Adapted from Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization
Many organizations continue to spend an inordinate amount of time, energy, human resources, and money developing logos and taglines, believing they are creating their brands.
Logos and taglines are simply banners for your brand. Your brand itself penetrates much deeper into your organization's culture and values, far beyond what any attractive icon or a few catchy words attempt to represent.
What follows are some tips to help you brand beyond your logo.
Focus on Building Value as Well as Visibility
Rationale: Developing an effective brand entails more than raising visibility through consistent and widespread use of a logo. Such efforts help to raise name recognition; an effective brand, however, is built around a vision that reflects a positive identity, namely the "value" that the brand represents.
When defining your brand, ask yourself: What do people think when they see our name or logo? Do they truly understand who we are and what we do? Have we given them reasons to view us as effective and trustworthy? What's in it for funders, companies, foundations, government entities, other nonprofit organizations, and customers when they do business with us?
In short, what's our value? What's our identity? Why should anyone care about who we are and what we do?
View Branding as a New Way of Doing Business
Rationale: There are no quick fixes for creating a solid and successful brand image. On the contrary, it takes a great deal of introspection, time, effort, coordination, and collaboration. And once you've defined your brand, you must manage and maintain it.
Therefore, consider brand maintenance an ongoing commitment that needs to be incorporated into your everyday business activities.
View Branding as an Organization-wide Effort
Rationale: Maintaining your brand should not be the responsibility of your organization's communications and/or marketing units, but rather must be viewed as an organization-wide effort in which every department and/or business unit understands that it has a role to play.
Moreover, staff at all levels of the organization, regardless of job description, need to be involved in raising the visibility and value of your brand, and they need to know what part they are expected to play in achieving that goal (see Educate Your Staff below).
Keep the Effort Manageable, Yet Meaningful
Rationale: For staff in most small- to medium-size nonprofits, just keeping up with day-to-day operations can be overwhelming. Consequently, keep branding efforts within the range of what is doable.
For example, it doesn't take much in the way of time and resources to ensure clear, consistent messaging; to educate staff about the purpose and goals of branding; and to promote your brand actively through already scheduled public speaking engagements, events, and publications.
Promote Open Communication and Collaboration Among Staff
Rationale: For any branding effort to succeed, everyone needs to work in an atmosphere of open communication and collaboration so that the organization conveys clear, consistent, and accurate messages to target audiences. Branding also requires that everyone work toward common, rather than individual business unit, goals.
For the sake of uniformity and message consistency, you more than likely will need to centralize some of the message-creation and delivery processes.
Educate Your Staff
Rationale: People can't represent or promote what they don't know or understand. Therefore, to build employee pride and understanding around your brand, incorporate a strong educational component into your branding effort. Describe the brand, underscore the importance of promoting it accurately and consistently, and define what different employees' roles are in the effort.
Also, make supporting and promoting the brand part of your employees' overall performance reviews.
Lead by Example
Rationale: Executive officers and board members need to champion your branding efforts. Leading by example demonstrates their commitment as well as the importance they place behind these efforts. It reinforces the message to staff that "we are working together" to raise the visibility and value of the organization.
Be Flexible and Interactive
Rationale: Branding is a dynamic, not a static, process. Maintain flexibility in your thinking and be open to suggestions from all parties for strengthening your brand. Flexibility and openness will enable better, more efficient use of resources as well as make for a more dynamic, interactive, and collaborative process that takes advantage of branding opportunities as they arise.
Live Your Brand
Rationale: Your brand reflects your promise to the public and your commitment to your staff and volunteers.
If the brand that you seek to convey is one of an organization that is effective and efficient; caring and responsive; a responsible steward of public and private funds; and a reliable, trustworthy organization to partner and do business with, and to work for, then live that brand through all of your words and deeds.
Your Brand Is a Referendum on How You Treat Your People
Rationale: Your brand is only as good as the people who live it day to day. Staff and volunteers who are knowledgeable, who take pride in the brand, feel secure in their jobs, and are appreciated for the good work that they do make excellent ambassadors for your brand.
Larry Checco, Checco Communications
© 2013, Larry Checco. Adapted from Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization; excerpted with permission.
Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications and a nationally recognized public speaker, workshop presenter, and consultant on branding and leadership. This excerpt is from his first book, Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization, which has sold thousands of copies both here and abroad. His second book is Aha! Moments in Brand Management: Commonsense Insights to a Stronger, Healthier Brand.