s mascot, Pistol Pete, has been an integral part of our university for 100 years. Pistol Pete truly captures the Cowboy spirit and is an entertaining part of our university culture. Pistol Pete is known for giving a wave, high-fives and even a heartfelt “Go Pokes!” at events, but he does not talk. Don’t write in his voice in communications materials.
- Amplify Our Brand
It is essential to keep your audiences in mind to make your communications and marketing materials as effective as possible. Messaging should directly address the concerns and needs of the audience you’re trying to reach. What matters to students may not matter to university staff, for example. The language and approach we use should reflect the language and values of each particular audience.
- Cowboy family: Alumni, donors, fans and friends of the university.
- Students: Undergraduate and graduate, current and prospective.
- Parents and families: Families of current and prospective students.
- Faculty: Current professors, prospective faculty and teaching assistants.
- Staff: Administrative personnel and additional campus employees.
- Donors: Members of the Cowboy family who bolster the university through financial support.
- Stillwater community: Residents and businesses within the Stillwater area.
- Corporate partners: Public and private companies and organizations that support and/or collaborate with the university.
- An Orange Advantage
How can you make your writing more effective and OSU communications stand out amongst other higher ed institutions?
The editorial brand guidelines resource is the perfect supplement to ensure you are consistent and accurate when crafting and creating university content. This will assist when you are looking for AP Style resources or have questions regarding the university’s editorial style. You will also find additional editing tips that will be integral in the content creation process. These include items such as using admitted versus accepted, not using the term dorms and much more.
- Writing Examples
At OSU, we work to address the world’s biggest challenges every day. We should tell our stories in ways that empower others and open minds.
Body Copy Examples
- Marketing: America’s Brightest Orange is going to look good on you. Opportunities here stretch as far as the eye can see. You’ll get real experience to start your career off on the right track and a big dose of Cowboy spirit in a community you’ll be proud to call home.
- Research: From storm-chasing drones to improvements in agriculture and disease-fighting medicines, OSU connects you to a world of cutting-edge research with top-rated faculty and resources.
- The first sentence of an article — aka the “lede” — should tell your reader exactly what to expect from the story without getting bogged down in exposition or copious detail. Example: The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact across the globe, affecting countless lives and every aspect of life. OSU scientists are developing an innovative new method to combat COVID-19. (We don’t need the first sentence. Your lede should be a springboard for the reader, not a hurdle.)
- When you start chaining together prepositional phrases, make sure you really need them. Preposition heavy example: The director of the institute for this project on aerospace is of the mind that there will be approval for the project in the not too distant future. Tightened up version: The institute director believes the aerospace project will receive approval soon.
- OSU in the News
Oklahoma State University attracts media attention, and we want to share positive mentions of OSU to help spread our message and enhance our brand image. See an article that fits the bill? Send it to email@example.com for consideration for the “in the media” feed linked below. Please include any preferred article tags you would like included, as well.
Read More: In the Media section on news page
- The Cowboy Collective
How do we utilize these guidelines in our communications and marketing materials? Check out a few examples of our brand approach already in the works.
Writing: STATE Magazine
Web landing page examples
- Orange is the Answer
- A Cowboy, Without Question
- Brand Management Recruitment
- Strategic Plan
- Oklahoma State University
Social Media: Connecting Cowboys