Taking Public Health Learning Global through Branding and Identity Management

Taking Public Health Learning Global through Branding and Identity Management

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-171-9.ch003
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“Pathways to Public Health” involves undergraduate and graduate degrees offered fully online through Kansas State University (K-State) to both meet the needs of traditional-age learners and professionals in the public health field who will need formal credentialing. This curriculum offers learning with global implications and has a wide potential to benefit global learners. In light of this, this chapter explores potential methods for online branding and identity management for this course series as a central analytical aspect of the program’s development and launch. This chapter will address the following issues: an environmental scan of the global public health environment; the definition of the core identity; a branding strategy using the World Wide Web (WWW), Internet, and Web 2.0 affordances (to reach both internal and external “publics”); an initial risk assessment; legal considerations; work implications of the global branding; the engagement of students and graduates in the branding outreach, and the maintenance of this brand over time.
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Public health is a broad field that involves a breadth of domain-specific and cross-domain fields: human medicine, veterinary medicine, environmentalism, nursing, health inspection, policy-making, epidemiology, agriculture, law enforcement, homeland security, and others. Public health focuses on “herd medicine” or population health. As such, this includes laws, policies, and practices regarding workplace safety, environmental health, product safety, food safety, and overall homeland security. Some aspects of public health are global—such as in cases of environmental pollutions and epidemics—and other aspects are highly localized such as particular diseases.

Online public health courses, designed with both local and globalized perspectives, may benefit the larger learning public. With projections of growing online learning in the US and abroad in the near-term (Adkins, 2009), this learning modality needs to be fully and constructively employed, whether the learning is formal or informal; human-facilitated or self-driven; credit or non-credit; fully immersive, partially immersive or non-immersive; media-rich or lean; collaborative or individualistic, and sequential or stand-alone.

To reach the many local to national to international learners, global branding will be designed and potentially deployed. Branding is not advertising—which focuses on selling particular products or services. It is not marketing—which emphasizes acquiring customers and maintaining a relationship with them. It is not public relations or the maintenance of public image. Branding is about strategic identity creation and communicating that identity to a broader audience—to convert those who may be interested in public health into learners in the program. Branding is about trust-building with various “publics”—those people who are internal (within the same organization) and those who are external (outside the organization). Trust-building may be achieved with some personalizing of information (Luo & Najdawi, 2004).

People need to be able to identify their respective brands (particularly in a competitive marketplace) and to emotionally connect with that experience and representation:

As a customer gets in touch with or lives by any concrete reification of a brand, a brand experience takes place. It consists of all the perceivable elements (communication artifacts, physical products, people, services, events,…) that give to the customer the experiential, comprehensive feeling of the brand. It is everything that creates not only a functional, but also an emotional relationship with a product or service and the brand underneath it. A brand experience should induce brand awareness, i.e., the capability of recognizing “your” brand as “yours”, identifying it under different conditions, and understanding the distinctive qualities that make it better than the competition. (Bolchini, Garzotto, & Paolini, 2007, p. 173)

High name recognition and past positive experiences may enhance user trust in a health portal in terms of predicting “the ability, benevolence, and integrity” of that site (Luo & Najdawi, 2004, p. 112). Branding also helps define the full user experience—from the first inquiry to their long-term interactions with the brand and related educational services. All employees and representatives (even temporary ones) are seen as being part of the branding experience.

Accredited state universities do not have a profit motive; their work is to conduct relevant research and to support learners in their learning endeavors and research. They do have an interest in their own public reputations and how they appear, especially to their various stakeholders. Universities do need to replace fast-diminishing federal and state funds for learning and to become more self-supporting through grant funding and public-private partnerships and for-profit endeavors. In a global economic downturn, though, universities tend to be counter-cyclical, which means that universities may be more successful in attracting learners (“Marketing…”). That said, others suggest that difficult economic times mean more direct competition between universities and therefore require academic branding (Wu, Fan, & Wang, 2008). In the realm of global e-learning, without the regional advantages of local learners, the competitive advantages for the learning programs will involve branding—in part.

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