Brand Your Residency

Residency programs are products. These products can be experienced in a variety of ways by consumers that include current residents, program alumni, prospective students, faculty members, patients, and many others. How can program directors use branding principles to improve communication with such different cohorts of consumers?

Image from

Image from

I just returned from the 2019 Academic Assembly of the Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine, where I gave presentations on a range of topics… Mastermind GroupsInterdependence… Presentation Skills… Digital Scholarship… but my favorite lecture topic by far was: Branding.

Jeremy Branzetti and I have been lecturing on the topic of branding for residency programs and hospitals for many years. We argue that an understanding of basic branding principles can prove highly valuable to program directors or administrators who struggle to reach their target consumers of students, alumni, faculty members, and others.

In his 2008 book, Jean-Noël Kapferer describes a brand as a “set of signs certifying the origin of a product or service and differentiating it from the competition”. Program directors know the origin stories of their programs and they can best describe the curricular features that set their programs apart from others in the educational marketplace. But how can program directors be sure that the right students are hearing these messages?  

The first step is to understand some key branding concepts:

·         Brand Identity: What are the mission, vision, and values that guide your program?

·         Brand Image: What do your consumers think about your program?

·         Brand Experience: How do your consumers experience your program?

·         Brand Alignment: Alignment reflects your efforts to equate brand identity and brand image.

·         Brand Audit: The process of examining and refining each of the elements of your brand.

Read more about branding principles and how they relate to residency recruitment in our article, “Branding and Recruitment: A Primer for Residency Program Leadership” in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education.

April 7, 2019

Co-Authors: Eric Shappell, MD, MHPE – Harvard University, Nahzinine Shakeri, MD – Northwestern University, Abra Fant, MD, MS – Northwestern University, Jeremy Branzetti, MD - New York University, Christine Babcock, MD, MSc – University of Chicago, James Ahn, MD, MHPE – University of Chicago