For many non profits, marketing gets no respect, let alone time dedicated to build a brand. So if you’re entering the New Year fed up with the way your organization is portrayed or perceived by the public, or you’ve inherited an internal culture that implies your mission will sell itself, this process is perfect for you! First, you must pay attention to the disclaimer: this process works best for friends working hard in the small development shop.
You see, in order for this process to work, the buck must stop with you. Eliminate decisions made by committee; if you don’t, beware – you’ll get bogged down with egos, copy quibbling, and distractions a’la mode. Your seven-day focus is to efficiently create a Brand Positioning Statement that is effective, timely, fluid and precisely anchors what you can do for others.
A brand is an accumulation of assumptions about your organization disseminated to the public which now defines your organization for better or worse. These assumptions are formed by everything you’ve communicated, acted on, and/or interacted with. For example, when an interested party asks a chance question about your organization, the knee-jerk response from bystanders may be primarily based on a feeling rather than fact. What we will do today is put you in control of your organizations image and its authenticity in a manner that is sustainable.
PREPARATION: This article isn’t meant for you to read and then immediately launch into Day One. You need to prepare. And you have two to three weeks for this phase. Here is your “to do” list:
- Block off your schedule for the seven day crusade; select a day, time, location and invite a minimum of 6 attendees for a full day strategy meeting (described below in Day One).
- Research your competitors. It’s like this: before you can stand out in a crowd, you must know what crowd you’re standing in. In order for you to be effective, you need to articulate your organization in a way that is unique and easily explains how you differ from others or focuses on an area where you clearly respond to the cause in a better manner. As a part of your fact-finding, get a handle on what you think they’re doing right, and what you feel they’re doing wrong or could do better. This will arm you with the “idea starters” you need during your Day One brainstorming session.
- Create and email a perception survey to your stakeholders, family and friends, because you also want feedback from those who know of your organization but are not directly involved. Ask specific questions like: When you think of your organization, what comes to mind first? Describe what your organization does. Are there other organizations that come to mind when thinking about your mission? How do you feel we are different from other similar organizations? You can find online resources to help you to create and submit your perception survey to constituents.; then use the responses as your “idea starters” on Day One.
- Retain a volunteer professional designer; you will need them on Day One and Two. If there isn’t a clear choice for a professional volunteer designer (who is brilliantly creative) search for well-trained designers by contacting your local design school and community college. You should also look into online volunteer banks.
DAY ONE – BRAINSTORMING: It’s Not about You! Now that you’ve done your homework and you are surrounded by the best minds you could find, you have this one day to create and define an organizational image that elicits a specific emotion within people so powerful they remember and act on it. Once you are armed with this, everything else falls into place, Awareness. Credibility. FUNDING.
Before guiding you through the brainstorming process, let’s talk about what your image shouldn’t be. It is not your logo, tagline or color scheme. It shouldn’t be about you. It mustn’t reflect what you think you need to tell people; it must be what people NEED or EXPECT from you. Here’s an example:
You’re a K-8 Spanish immersion charter school. You believe kids should learn Spanish at an early age. But what about distinguishing your school as a place dedicated to helping children become informed and interconnected global citizens? Your institution preparing our children to live and work globally also resonates with international companies with offices in Latin America; global companies with foundations who give hundreds of millions away each year. They will invest in a school dedicated to bringing up their future workforce. OK, let’s get this brainstorming bash started. Here’s a zippy framework for your day (and you need zippy):
- Write your objective. Distribute it to attendees, and post it grandly for all to see during the session. Your objective is: Create and define a brand that elicits a specific emotion within people so powerful they remember and act on it.
- Set a time limit, up to 4 hours.
- Capture all ideas as they flow from the group and specifically follow this process:
- Hand out a stack of note cards
- Bring up one Idea Starter (see below) and ask each participant to write down four (4) ideas per starter on one note card, then hand the card in and so on. Idea Starters are the outcome of your research. Use present tense when presenting the category or goal for discussion…