Integrating brand narrative into written storytelling

This guide will help you weave SFU’s refreshed brand narrative into your written storytelling. It is a companion piece to SFU’s refreshed brand guidelines and new visual identity. This guide is a living document and will evolve over time.

Brand DNA

Our brand DNA defines what is unique and relevant about SFU based on what resonates with key stakeholders. It clarifies the qualities and characteristics used for key messages, visual identity and marketing and recruitment campaigns.

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Key attributes

The essence of the SFU brand. These are the characteristics that define us. Keep these attributes front of mind throughout your narrative process. They should be reflected in the writing tone.

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Key messages from brand DNA

Our key messages are what we want our audiences to hear, remember and associate with SFU. The stories we choose to tell should reflect these messages. In addition, these messages should be incorporated into how we tell our stories.

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How to integrate key messages and attributes into content

Story selection

  1. Stories about students
    Hands-on experiential-learning opportunities that connect the knowledge in the classroom to benefit society.
  2. Stories about research
    Rankings/awards: when our researchers have been nationally or internationally recognized, beyond a specific field of study or touches on a relevant social issue.
    When we've transformed ideas made in the classroom, lab and community into ventures that scale or innovations that benefit society.
  3. Stories about community
    How we cultivate dialogue on important societal issues.

The link between the story angle and the key reputation strategy we want to align it to should be obvious. Consider whether you can easily write a headline incorporating the messaging.

For example:

  • Immersive classroom experience fosters teamwork in ground-breaking Semester in Alternate Realities
    This new SFU course challenged students from a variety of disciplines to use virtual reality technology to create meaningful experiences ‘for good.’ To teach immersive technology such as VR in a for-good context, the professors wanted to create an immersive teaching approach and classroom experience that would foster teamwork. This is an example of hands-on experiential-learning opportunities that connect the knowledge in the classroom to benefit society. The images are shot in a journalistic style, showing the students at work.
  • New study reveals young, concussed hockey players still impaired after being cleared to play
    This study found that young ice-hockey players who have had concussions continue to exhibit some brain impairment after being cleared to play. The study by SFU researchers, working with Surrey Health and Technology District and the Mayo Clinic, shows how discoveries made in the classroom, can be scaled and used for breakthroughs – in this case that young hockey players suffering brain injuries after being told they were fine to play again. The photos show the researchers in action.

Style and language

SFU tone of voice asks for writing that is positive, innovative, witty, confident, conversational and concise.

You don’t need to translate the key messages verbatim. Avoid using awkward jargon like knowledge mobilization (zombie noun), mobilizing knowledge or co-generation of knowledge (another zombie noun). Instead, describe what these phrases mean:

  • Mobilizing knowledge – refers to advancing research discoveries promptly so they can make an impact in the community or in industry – for example, commercializing research or solving a community problem. Can also refer to sharing research findings with other researchers, universities, industries or organizations; developing videos or publications that explain research findings, talking about research in the media or in public lectures, teaching, etc. Define what you’re talking about.
  • Co-generation of knowledge – refers to interdisciplinary research with other faculties, or to research collaborations with community or industry partners.
  • Knowledge creation – refers to research, so use the term 'research'.

Elevator pitch

SFU is Canada’s engaged university. We partner with communities, organizations and industry to transform research into innovations that benefit society. We deliver a world-class, experiential education that shapes change makers, visionaries and passionate problem-solvers. Our alumni are our champions, changing the world for the better.


As Canada’s engaged university, SFU engages with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change. We deliver a world-class experiential education with lifelong value that shapes change makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities – Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey – SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 35,000 students, and boasts more than 155,000 alumni in 143 countries.