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Photo by Gabriel Benois, Unsplash

Brands deliver value. To customers (a consistency of brand promise, or “knowing what you’ll get”). To shareholders (increased revenues, a shorter sales/conversion cycle). To employees (motivated and brand-engaged employees have less turnover, higher satisfaction, and deliver better on KPI’s).

So if the ROI of good branding is so high, why is it always so hard to keep the brand at the center of strategic focus?  One simple reason is cost.  If the opportunity cost of NOT branding effectively or efficiently isn’t factored in, decision-makers often think it is too expensive to expend time and financial resources on brand-building exercises.   Here are four strategies that are cost-effective ways to keep your brand alive and well.

1. Mine Your Own Content

A tool everyone has, but rarely maximizes is your own media library. Maybe because it’s not so much a library as a mish-mash of files that are not indexed, so no one can find them. Every graphic, photograph, video clip, newsletter article or blog post you and your team have created are already sunk costs. Properly archived and tagged with metadata, they can be repurposed and reused in multiple ways to put your brand front and center with customers, clients, employees and other stakeholders.   The key is to use a DAM (digital asset management system) or MAM (media asset management system–often for larger files like video and audio) and build workflow best practices into every time you create a digital asset. Create a consistent system that works for everyone in your organization, with anywhere anytime access–vital with teleworking–is essential, so that you can build and share branded content that everyone can access, not only the intern, editor or photographer who first created it. A photo DAM system can help you avoid those awful automatic names (IMG_001) for photos, for example, by batch renaming name on ingest. But always maintain the original name in the data. Adobe Bridge, Google Photos (heads up–free is over June 2021!) and Adobe Lightroom are tools for managing photo content. LuminarAI is out in Beta from Skylum* and has a number of great photo management tools built into its AI-powered creative engine. For video, there are a number of DAMs (digital asset management) systems out there–from Imagen to CATdv by Squarebox.  (If you are looking for a MAM, this is a handy guide.)  There are also brand-specific systems, designed specifically for the marketing department (as opposed to a video production company or broadcaster) such as Brandfolder, Bynder, and Cloudinary.

  • Bottom Line: If you can’t find it, you can’t use it. So whether you use a sophisticated archiving system or a spreadsheet, save money and create your own “stock” library of branded content to tell your organization’s story.

*disclaimer: I do some writing and marketing work for Skylum. I do not receive any fees related to sales.

2. Video Sells

According to IndieGogo, “Crowdfunding pitches with video content raise 112% more than those without.” Video certainly is one of the top-most searched items on the web. But producing a branding video in-house can be daunting. It’s a time-consuming process, and commissioning one to be made can be costly. With just the investment in a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder, a SONY FDR-AX100 4K Ultra HD video camcorder, and some basic audio recording/mixing software like Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve, you can quickly share useful branded video clips to your target audience. Or consider building your community by sharing useful content with a podcast. For a quick rundown on the latest podcasting software, check out this review.

  • Bottom Line: Build video into your brand strategy. It works.

    Photo by Sam Mcghee, Unsplash

3. Show Not Tell

So many people want to say WHAT it is they do, before really explaining HOW and WHY they do it. This is the core of your brand, and that’s the story you want to tell through any platform, whether it is a speaking engagement, podcast, blog post, or branded video.  BTS, or “Behind the Scenes”, is some of the top-shared content online. Why? Because as humans we are naturally curious and love to know what makes things work. So build “How to” or “How we made that” into every production or project.  That means adding a BTS camera. At the low end, could be a mobile phone. But for under $300 you could add a LOT of quality and pizzazz with a tool like the 4K DJI Osmo Pocket Gimbal Camera. Or if that’s too pricey, throw your mobile phone onto a gimbal with this little number, also from DJI. In a future post I’ll talk about good lighting and sound.

  • Bottom Line: Make shooting and sharing BTS part of your brand best practices.

DJI Pocket Osmo Camera in action

4. Email Signature is Free Branded Space

Lately, most of my incoming emails from systems like MailChimp and Constant Contact are going into my Spam and Promotions folders. So those are lost efforts to convey branded content. Why not supplement those efforts through a free space your contacts see every day: your e-mail signature. What a great opportunity to do a little brand storytelling!  A signature line doesn’t just give you a chance to tell your name and title, it gives you space for a blog link, twitter hashtag for an upcoming event, or YouTube link to your latest video.  This simple free advertising can be employed unilaterally—and uniformly–across your organization. (Send a “signature of the week” email to everyone in your organization with easily copied information and links.)

  • Bottom Line: Creating an email signature strategy builds brand awareness for free.

Using these four strategies, you can gain ground with your brand, and decrease the cost of creating or trying to find existing content to share with your audience.  More story. Less hassle. And that adds to your brand ROI.

 

Amy DeLouise is a video and virtual event producer, brand strategist, author and speaker. 

Blue Glass c B. DeLouise1.      Build in Time for Your Brand Story

Board members are obviously committed volunteers, but sometimes they are connected to your organization through only one pathway (i.e. a child with a disease that you are trying to cure, a son at your school, they are a member of your association, etc.)   So board members need to be briefed on your big picture “brand promise” to your customers and constituents. They also need to fully understand the experience you promote for your donors, your staff and your other volunteers.  A retreat is a great opportunity to build in time for board members to share their own experience of your brand, and to practice their “elevator pitch” – connecting your key brand talking points to their own personal experience with your organization.   Let them practice presenting, both one-on-one and to the full group.  This way, your board members can be better—and more comfortable—brand cheerleaders.

2.      Teach Board Members how to Share Their Passion Through Social Media

Many board members are not digital natives. They may need some help both understanding social media platforms and learning about the tools that make them effective. A retreat offers a unique time away from the bustle of everyday life to demonstrate how you are using social media to promote your organization, and how board members can help. For example, provide them with the hashtags of your upcoming fundraising events or keywords you want associated with your brand. Show them sample tweets, Facebook posts and Linked In updates. You can even break into smaller groups for working sessions with different social platforms. Finally, offer a link where board members can download approved photos or logos to use for such posts. And encourage them to share their personal stories about your organization. Your board members are ambassadors in the community both in person, and online—use them!

3.      Collect Stories of Your Brand in Action

People give to people, not causes. Connecting at the level of hearts and minds has always been critical to building long-term relationships with donors as well as grassroots supporters. The best way to do that is through storytelling.  Now that YouTube and other Web 3.0 tools are giving so many nonprofits a “channel” for their stories, personal narrative is being rediscovered.  Use your board retreat as an opportunity for sharing personal stories, and collecting those details that you can use in your next e-newsletter, Facebook posting or future web video.

In a story this weekend on the Catholic Church’s mishandling of its communications about sexual misconduct by priests, the Vatican was quoted in The Washington Post as saying it is NOT a multi-national enterprise (according to Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.)  This may come as a major surprise to anyone who knows of the church’s vast financial holdings, tens of thousands of employees across all continents, and extensive lay organizations that act as an extension of the Church in the world (the Vatican’s own website lists more than 120).

So what’s the deal?

Many nonprofit organizations—whether church-based or secular—don’t think of themselves as “enterprises.” That seems too business-like. But the reality is that nonprofits today must use business processes and tools to remain successful and relevant. The profit goal may be replaced with a “doing good in the world” goal, but nonprofits still need to care about their “customers” (donors, lay leaders, members, people served) and their ability to reach them (both through programs and through communications about this work).  Taken together, this is Brand.  And everyone needs a brand strategy.  Even the Pope.

A core part of any brand strategy is a clear articulation of mission.

When the Rev. Lombardi said in his Post interview “the normal situation of the Church and the Vatican is to help the people to understand the teachings of the Church and the documents of the pope” he was probably trying to articulate the Vatican’s mission. But he didn’t make it sound particularly compelling or personal. It actually sounded a bit, um, multi-national enterprise-like! 

Every brand has an essence, and that should be articulated in a clear, compelling message about mission that everyone who speaks for the organization can use. Targeted sub-messages can then be tailored for various specific audiences.

 How do you tailor brand messages?

Creating messages starts with a process of input. When you are constructing a brand plan, you first need some data. You need to know how you are viewed by your internal people (staff, board members) and by your external audiences (donors and prospects, people or organizations you serve, the public, opinion leaders in your field, etc.). This data can be acquired through web-based survey tools, but it’s always advisable to include in-person interviews or even focus-groups to augment your data.  You may discover everyone understands your brand perfectly. Or you may find out there are some aspects of your brand that are more clear than others. This will inform your strategy.

 What about the competition?

Yes. Like any organization, you are competing for attention, for commitment and for dollars.  When you know how your competition is positioned, you can be more strategic in how to position your own brand.  You don’t have to be totally reactive, but you can be pro-active in developing some of your messages to counter theirs.

We’re successful, do we really need a brand plan?

Well, this was clearly the Vatican’s thinking. But in my view, to be effective, every organization should operate under a brand plan just as you operate under a strategic plan.  This includes drilling down into a tactical communications, timelines, and to-do lists. But everything comes back to knowing your brand essence and conveying it effectively to the people who can help—or hurt—your cause. When you plan effectively, you won’t be caught without the best words to say who you are, what you do, and why it matters.