In November of 2021, Truett McConnell University (TMU) hired Kevin Sterner as Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Sterner has over 25 years of experience in the fields of marketing, branding, and storytelling. He has worked as Executive Creative Director for New York Times bestselling author John C. Maxwell and his founding companies INJOY™ (pastoral leaders), Equip™ (international leaders) and Maximum Impact™ (business leaders). Sterner also helped launch, market, and lead Atlanta’s annual Catalyst Conference for almost 20 years.
From Crayons to Graphic Design to Branding
Sterner has always been drawing and telling stories. During college, he dreamed of becoming a Disney animator. He started his career in illustration and graphic design and eventually became a Creative Director at The Image Group of Michigan where branding and storytelling became his forte.
When he was given the opportunity to not only create but also pitch marketing campaigns to top clients, he began to develop a passion for helping clients discover their identity. Sterner said, “As I was teaching clients the importance of brand identity, I realized God was teaching me about the importance of my identity in Him.”
As his career continued, he was called to lead agency teams in the Christian higher education, nonprofit, and ministry sectors. Sterner has worked with over a dozen Christian liberal arts schools across the midwest and around the country. In one scenario, he consulted with a school in Northern Indiana who enjoyed 6 consecutive years of record enrollment growth.
The Power of Story
Since 2006, Sterner’s own company, Brandpoet™, has served clients such as Chick-fil-a, 12Stone Church, Dave Ramsey, and some of the nation’s largest Christian camps. Sterner is most enthusiastic about telling stories of significance, or kingdom stories.
“I decided to call my process Storientation™ because I found people don’t realize that if they just pay attention to the cues and clues in their own stories—orienting themselves to God’s promptings— they can have direction and certainty about where to move next. They can be more decisive.”
At first, Sterner was simply helping organizations find their stories, until the leaders of those businesses and ministries recognized that the elements of Storientation™ applied to their personal lives as well. It was then, he said, “I realized this identity issue was bigger than business…it was very personal.”
Sterner first built a relationship with TMU when he helped create the “Whatever is True” campaign to raise funds for the George Blaurock Student Wellness Center. He said that this project was significant to him because “I wasn’t doing this work for a paycheck. Years from now, future students, that I may never even know, will benefit from that building. I love projects that keep giving for generations.”
Sterner and his wife, Danielle, moved to a farm in Clermont near Skitts Mountain in June 2021. Within days of moving, he received a job offer from TMU to continue to help tell the story of TMU and increase brand awareness. He knew immediately that God was prompting him to take this offer.
In his role as the new Vice President/CMO, Sterner hopes to draw out the stories of the students and faculty of TMU and present it to the right audiences in an irresistible way.
Even more than that, Sterner and his wife long to disciple college students in their home, which they have dubbed Idea Seed Farm. He said, “We call it that because all creative ideas come from smaller idea-seeds, but if you don’t capture and do something about ideas, they tend to evaporate. We love farming ideas with people. We love dreaming and thinking with others; ideating about what could be and storyboarding a vision.”
One day, Sterner also dreams of turning his idea of Storientation™ into a course about identity and narrative thinking. He said, “In the moments when we feel most alive, or in the presence of great beauty, God is whispering things to our hearts. When you listen intently—this life, this string of fleeting moments, points to principles in His Word. Creation mirrors the Word of God. Our stories and His will start making complete sense when we lean into the Truth.”
Sterner said, “In the days ahead, the Truth will matter to a greater degree. That’s what we hope to shout from this mountain to anyone who will listen.”
Anna is a Truett McConnell senior English major and content writer for TMU’s Marketing and Communications.Return to News Archive