The most successful rebranding projects tend to follow good organizational development processes such as strategic planning—when an organization's path forward is clearest. Fifty-one percent of the respondents in Big Duck and FDR Group's online survey, whose data informed the Rebrand Effect e-book, noted that a new focus of their work and/or a new strategic plan was a significant catalyst for rebranding. Not only that, but organizations that have completed some sort of organizational development process also see better results than organizations that rebrand without one.
Here is a three-year rebranding process. You can certainly do it faster if your resources permit.
Year One: Are Your Vision and Mission Still Clear?
If it has been a while since your last strategic-planning session, start now. (Many organizations regularly undertake some form of strategic planning every three to five years.) Focus on getting your board and staff aligned around your work. This process often involves hearing from leadership as well as the donors, volunteers, clients, and others who make up the external fabric of your organization, through formal or informal research.
Year Two: How Do Your Current Communications Stack Up?
Consider field testing your existing communications to assess their effectiveness. What's your reputation like in the field? What do donors or clients understand about you based on your website or other materials they receive? What's the buzz about you in their circles?
If what you hear reflects your vision and mission well, there's no reason to make changes. But, if you're not happy about what you are hearing, start by setting a new communications strategy and realigning the necessary elements to reflect it. Year two should also include updating or overhauling your website and other online properties, since that's where most people will interact with you. Train your staff and board on the new brand, and consider integrating it into your human resources practices so that staff are consistently trained and coached to be effective brand ambassadors.
Year Three: Are You Communicating with One Voice?
By year three, make sure you're developing campaigns and stand-alone materials that are on message and on brand, so that everything you produce looks and feels consistent, regardless of who's producing it. Is your social media on brand? How about that speech your executive director is about to give? Your e-news? Are you communicating with one voice throughout the organization? In other words, would an outsider experience the various ways you communicate as reflecting one (your) organization's vision and mission? If not, consider appointing someone on your team to review and coach others to help ensure consistency. Twice a year, review your communications informally (on screen or via printouts) to see how you are doing.
No matter how long the steps in this process take, remember that doing them right should always trump doing them fast. Significant changes to your visual identity and messaging that help shape your internal culture and your external reputation should have a long shelf life, after all. Want more ideas on how to survive a rebrand and live to tell the tale? I've recorded a webinar on this topic. I hope it helps!
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Sarah Durham, Big Duck
© 2015, Big Duck
Sarah Durham is the president of Big Duck, a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. She's also the author of Brandraising and the Rebrand Effect.