Telling Our Story

We want to identify and tell the best stories that exemplify Penn State’s brand purpose in a way that resonates with our audiences. Our brand pillars come to life through the “what,” “how,” and “why” of our stories. This goes beyond an accomplishment at Penn State and extends to the larger impact outside of the University.

Storytelling Framework

As a communicator, it’s important to recognize individuality in our stories while showing how the Penn State community amplified an individual’s impact. Each and every accomplishment at Penn State was a team effort of offering support, creating opportunity, and celebrating successes. To help shape your stories to highlight what makes us special and unique, we’ve created a framework for you to reference in your storytelling. We’ve also put together an interview guide to help you gather the relevant information needed to be able to weave brand elements into your stories.

Download the storytelling framework and interview guide.


Brand Purpose in Action

Our purpose of “bring positive impact to humanity” serves as our North Star. It’s the reason we exist and the driving force behind everything we do. It acts as a reminder of the broader message behind our storytelling and should align with your specific unit, college, or campus goals.

—What is the broader purpose served by the story?

The What

Think of “the what” as the outcome and relevance of your story. It’s the impact that results from your subject’s actions.

—Is the impact local, national, and/or global?

—What is the societal need, the opportunity, or the problem to be solved?

—How is this relevant to your audience?

The How

Think of “the how” in the context of our three brand pillars: openness, interdisciplinary, and culture of “we.”

—How did your subject(s) realize opportunity and achieve their goals?

—How did Penn State help them make it happen?

The Why

The “why we do things” is what makes our stories meaningful and unique.

—What is the subject’s motivation for their actions?

Brand Pillars in Action

Our three pillars are the themes behind all our stories. Looking at your communications through these lenses can help create consistency and shape the way you express our core principles. (See Brand Pillars on the Who We Are page.)

Brand Pillars



Culture of "We"

Proof Points

When positioning Penn State, individual storytelling and themes and slogans are not enough. Proof points, or reasons to believe, will help to contextualize and differentiate the University’s level of excellence and vast reach and impact. Some, for example, show our comparative excellence as an elite research university. Others demonstrate the scale, reach and impact of our efforts, or the size and breadth of our community as a source for scalable change and opportunity.

In our brand research, three proof points resonated strongly with external audiences. When appropriate, weaving these proof points throughout your messaging helps convey our value in meaningful ways.

Our Alumni Community

The power and strength of the Penn State alumni community distinguishes us. Our reach spans nearly 760,000 living alumni around the world. Locally, one in twelve Pennsylvanians with a college degree are Penn State graduates.

Our Top-Tier Quality

Penn State’s top-tier quality establishes a focus for our excellence, especially in comparison to other top-tier institutions. Penn State consistently ranks as a top thirty research university. Penn State’s research enterprise ranks first nationally, tied with Johns Hopkins University, in the breadth and depth of its expertise.

Breadth of Impact

Our scope and reach is twofold:

—The University’s scale and footprint: Penn State’s unique educational model spans twenty-five campuses, including World Campus, that educate nearly 90,000 students every year and drive innovation and quality of life in communities all over the world. For example, as of 2018, the Invent Penn State initiative has established innovation hubs in twenty-one communities across Pennsylvania to fuel entrepreneurship and economic development.

—Our external reach and impact: We frame issues or topics within broader contexts while illustrating the scale of impact. For example, Penn State is working with local farmers to change the fate of the Chesapeake Bay and the 17 million people it touches.

campus beauty shot of flowers in front of the Hub-Robeson building