What Is a Wharton Story?

Wharton has 5,000 students, 96,000 alumni, and 224 faculty — and every one of them has a story. But what makes one of their stories into a uniquely Wharton story?

A Wharton story must fit the overall School brand, mission, and content strategy, and meet at least one of these four criteria:

  • Happens at Wharton
  • Happens because of Wharton
  • Is related to what someone learned or who they met at Wharton
  • Is the reason someone came Wharton

What isn’t a Wharton Story

We hear a lot of great stories here, but they aren’t always stories for Wharton’s administration to tell.

Examples: Someone who does something really cool before they get here that doesn’t otherwise connect with their Wharton experience — for example, an MBA who founded a nonprofit as an undergraduate but is no longer involved with the cause.

Other examples are many of the Humans of Wharton stories that are incredibly moving but involve an experience that took place before the students got to Wharton and weren’t part of their MBA journey or decision.

Three Tips for Telling a Wharton Story

1. Have a Clear Purpose in Mind

Know what you’re trying to say, who your readership is, what your communications strategy is, and which of your communication objectives the story is serving.

Your objectives are just a starting point. Your objectives are what you’re trying to show, not the actual words you use in the story.

2. Choose the Right Person to Tell the Story

Should Wharton’s administration/your organization tell this story? If a story is best told by student or other participant, recruit a student to tell it.

If someone else has already told the story, use that when possible (with permission of course). Don’t retell stories when you can republish or share from another Wharton site. The DCA is here so that 12 people don’t need to profile the same student or alumni.

3. Don’t Confuse First-Person with Effective or Authentic.

Authentic stories aren’t the same as raw stories. To be most effective, most stories need to be crafted to ensure the authenticity comes across in a way that’s genuine and appropriate for the audience.

In video, authenticity can be scripted or crafted if it is done well and tells the truth. In text, a third-person story can have as much (or more) authenticity as a first-person one.

Some user-generated content might not be a good fit for the story you’re trying to tell. Snapchat stories, for example, look out of place when taken out of their native context and placed on the Wharton site.

If you choose a student to tell a story, whether via user-generated video or a first-person blog post, you may need to work with the student to get the quality you need.

Some students post in generalities (e.g. “This experience was so rewarding.” or “It was a great bonding opportunity.”), or use inauthentic brochure-speak because they think that’s what we want to hear (e.g. “Wharton was clearly a top choice.” or “I came for Wharton’s renowned rigorous curriculum.”).

Get to the how and the why of the story. Why was the experience so rewarding? How did the students bond? What exactly made Wharton a top choice? What makes Wharton’s curriculum rigorous? Using practical detail or specific examples and steer clear of obvious marketing, selling, or advocating.

When is a Wharton story not a Wharton Stories story?

There are excellent stories that may fit a narrower Wharton audience, and thus be suited to a single site or blog but not necessarily work on the overall Wharton Stories site for a general Wharton readership.

Possible examples:

  • Non-Wharton author speaks on campus
  • Profile of Penn (not Wharton) graduate student or alumni
  • Announcement or information that is relevant only to current students, not prospective students
  • Timely information that is only relevant for a short time
Have questions about this post? Get in touch with Kelly Andrews at kellyja@wharton.upenn.edu.
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