Posts

4 Essential Tools for Your Brand Story

, , , , ,

Sky at Sunset 1. Compelling Images.  Photos have been proven to increase click-through rates, and video is a highly searched medium on the web. And most organizations have access to digital photography, and even can make their own video clips. But one of the downsides of the digital revolution is Volume. When helping organizations produce effective multimedia outreach, I’m often faced with trolling through literally millions of photos that an organization has taken during various events in order to find the ones that might be effective in a marketing or fundraising video. Try to have someone go through images as soon as they are shot—or have the photographer curate them and only send you the best selects. Consider opportunities to crop and focus on what really conveys your mission, who you serve and how you do it. Here’s a great resource on how to design and use still images more effectively, from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC)

2. Compelling People. Personal stories are one of the best ways to connect an audience to your content. But getting authentic video interviews can often be challenging, even for experienced interviewers, if you are forced to conduct interviews in a conference room or other impersonal space. So your interview technique is critical. In my Art of the Interview classes, I go in depth on some of the tools of the trade, but here are a few areas to focus on:

-Build rapport at the start of the interview—preferably before the person walks in, by conducting a phone pre-interview. But worst case, chat with them before they come into the room with all the lighting and cameras.

-Memorize your questions so you can maintain eye contact at all times with your subject

-Create a “story arc” so that there is a beginning, middle and end to your questions, and both you and your interviewee have a satisfying conversation

-Don’t interrupt—with your voice. Rather, if an interviewee is going on too long, you can break eye contact and get a little squirmy. This will let them know they need to stop, without ruining your audio track for editing.

4. Cross-platform Story Strategy. When starting a communications project, consider different iterations that could help different communities you can reach through different mediums. You might tweet a great photo of a successful well-digging project in Africa. A video clip of the same project can be posted to Youtube and your Vimeo channel.  If you can boil your story down to 6 seconds, consider Vine–the new app for iPhone (promising to be released soon for Android) that allows you to make and post mini-videos. (Here’s a good explanation of how to make this platform work from @Mashable.)  An extended video of how the project came about, with interview clips from the well-users can be showcased at your annual meeting. A teaser 20-second clip can become an email embed for a fundraising campaign. The list is as endless as your imagination and your ability to organize and plan at the Outset of production. You can make a planning form like this ADeLouiseStoryPlanDoc when mulling all the possibilities for a project.

4. Organized Media Assets. Cross-platform storytelling is all well and good, but the problem is often wrangling all those image assets from multiple sources throughout your organization. Most DSLR’s (and even many prosumer video cameras) will create non-unique and sort of gobbledegook (technical term) labels for your images that don’t tell you anything about them. Lovely stuff like IMG_4033 and DSC1050.MOV. You can use a number of software systems to batch rename your files so that they include the original name, but also some useful information such as the date shot and the initials of the photographer/videographer.

Adobe Bridge is a handy batch renaming and organizing tool. It comes with Adobe Creative Suite and can work with your photo and video assets too.

If you need something free, you can try the Amok Exif Sorter, which I haven’t personally used but comes with high marks from the “Mythbusters” guys.

3 Ways Your Board Can Help Your Brand

, ,

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.

Tips for Rebranding a Nonprofit

, , , , ,

Solid branding is just as critical for nonprofits as it is in the corporate world.  A brand that is not aligned with organizational goals, principles, and donor investments, is in serious trouble. And because a re-brand can take time and dollars away from key mission, it scares people .  Nonprofits can also find re-branding daunting because it can be a deeply emotional process for donors, long-time volunteers and staff.  Here are some reasons to do a re-brand and ways to make it a productive, even exciting process.

Why Re-Brand?

1.  Your name/logo/tagline no longer reflect your true mission.

2.  No one knows what your mission is when they hear your name.

3.  You are expanding your mission and want to ensure all your external materials reflect this.

4.  You have gone from being a collection of local or regional organizations to being a national one and need a new, unified identity.

Reasons NOT to Re-Brand a Nonprofit

1. You have multiple and divergent missions that not everyone can agree on (not a re-brand issue, but a good reason to embark on a strategic planning process).

2. You’ve really messed something up (you need crisis PR and brand attention, but not necessarily a re-brand).

3. Your logo style and color is dated (this may be true, but may not be reason enough to give up the brand capital associated with it).

Okay, let’s assume you’ve gone through all the due diligence and decided it’s really time for a change. What’s involved?

A Strategic Plan for Your Brand

Branding is always an act of imagination. The question to ask if you want to re-brand is “will this help propel our mission to where we envision ourselves 10-15 years from now?”  Or, in the lingo of corporate brands, “does it help us deliver on our brand promise?”  And just as you have a multi-year road map for your organizational work, you need a strategy for your re-brand.   Here are three things to focus on in a re-brand and questions for your board and staff to consider.

1. Programs and Services.  Are they consistent with our mission/vision?

2.  Governance Structure.  Do our bylaws, board governance, and staff-board  and staff-volunteer relationships effectively support our programs and services? Do we offer a consistency of vision and goal-setting across all parts of the organization?

3.  External Signifiers. Do our name/logo/tag line/communications channels help people understand our mission, vision and value to our community?

So many organizations start a re-branding with the externals and then fail at the re-brand because the internals are still not quite in sync.

Brand Identity Touchstones

Another element to success is checking in with key constituencies.  I’m not recommending crowd-sourcing your new logo. But when considering changing any key aspect of your branding—colors, logo and/or tag line—consider these useful perspectives:

1.        Current customers/clients/donors.  Organizations that already have deep roots into social networks can use them for feedback. But it’s also good to use old-fashioned focus groups, with a trained professional to run them. However realize that all of these sources are subjective and subject to change from a variety of external pressures you can’t necessarily control.

2.       Prospective customers/clients/donors.  This one is always a bit harder to pinpoint, but a firm specializing in both quantitative and qualitative survey data can help you hone in on key sub-markets and assess the resonance of your new branding with them.

3.       Vendors.  I know, on first blush this seems odd. But as one of the people who often has to deal with people’s new logos (for multimedia/video production), I’m often struck by how they don’t work across multiple mediums.  Check in with your essential communications vendors–from printers to video producers to webmasters–and be sure that you are considering the fonts and colors that work best in their media.

As you craft your new brand vision, always come back to mission. Consider how your donors, volunteers, policymakers and the public will remain confident that you will provide the value they expect and deserve.

How to Succeed at Brand Changes

, , ,

©2010 Barbara DeLouise

One thing’s for sure about GAP’s recent logo debacle (if you missed it, here’s a quick summary by Huffington Post): they got a lot of visibility for their brand. Hmmm, maybe that was actually the point?  Hard to know, but when changing your corporate logo in this era of social media, it’s important to consider more than what your brand consultants tell you. You need to consult your users.  When considering changing any key aspect of your branding—colors, logo and/or tag line—consider these four points of input:

1.        Current customers/clients/donors.  Organizations that already have deep roots into social networks can use them for feedback. But it’s also good to use old-fashioned focus groups, with a trained professional to run them. However realize that all of these sources are subjective and subject to change from a variety of external pressures you can’t necessarily control.

2.       Prospective customers/clients/donors.  This one is always a bit harder to pinpoint, but a firm specializing in both quantitative and qualitative survey data can help you hone in on key submarkets and assess the resonance of your new branding with them.

3.       Vendors.  I know, on first blush this seems odd. But as one of the people who often has to deal with people’s new logos (for multimedia/video production), I’m often struck by how they don’t work across multiple mediums.  Check in with your favorite printer, video producer, webmaster and be sure the font and color can work in their medium.  See how the logo looks when it is faxed, projected, and seen on various screens (LCD’s being different than some TV screens, for example).  And especially, what happens when you view it on a Blackberry or iPhone?

4.       Your mother.  I know, it’s totally unscientific, but if your mother would hate this logo, you might want to reconsider it.  Call it the “gut check.”  If there’s something bothering you about it now, imagine when it is imprinted on everything around you!

While I don’t fully agree with GAP’s post-logo plan to use crowd-sourcing to design a new logo–and they ultimately pulled the plug on that unwieldy idea–I do agree with the concept that in today’s era of “dialogue,” you need to include the customer in your decision-making. That said, it’s pretty hard to create good design by committee. So ultimately you have to trust your own process. Just be sure to have one.

Is It Time to Change Your Name or Tag Line?

,

Tulip Bud s.cThe simplest way to tell the story of who you are to everyone you contact is through your organization’s name.  A second opportunity to communicate your mission is through your tag line. It is amazing how many groups have names and/or taglines that, at best, don’t tell people what they do, and at worst, confuse them about the organization’s mission.

What’s in a Name?

If you are just starting an organization or are very new, it’s critical that you take a look at your name and see if it conveys your story, or at least some critical parts of your mission.  Miriam’s Kitchen is one such nonprofit, a soup kitchen and social services organization in Washington, D.C. that addresses the root causes of homelessness (watch Michelle Obama’s visit there earlier this year on You Tube ).

The word kitchen of course conveys that Miriam’s serves food.   Using the possessive of the name connotes a homey and welcoming place.  People from a Judeo-Christian background may also recognize Miriam as a biblical name.  Since the nonprofit was created by a church (Western Presbyterian) as part of its urban ministry, that is an important connection.  Miriam was the older sister of Moses, a woman of faith who helped to serve her people and supported their release from bondage and, in effect, homelessness.  So the name Miriam’s Kitchen conveys a message about why the group does the work it does (because it feels God calls it to do so) and how it operates (by helping people be fed and find a home).  All of these elements make Miriam’s Kitchen a great name for a nonprofit that feeds and supports the homeless.

We’re Too Old to Change Our Name

If you’re an older organization, you may think a name change is too difficult and expensive.  You may be right. Both goodwill and community connections are associated with your name.   But there also may be missed opportunities for immediate brand connections during email and direct mail campaigns.   And with the increase in on-demand printing and online communications, the cost of reprinting costly brochures is less of a consideration. Take the Sitar Arts Center in Washington, D.C.   Originally named the Patricia M. Sitar Center for the Arts in honor of an arts education advocate for the children of the Adams Morgan neighborhood where the Center is located, the name also evokes the historical Indian instrument.  But the Sitar Arts Center is a vibrant urban arts center providing visual, literary and performing arts experiences for economically disadvantaged children in the District of Columbia.  To ensure it communicated its mission more clearly, a recent re-branding campaign shortened the center name to Sitar Arts Center with the tag line “celebrating kids, arts and community.”  This is a good compromise for an organization wanting to keep its original name but better convey mission.

Given the importance of electronic communications today, your name and tag line will appear literally hundreds if not thousands of times every day as members of your staff and volunteers are emailing people about your work.  And that goes a long way towards detracting from or supporting your brand. Every institution should re-examine its name and tag line at least every 5 years, or when you are conducting your regular strategic planning. A good match can help with donor and marketing campaigns. And a mismatch is not something you can afford.

Are you considering a name or tag line change? What are your biggest obstacles? What are the opportunities? Please share…