Be. Do. Say.

Be. Do. Say.

By Jackie Yeaney on Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Be. Do. Say. I learned years ago from former Brighthouse chairman and founder Joey Reiman that these are the three most important words in building a brand. If you want your organization to stand the test of time, you need to begin with three fundamental questions. Who are we? How will our actions support our identity? How will our words articulate who we are and what we do? When you find the answers, you empower your people with standards of behavior that help them live the brand in all that they do.

Problem is, those answers are often harder to find than you may think.

If you’ve been following my recent posts here on LinkedIn, you’ve been following the story of Ellucian’s brand awakening – an exercise in self-discovery that uncovered our true identity and what the world would lose if Ellucian didn’t exist. I’ve been on a few of these journeys now, and I can honestly say that this one has been the most rewarding, enlightening, and exciting of my career. Not only did it take us places that I never expected; it revealed assets that I never knew existed. And it all started with Be Do Say.


Back in August, I published a piece entitled “The Power of Legacy in the Technology Industry.” The topic was top of mind because it cut to the central question of who we want to be. As a company, we’ve been around for almost 50 years. In tech, that kind of history comes with plusses and minuses. We needed to decide exactly what role our legacy would play in our brand identity – or if it would play a role at all.

If we chose to shun it, we would be emphasizing solutions and services that are unmatched in the only vertical we serve; but we would run the risk of devaluing all of our years of experience working solely with colleges and universities – as well as the relationships and expertise we’d built over that half-century. If we chose to embrace Ellucian’s legacy, our experience, expertise, and relationships would be front and center; but would we be playing into the hands of competitors seeking to label us as a “legacy company?”

After talking to customers, employees, partners, and a few consultants, we came to the realization that this was not an either/or proposition – that our experience, expertise, and deep relationships are inexorably linked to our technology in that each strengthens the other in a perpetual cycle. Our legacy enables customer insight to be the driving force behind our innovations. And it seeds our passion for the mission we support. As such, it needed to be celebrated, embraced, and defined as the asset it is.

Being a legacy company isn’t so bad if your legacy enables you to understand your customers better than anyone else. So, what do we want to be? A company whose technology stands out because it is powered by our passion for higher education.


In October, I published an article entitled “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” It spoke to the question of “Do” in that lasting partnerships are never built on product alone.

Our legacy may have led us to accomplish great things when it comes to Cloud, integration, and end-to-end solutions tailor-made for higher ed. But what would we do to ensure that the passion born of our legacy shines through in every customer interaction – and that our actions always reflect our commitment to higher education and our customers?

We will listen rather than sell. We will take the time to help institutions assess what they really need and what they can do without. We will help them see around corners and anticipate what’s next. We will be by their side throughout implementations and beyond. And from a single support call to the registration line at our customer events, we will focus on the 1,000 tiny gestures that, as Michael Eisner put it, “enrich or undermine your brand cumulatively over time.”

What will we do? Simply put, we will work to become a true partner, not just a provider, in enriching the experience and enhancing operations of campuses around the world.


And in January, I wrote a third piece on the topic of the student experience and the journey ahead for institutions working to improve it. It was about the realizations that occur when walking a mile in your customers’ shoes. But after a few months to reflect on it, I now see it as a message from a marketer learning to speak her customers’ language.

Higher education is in the midst of a sea change. Expectations of the campus experience are evolving. Business models are transforming. Institutions are contending with questions about the value of a degree. At a time like this, a true partner will speak to it honestly.

That means being empathetic to the fact that this stuff isn’t easy. It means sharing a little tough love when tough love is called for. It means being forthright about our own capabilities and the benefits they deliver. It means it’s OK to speak in aspirational terms, but only if the aspirations are rooted in reality and where we are headed. Perhaps most important, it means inspiring confidence with a little swagger, but only when and where swagger is warranted.

Connected. Committed. Deeply experienced. Adaptive. Defining. This is the tone we will seek to set in all that we say – and how we will best articulate both our passion and our commitment to true partnership.

Like every human being, a brand is always learning, growing, and adapting to new realities. And throughout those processes, Be Do Say provides the solid foundation from which to evolve. It’s the core of your identity. It’s what makes you recognizable and familiar to others. It’s what the world gains with you in it, and what it would lose if you weren’t.

Thanks to Be Do Say, we at Ellucian now know what our customers have in us. Even better, we have a brand that sets a standard to strive for in all that we do.

JackieYeaney is the Chief Marketing Officer at Ellucian.

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About the Author

Speaker - Jackie Yeaney

Jackie Yeaney

Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer

Senior vice president and chief marketing officer responsible for the full breadth of Ellucian’s marketing efforts, including corporate, product, and field marketing.