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Building your brand from the inside out

December 7th 2012
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It may be a Friday, but there is still time to bang out a blog following CharityComms branding seminar yesterday afternoon.

I have long been an advocate of ‘branding from the inside out’. In the charity sector where staff, volunteers and supporters are so passionate it’s absolutely essential. That’s why there is a whole chapter dedicated to ‘getting everyone on board’ in Branding Inside Out, expertly written by David Hamilton from Action for Children.

Yesterday’s seminar was attended by 100 or so people, which further demonstrates the current interest in charity branding and the need for internal engagement alongside it.

As I eagerly sat in the front row, what emerged in my notepad was a series of tips. Some are from the excellent presenters, Rachel Bhageerutty, Head of Brand and Internal communications at the Stroke Association, and Andrew Jones, Director of Fundraising & Communications at Blind Veterans UK. Others are mine that sprung to mind. So stick with me as a rattle through them. Just like the X-Factor results, announced ‘in no particular order’.

To access where you are, and where you want to be

  • Try simple exercises like asking people what animal or celebrity they would compare your charity brand to as you are now and in the future. It always surprises me how many charities are compared to tortoises and elephants rather than cheetahs!
  • In a similar vein, ask people which three words they would use to describe your charity today and three words they’d like to use to describe your charity in the future. This is always a good exercise to kick-start generating values, especially aspirational ones.
  • If name change is a consideration create a naming map with axis such as ‘descriptive’ and ‘active’ to see how your name performs against other competing brands.

To get people into the right head space

  • As a workshop exercise, give people a product (like yummy Green & Blacks) and ask them ‘what does this brand promise to you?’ to get them to think about brand perceptions.
  • Clearly articulate and share what you believe in. State what’s wrong with the world that you (and only you) can change.
  • You don’t necessarily want it to sound like people have swallowed your key message bible, so give them the opportunity to practice conveying what you stand for succinctly in their own words.
  • Empower people to celebrate a new brand in their own way across your regions and offices.
  • Bribe them with goodies like branded mugs, together with little booklets showcasing the brand and explaining why you have invested in it.
  • Have a focal point for activating your brand through the people power of staff, volunteers and supports like Action on Stroke month or Parkinson’s awareness week.

To get Directors and Trustees on board

  • Wade through your market-research and hand-pick the highlights, potentially presenting them out as ‘bombshells’ for greater impact.
  • Build an alliance for change with a critical few. Set up a single Brand Steering Group, including sponsoring Trustees.
  • Report the cost as a (small) percentage of the likely return on investment, and be clear of the cross department objectives, like attracting talented staff or increasing voluntary income.
  • Give your brand project a name or even ‘brand it’ as St Dunstan’s did with ‘future focus’.
  • Agree a set of values for the development journey. Focussed, determined, open-minded and united spring to mind, because it will feel like pushing water up hill at times.

To avoid criticism and address resistance

  • Kill off the brand police. The brand identity shouldn’t been seen a straightjacket. Be positive and think “yes we can”.
  • Run an online focus group with your most active social media users during the brand’s development, as they’ll be the ones most likely to make a negative impact if they don’t like it, and quickly.
  • Most of your staff don’t understand what a brand is, and don’t care. Use ‘image and reputation’ if people are scared off by the dirty ‘B’ word.
  • Cut out any jargon, sector or brand specific. Use emotional, inspirational and conversational language. Try using ‘story’ rather than ‘a brand manifesto’.
  • Launch your brand with a road show fronted by Directors. If your top team don’t lead and follow the brand then why should anybody else?

To keep it all going

  • Appreciate that branding isn’t just a one off. The days of ‘Brand and Bust’ are over. Monitor progress with regular brand audits so you can make improvements or refinement by stealth.
  • Set up Brand Champions or Advocates and tailored your training to them. Help people to understand how the brand relates to their role.
  • Show different teams and departments examples of how the brand can work for them, particularly fundraising colleagues.
  • Help people keep a line of sight between what they do and helping to achieve the brand vision.
  • Make sure your values run through everything like a stick of rock. Join up the dots and link your values to actions.
  • Let go of the brand identity so people can use it and embrace it. And don’t get heavy if they make mistakes.
  • Make sure your brand tracking includes internal audiences. Access commitment to the cause, the charity and brand. It may differ, especially out in the field away from the corporate centre.
  • Integrate your values into your HR recruitment and appraisal process.

That’s all folks. The full presentations from the afternoon are available here. I’m looking forward to the next room full of people with an interest in charity branding already.

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Dan is The Good Agency's Head of Brand – and an expert on brand identities for third-sector organisations.

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