Not that long ago I started building a brand.
I’d secured my role, the first of its kind for a new charity and the aim sounded as simple as it was ambitious – build a strong external presence and help create a recognised, leading organisation.
Whilst I inherited a very short guidance document, a logo and a very large print run of some leaflets… that was kind of it at that time. We had no established website, no extra hands on deck and very few people knew who we were. Going from this to a solid digital presence and local (sometimes national!) recognition was no accident. I knew I had to take something completely new and run with it, it had to be something that would make a real impact.
So, with the challenge in my hands, which I’d taken on before (but not to this extent) I set about making it happen. Throughout this, I found that a lot of the advice and support available just didn’t fit. It was the standard stuff – set up social media, create material and so on. It didn’t tell you how to make it really come alive.
I needed insider tips, stories to learn from and someone to be really honest with me.
Queue my beginner’s tips for building a brand…
Goodbye massive creative campaigns that are thought provoking and risky, no time for that.
Focus on your basics – logos on emails, leaflets, PowerPoints, deciding what the hex code for your primary colour is. Set up comms lists, format your website, post regularly on social etc.
It can be frustrating but if you don’t do it right first time, you’ll only have to go back.
You know that saying… “nothing changes day to day, but when you look back, everything is different?”.
Alongside starting small, ensure you’re continuously evolving everything bit by bit. When you commission a new leaflet, don’t be afraid to change it slightly. You have to make sure your brand grows with your organisation, which is especially important if it’s not really solidly established.
Update the website and pick a new platform to focus on regularly. When you’ve done some work on one, ensure you’re monitoring this and adjusting accordingly – when you start to gather the data, the data becomes your friend!
Keep consistency but progress with every piece of material, content and design. It builds momentum, keeps things improving and is economically efficient. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Speaking of which, Rome wasn’t built alone…
Your brand is the combined result of your history, services, mission and people, among other things. It’s not yours and you’re not alone – one of the best things you can do for yourself (if you’re the only comms person) and for the brand is to involve other people.
Provide staff with access to resources they maybe didn’t have before or didn’t know they needed. Get them on board, help them feel a part of it, ask their opinions. Also look at your bigger players for influence – your board, your CEO… what do they think? They need to be advocates of your brand and understand what you’re going for.
You’ll need ‘ambassadors’ and believers to not only make life easier but create a positive culture and an authentic brand. You also need great communication with others; there’s very little which isn’t relevant to the brand or reputation in some way, it all links eventually. It helps to know what balls are in the air so you can help juggle them.
If you have no, or a very limited budget (which many of us do), ask yourself… what can I do with my time, my brain and a little optimism?
What works will be different for every charity, it depends on who else could help, what your specific skills are and your aims, but here’s a few suggestions to get you started:
- Awards: I nominated our services, projects and people locally, regionally and nationally. I know awards can sometimes be a little irrelevant to some, or even controversial. However, it’s a cheap, easy, free way to build PR and created some great morale.
- Leaflets: If you have leaflets (I had thousands just sat by my desk)… disseminate them. Book stalls at charity events and hand them out, post them to every stakeholder and service user with a lovely letter about the changes. We also did a few days’ worth of leaflet drops – two people, one car, several coffees and thousands of leaflets into communities!
- Digital: I didn’t want to talk too much about this as there’s advice on this everywhere, but I did prioritise creating our digital footprint because we didn’t have one at all. Website, social media, maps, AdWords, SEO, analytics, directory registrations. Not only is this necessary, the results of this work are the most tangible you can see quickly which is a good benchmark (and mood booster!).
- People: Look at the leaders within your organisation, particularly your CEO. Is there a leadership brand there? Again, it’s relatively free and integral to your charity’s reputation. If people know your CEO, their style, where to find them, their values then they know about you. If your CEO isn’t up for it, do you have a particularly extroverted trustee or other staff member with a great voice? Look for your champions and help them develop externally, it will bring your brand to life.
The above is scratching the surface and by no means a fool-proof guide, that would be 100 blogs in the making!
Creating a brand is also so much more than following a rule book. I’ve found to create something authentic, it’s the tiny things that add up. Branding and what surrounds it; ethos, culture and stories, is something almost intangible you can’t quite touch, but there’s an energy which feels kind of alive.
The brand is essential as it speaks for your organisation, provides staff and volunteers with something to get behind and most importantly, ensures people who need your services know what you can do for them.
So however you do it, put on your optimism hat and build, build, build!
Photo: Black Ice on Pexels