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Opening the door to the world

How CIEE pursues its mission of changing the world through international education

Changing the world, one life at the time, is by all measures no small task, one that requires vision and commitment. It is the journey that CIEE: Council for International Educational Exchange started in 1947. And one that continues today.

The times, they are a changing

Where once upon a time, studying abroad was seen as a luxury for those with the means to go out into the world, today’s interconnected marketplace demands graduates with global perspective and awareness of other cultures.

With an alumni network of over 300,000 participants, CIEE is going strong. But with the proliferation of for-profit study and work abroad vendors, the organization needs to raise its profile and foster a better understanding of the value it brings to students worldwide if it is to compete. This is further complicated by the fact that CIEE serves a broad set of constituents with a portfolio that sometimes lacks homogeneity and dynamic businesses that often go to market alone.

The new CEO, Jim Pellow, has a mission, one that will position CIEE as the uncontested leader in experiential education with whom students, faculty, employers all want to associate.

In support of a vision

CIEE needed a partner who could help bring cohesion to their rich portfolio, infusing strength into the brand by unifying the business behind a shared expression.

Enter Tenet Partners and our multi-disciplinary team of designers, content experts and digital specialists. To anchor our strategy properly, we started with a comprehensive tour of the organization, talking to all business units to understand the common ground, as well as the nuances of the individual programs.

Inspired by the passion and commitment of everyone at CIEE, our team went to work creating the building blocks of an identity that would support the promise of quality that CIEE makes to every one of its participants: impactful design that brings the experience to life, clarity of messaging to promote the transformative benefits of international exchange, and a digital execution to reach students in the manner in which they want to be engaged.

The devil is in the execution

Leaving nothing to chance or personal interpretation, CIEE decided to educate its worldwide base of employees and asked Tenet to develop a series of brand training workshops and a brand center that could constantly evolve to stay in step with the brand as it matured. A series of tools, including guidelines and easy-to-use templates, were created and housed in the brand center to ensure across-the-board adoption and the brand consistency that had been missing.

No physical touchpoint was left unattended – marketing materials, conference themes, posters, holiday gifts, conference signage, etc. At the same time, everyone knew that, to ensure success, it was essential to extend the new brand where the target audience lives, learns and interacts: the digital world.

The social power of technology

Tenet worked closely with the CIEE digital team to bring the brand expression to the digital environment with the same discipline and consistency as was happening elsewhere in the ecosystem of communications. Mindful of the limited budgets and resources typical of non-profit organizations, we helped develop templates that could be implemented across the 29 CIEE websites. The same singular approach was adopted for emails, promoting consistency and efficiency.

While CIEE businesses were already active in social media, there was a clear lack of strategy to harness the power of social media and support the CIEE mission of bringing life-changing experiences to more people. Together, CIEE and Tenet explored best practices both in the industry and also of leading companies focused on the same audiences. The outcome was a set of foundational guidelines and a clear understanding of the fact that social media is no longer an elective but rather an imperative to win the hearts and minds of millenials and Gen Zers.

Fast-forward to the future

Today, CIEE’s brand is stronger than ever, disciplined yet flexible enough to make room for sub-brands to target specific markets. Confident in its leadership role, CIEE is setting its sight on the future. Its mission: to help bring the experience of study abroad to 600,000 students by 2020. Double what the number is today. With their unwavering commitment, there is little doubt on the success of this mission.

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