Tone and Voice
Communication is so integral to our everyday lives that we often give it little thought. In truth, it's often only when it breaks down that we are reminded of the importance of successful communication.
This guide is intended to assist University departments, programs, and employees in developing useful messages in line with BYU-Idaho's brand. This tool does not attempt to define specific messages for every department or circumstance. Rather, it provides a framework and principles to ensure our messages are consistent in tone and content with what the Lord and Church leaders would expect from BYU-Idaho.
Preparing Desciples of Jesus Christ
Communicators for the physical or virtual campus must be champions of BYU-Idaho's mission. Due to its affiliation with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the primary purpose of that mission is to educate, develop, and prepare disciples of Jesus Christ. Messages coming from BYU-Idaho departments or sponsored programs should, whenever possible, reflect this core message. When a communication's subject matter does not lend itself to being tied to this core theme, our messages "should still demonstrate by their content and tone that Jesus Christ is our model and guide."
Message and Themes
The importance of BYU-Idaho's core message does not mean that the phrase "preparing disciples of Jesus Christ" should always be used verbatim or even in the same way. Doing so would reduce the power and impact of this phrase. Alternative expressions of the same idea might include "preparing disciple-leaders," or "our goal is to help Heavenly Father's children come unto Christ and to become what He wants them to be," or "BYU-Idaho students are prepared to be followers of Christ and leaders in their homes, the Church, and the communities in which they live." There are many ways to express the same idea.
You may also find a tie to the core message comes by highlighting one of several message themes found later in this guide.
Considering the Audience
A communicator's role is complex and includes acting as liaisons to BYU-Idaho's many constituencies-students, employees, alumni, donors, business and education partners, and so on. Just as we would not communicate in the same way with an older relative as we do with our peers, we must adjust our communication to best suit our target audience. That includes considering the appropriateness of the following message components: content, word choice, tone, and delivery method.
Even when our message is meant for an internal BYU-Idaho group, such as faculty or on-campus students, we should remember that these messages often reach those outside our intended audience. Some communications even end up in social or news media. This potential makes it more important that every communication reflects the highest standards in order to protect the reputation of both the University and the Church.
For Guiding Messages and Behaviors
Humility and Frugality
Our founders may not have had much in the way of wealth or status, but the resources they did have were utilized with gratitude and care to provide students with the best education possible.
Sacrifice and Dedication
None of the school's achievements since its start would have been possible without the personal sacrifice and dedication of those who work for, study at, and support the institution.
Prophets of the Lord shape and shepherd this institution. Their vision has always been our guide.
Concern for the One
A unique spirit of love, mutual respect, and genuine concern for those around us has permeated this campus from the beginning.
Community of Learners
We have always focused on establishing a community of learners, where we teach each other and learn together in a nurturing environment.
The desire for innovation and progress has defined the university from its founding and continues to move BYU-Idaho forward on its steady, upward course.
We strive for a refinement of personal character and a devotion to integrity, which has always meant setting high standards for personal conduct and then keeping our promise to uphold those standards.
Faith in Action
The people of this institution have demonstrated an unshakable faith in God and His purposes, helping them overcome countless challenges.
BYU-Idaho was built and shaped by generations of Saints and their faith, sacrifice, and dedication. The enduring characteristics and values they exemplified are referred to as "founding principles" and continue to shape and guide the University today. When we communicate on behalf of BYU-Idaho, these principles may provide institutional context for and help strengthen your message.
Message Goals and Examples
We often want to accomplish several things when we communicate. For instance, we want to be understood and perhaps persuade others to our point of view. Ultimately though, most messages are meant to influence behavior in some way. Identifying what you hope to accomplish will help determine the content and tone of your message. Remember that the message's purpose is not what you want to do; rather, it is what you want your audience to do.
Being clear about your intent and purpose will help you focus on the right things and achieve your desired results. Here are two examples of BYU-Idaho programs who created messages with their goals in mind and consistent with the themes and principles found in this guide.
While "Preparing Disciples of Jesus Christ" is our core message, there are concepts and themes that support and expand its reach. Those who are not familiar with BYU-Idaho or the Church may not understand all the specific words, but they will understand the power of messages or stories that demonstrate the lifting of hearts, heads, and hands.
These underlying themes resonate with the core message that BYU-Idaho prepares disciples of Christ:
- We strive for Christ-like leadership characteristics that we might build, lift, and inspire others; make meaningful contributions; and serve with love and kindness in the home, the Church, the workplace, and the world around us.
- We pursue scholarship in an atmosphere of gratitude and intellectual modesty, where learning by faith is a pervasive, everyday reality, and where consecrated hearts yield increasing understanding of learning and teaching processes.
- We live the principle of wise stewardship, having been entrusted with opportunities and resources to educate, develop, and prepare as disciples of Jesus Christ and to establish Zion wherever we live.
- We prepare to be lifelong learners-capable of creative and critical thinking and able to apply true principles to our lives-by practicing the Learning Model and mastering strategies for gaining knowledge and skills in new situations.
To draw interest in their program, the Animal Science Department created a new campaign, "Scientists who get their hands dirty." Their brochure began with the following copy: "The science of discovery begins by taking a step in a direction toward the unknown. The Animal Science program enables students to discover methods that help animals, the human race, and the world at large by finding solutions to problems long explored."
While it may seem largely informational, the goal of the message is to get students to self-identify as being a potential Animal Science major and become interested in learning more. This goal shaped the content, which included terms like "scientists of all kinds" who like to "get their hands dirty." We can also see alignment with the themes and principles of BYU-Idaho in the following:
- "The science of discovery begins by taking a step in a direction towards the unknown." (Scholarship, Lifelong Learning, Faith in Action, Pioneering Spirit)
- "Find the solutions needed to help everyone on Earth keep living healthy, meaningful lives." (Concern for the One, Wise Stewardship)
- "Discover the needs of the world around you." (Concern for the One, Humility)
In advertising Education Week in 2013, University Relations needed to address some new, significant program changes while reaching out to the community at large. Brochures and website messaging underscored BYU-Idaho principles of Concern for the One, Community of Learners, and Frugality with phrases such as:
- "Children welcome."
- "Alumni and family reunions may join in."
- "You will gather with others seeking to strengthen themselves and their families."
- "Participants of any age will enjoy a variety of inspiring classes."
- "One low price."
Messages from any BYU-Idaho department, college, or office should consistently reflect the University's affiliation with the Church and its mission to educate, develop, and prepare disciples of Jesus Christ. Following is a summary of the principles outlined in this guide, in question form.
- Is my message consistent with preparing disciples of Jesus Christ and/or its other message themes? Does it measure well against the principles and values of BYU-Idaho?
- Have I considered the audience's perspective or frame of reference?
- Have I ensured the message represents the highest standards of the University and the Church, particularly in case the message was received outside the intended audience?
- Have I avoided using words and phrases common in the Church or school, but which may carry different meanings or be confusing elsewhere?
- Is my message consistent and aligned with BYU-Idaho's Founding Principles and, ultimately, with Christ-like characteristics?
BYU-Idaho programs and departments work under the direction of their line management, and should work through established channels when developing messages. University Relations can provide additional guidance and should be consulted for messages to off-campus audiences. For messages that may generate news media attention or that may affect the reputation of BYU-Idaho or the Church, University Relations should be consulted to help identify possible consequences and offer suggestions.
Question and Copyright
Always give proper attribution to the work or words of other individuals and seek appropriate licensing and/or permissions when needed. Be sure to obtain permission when quoting remarks, writings, or video of General Authorities. For information on how to do this, visit www.byui.edu/copyright. You may contact University Relations at 208-496-2000 for additional help.
1 Communications Guide, LDS Church, pp.4