Brand Writing Best Practices

Jump to: Editorial Style | Headlines | Copy | Captions | Audience Examples by Channel | Revising Existing Stories | Tips for Long-Form Writing 

Editorial Style

For editorial and journalistic content, Mizzou follows the Associated Press Stylebook. MU-specific issues are covered in the MU Style Guide. If a discrepancy exists between the two styles, the MU Style Guide takes precedence.

In some fields, writers and editors might also follow discipline-specific guides, such as the MLA Style Manual. Regardless of the field, in communications produced for general audiences, the MU Style Guide and the Associated Press Stylebook take precedence over other guides.


Keep headlines focused, yet creative.
Headlines are the best, and maybe only, opportunity to grab the reader’s attention and encourage them to keep reading. They need to be quick, clear and intriguing. Don’t try and say everything or you’ll confuse (and lose) your audience.


Before you start crafting your story, make sure you know:

  • Who your audience is (review Audiences, Voice & Tone)
  • What it is you want them to get out of it — what do they need to know?
  • What tone will convey this information the best? Should it be curious, ambitious or maybe a bit of both?
  • Gather relevant information, data, names, dates and details

After identifying these core items, review the content on Narrative & Key Messaging. This includes our narrative, personality archetypes, key messaging storylines and dimensions and can inspire the cadence of your copy. Feel free to pull from the storylines and dimensions to integrate into your copy when relevant.

Remember we’re crafting authentic stories with impact:

  • Move beyond simply stating facts to connect with your audience.
    • Instead of saying: We have four degree programs …
    • Say: With four degree programs designed for the entrepreneurial spirit, we …
  • Show the human element behind our success.
    • Instead of saying: Mizzou has many research opportunities …
    • Say: At Mizzou, students work with renowned researchers …
  • Create a strong emotional tie with your audience.
    • Instead of saying: We make an impact.
    • Say: Our research and discoveries are positively impacting our local communities, the state of Missouri and beyond.


  • Does the tone of what you are writing inspire the reader?
  • Does it reflect one or more of Mizzou’s archetype storylines?

Use copy to influence visual choices: to influence visual choices:

  • The Mizzou brand is enhanced through supporting visuals. Refer to the Visual Identity section for brand graphics, fonts and photography. Coordinate these elements to enhance your copy – your messaging should be the star.


Clear, concise captions can pull curious readers further into the page while ensuring that those merely skimming the page can garner the most important information. Guidelines on crediting photography can be found here.

How to write enticing captions:

  • Generate interest and intrigue. Engage readers.
  • Add details that aren’t in the accompanying story.
  • Use active verbs and energetic language.
  • For every photograph, provide a caption with specific information, if available. Captions accompanying generic or decorative photographs, such as pictures of campus icons, can provide background information or a bit of MU history.
  • Be honest and accurate. If using an old photo, identify the date. If using a photo for illustrative rather than documentary purposes, make that clear in your caption.
  • Use “from left” rather than “from left to right” when identifying multiple people or things.
  • Don’t editorialize. Avoid subjective adjectives. Let your readers decide whether someone or something is beautiful, happy, troubled, etc.
  • Because readers know you are referring to the photograph, omit phrases such “is shown” or “pictured above.”
  • Try to use present tense, but use past tense to refer to events that preceded the taking of the photo or that are not pictured in the photo.
  • Don’t point out the obvious, such as gestures or colors, except when writing alternative text to accompany photos online. Alternative text can be detected by a screen-reader and provide photo information to users who are visually impaired.
  • Before publishing the photos online or in print, double-check the photos and captions for accuracy and consistency.

Audience Examples by Channel

Channels refer to where we’re speaking to the audience — whether it’s in an email, a social media post, a landing page or elsewhere. These examples are not exhaustive. Rather, each example showcases one way of expressing a message to a particular audience using Mizzou’s unique personality archetypes. Refer to Audiences, Voice & Tone for more information.

Jump to: Prospective Students | Current Mizzou Community | External Audiences

Audience: Prospective Students

Message: A better future begins with fresh ideas. At Mizzou, we’ll inspire you to explore across disciplines and beyond boundaries. So you can test your theories, expand your perspective, and unleash solutions that improve lives everywhere. And you’ll do it all alongside professionals just as curious as you.

Channel: Landing Page (Headline and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Unflinching Investigator

Headline: Your ideas in action
Copy: At Mizzou, we don’t just talk about big ideas — we put them to the test. So bring all of your “what ifs and “I wonders. We’ll connect you with research opportunities that will transform your questions into ideas and your ideas into discoveries. You can manage an investment portfolio. Determine how a virus spreads. Find new connections between industries. Connect with us, and we’ll show you where to start.
Channel: Email (Subject Line and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Unflinching Investigator

Subject: Ready to answer the questions that drive you?
Copy: We know you’re curious — about your future, the world and the opportunities waiting for you. We also know your next step is about more than finding the right campus or the right classrooms. It’s about discovering your purpose and answers to the questions that inspire you. And you’re in the right place. Meet the Missouri Method: a hands-on approach to learning born in our legendary School of Journalism. No matter what your interests are, you’ll find answers right here at Mizzou. Check out our undergraduate research guide at to learn more.
Channel: Social (Instagram Post)
Archetypes: Championing Leader/Groundbreaking Innovator

Graphic Text: Curiosity makes a difference
Caption: Curiosity can challenge. Empower. Inspire. At Mizzou, your curiosity makes a difference. You’ll have access to research opportunities and expert mentors in every field, so you can test your theories and unleash solutions that improve lives everywhere. Click the link in our bio to learn more about undergraduate research at Mizzou.
Channel: Digital (Display Ad)
Archetypes: Groundbreaking Innovator

Headline: Turn your ideas into possibilities
Subhead: Transform your field and your future with
undergrad research
CTA: Apply Now

Audience: Current Mizzou Community

Message: We offer world-class professional development opportunities that will ignite your passion and build your confidence, empowering you to take on the problems other researchers avoid. Our resources range from short, self-paced modules to one-on-one coaching and intensive multi-year programs. Attend our workshops to learn more about securing funding, planning an evaluation, developing a logic model, grant writing and more.

Channel: LinkedIn Post
Archetype: Groundbreaking Innovator

Copy: Looking for ways to advance your research career? Register for our Early Career Research Development Fellows Program to develop the skills you need to take your ideas from the back of your mind to front page news. Throughout the
three-year program, you’ll attend monthly sessions on everything from early career grant opportunities to strategies for time management. You’ll engage with peer researchers and work one-on-one with staff in the Division of Research, Innovation & Impact. Learn more about Mizzou’s professional development programs at
Channel: Email (Subject Line and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Championing Leader/ Groundbreaking Innovator

Subject: Take Your Research Career to the Next Level
Copy: We’re invested in your ideas. We’ve earned our place as a top research institution by empowering our faculty to break with convention and create novel solutions. That’s why we offer year-round professional development opportunities, catered to your interests. Discover self-paced modules or attend monthly workshops. Register for intensive programs or connect with our professional development team to achieve your goals and launch your ideas. Explore your options at
Channel: Newsletter Blurb (Headline and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Championing Leader/ Unflinching Investigator

Headline: Professional Development Workshops
Copy: You’re part of a research community unlike any other. Every day, Mizzou researchers are testing new theories, embracing new perspectives and generating life-changing knowledge. Explore our professional development workshops to connect with your fellow researchers and master skills that will take your career to the next level. Each month we offer one- to two-hour sessions focused on everything from securing funding to finding mentors, grant writing to time management. Register for our upcoming workshops at to take the next step in your career.
Channel: Event Invitation (Headline and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Groundbreaking Innovator

Subject: You’re Invited | Learn How to Make Your Grant Proposal Stand Out
Copy: In this month’s professional development workshop, science illustrator Samantha Peters will offer tips and strategies for making your proposal stand out from the crowd with informative illustrations. You’ll learn:
• Why it’s important to include impactful graphics.
• How to choose elements of your proposal to represent with illustrations.
• Strategies to make your proposal feel unique.
• How to request Samantha’s assistance with your proposals.
You don’t want to miss this workshop. Register at

Audience: External

Message: At Mizzou, we know real boundary-pushing, life-shaping progress comes from seeing beyond the status quo and beyond the standard approach. Our research knows no bounds, and neither do our solutions. We’re shaping the future across disciplines, across industries and across the world.

Channel: Billboard
Archetype: Groundbreaking Innovator

Headline: Research across disciplines. Solutions across industries.
CTA: Visit
Channel: Email (Subject Line and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Championing Leader

Subject: Mizzou set a new record in research investments — all because of you.
Copy: Thanks to your support, we reached an exciting new milestone in the fiscal year 2022: a record $432 million in research expenditures. This is the ninth consecutive year Mizzou has set a new record, and we’re not stopping here. We’ll continue to invest in our research enterprise through programs like MizzouForward and the NextGen Precision Health initiative, empowering our world-class researchers and scholars to answer the challenging questions of our time. A win for our researchers is a win for everyone. Visit to learn more about how you can support the work we’re doing to benefit our state and beyond.
Channel: Email (Subject Line and Opening Paragraph)
Archetype: Championing Leader

Graphic Text: Award-winning student research
Caption: Nearly 500 Mizzou students and postdoctoral fellows presented their research during Show Me Research Week. Sara Ricardez Hernandez, a PhD student in the Molecular Pathogenesis and Therapeutics program, is using her research to create space for new voices in her field. Visit the link in our bio to learn more about how Mizzou students are driving change by asking deeper questions and exploring across disciplines.
Channel: Digital (Display Ad)
Archetypes: Groundbreaking Innovator

Headline: Creative solutions for Missouri and beyond
Subhead: Discover how Mizzou researchers are shaping tomorrow
CTA: Learn more

Revising Existing Stories and Messaging

Some stories and messaging have longevity but need to be updated to better align with the Mizzou brand. Start by reviewing Mizzou’s personality archetypes, key messaging storylines and audiences to answer the question “so what?” By answering this question, you can transform the story. Let’s look at a sample story, before and after we revise it to align with the Mizzou brand.


Headline: Athletics at Mizzou

Subhead: Tigers don’t cheer. They roar.

Copy: Imagine yourself in a stadium with 62,000 classmates and fellow Mizzou football fans. Decked out in black and gold, chanting “M-I-Z” as our beloved Tigers defend their turf in the Southeastern Conference (SEC).

But the athletics action goes beyond Faurot Field. Men’s and women’s basketball rev up Mizzou Arena. Wrestling and volleyball fill the Hearnes Center. And you can see them all finish their seasons at the top of their game.

How’s that for Tiger pride?


What does this story tell us about Mizzou’s values and what it expects the audience to value? Here are a few of the archetypes and values we can identify in the sample above.

[RED] School pride: “How’s that for Tiger pride?”

[PURPLE] Community: “Imagine yourself in a stadium with 62,000 classmates and fellow Mizzou football fans.”

[BLUE] Achievement: “You can see them all finish their seasons at the top of their game.”

Although the values expressed in this story are clear, most of them don’t align with Mizzou’s brand values and thus this story conflicts with the larger Mizzou narrative. This story would be more appropriate for a university that values energy and community over excellence and achievement.


Headline: Tigers roar to victory

Subhead: This is what excellence sounds like.

Body: We’ve shown you what a legacy of excellence looks like: high-profile faculty and high-performing students, world-changing alumni and industry-shaping discoveries. But what does it sound like?

62,000 Mizzou students decked out in black and gold, chanting “M-I-Z” as our Tigers defend their turf in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The same fans roaring over our basketball teams in Mizzou Arena or cheering our wrestling and volleyball teams to victory in the Hearnes Center.

Excellence is one of our values for a reason. It goes beyond the classroom, beyond the lab or the library. Tigers excel in every arena. And our students aren’t afraid to shout it.


As you can see, this story communicates the same facts as the previous version, but it conveys different values. Here, it’s clear that athletics at Mizzou is about achievement and confidence, not necessarily school pride or community.

[BLUE] Achievement: “Tigers roar to victory”

[BLUE] Confidence: “Tigers excel in every arena. And our students aren’t afraid to shout it.”

Tips for Writing Long-Form Copy

When writing longer stories and messaging, you shouldn’t feel tied to one personality archetype or key messaging storyline. Start by connecting the main facts, topics or themes in your story to the dimensions from different archetype storylines to tell a richer story.

Say, for example, that you’re writing a news story about a student who collaborated with
a professor to complete a research project.

  • The student explains that trial and error played a major role in their process while the professor praises the student’s commitment to finding new, exciting ways to approach a problem others have largely ignored.
  • You might connect the first part of this story to Mizzou’s “unflinching investigator” storyline, highlighting Mizzou’s commitment to learning through experience.
  • And you might connect the second part of the story to Mizzou’s “groundbreaking innovator” storyline, emphasizing the original, innovative aspects of their research.
  • Both of these expressions are authentic to the story the subjects told and authentic to Mizzou’s personality. It makes sense to combine the archetype expressions as you tell the story.