Published: 11 April 2011

Seven things we learnt at the Developing Your Brand and Image Conference

"It's what people say about you when you leave a room."

That's what brand is to Carolan Davidge, Director of Brand and PR at Cancer Research UK. And on 30 March a room full of CharityComms delegates got together to discuss branding further.

Speakers at the Developing Your Brand and Image Conference talked about everything from mobile apps to measuring impact. Here we bring you some of the key learnings from the day-long event.

1. Use real people as your brand advocates. 

Carolan Davidge told delegates that using real people in their communications can help build brand at a local level. At Cancer Research UK, it's the responsibility of three full-time staff members to find people, including patients and doctors, who can be featured in their communications. "We have a bank of people we can point to and say, 'They are where your money goes'."

2. Link up traditional and digital comms strategies.

Traditional comms and PR have to mesh with what you are doing online, said David Barker, Director of Communications at Breakthrough Breast Cancer. David talked about how apps for mobiles are now a must have element of a charity's communications strategy. It's why Breakthrough Breast Cancer produced an app called iBreastCheck to encourage women to monitor their breasts for lumps. Although not the main purpose of the app, it included some successful calls to action – with 18,000 downloads, 5% of app users signed up to the charity's newsletter. The app reached almost half (47%) of women aged over 24 in the UK. 

3. Establish the right tone for social media.

Gary Nunn, Communications Officer at Stonewall, talked about how his charity has managed to become hugely popular on social media including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Key to this, said Gary, is establishing the right tone. He advised charity comms colleagues not just to publish "earnest" updates on Facebook or Twitter but to show their human side occasionally. That might mean telling supporters you're having cake in the office or addressing them with something like "Hello lovely supporters!" "Social media is as much about your followers as you," said Gary.

4. Make your colleagues your brand ambassadors.

Lynda Thomas, Director of External Affairs at Macmillan Cancer Support, said it's essential to invest in culture change within your charity if you are rebranding. Getting your colleagues on board with a rebrand will mean that everyone understands why it's needed and what your new focus means. "They need to feel empowered," said Lynda. "Looking back, we would definitely have done things differently."

5. Test your brand with your supporters.

Older people's charity Independent Age went through a rebrand in 2004. Simon Bottery, Director of Fundraising, Policy and Communications at Independent Age, talked about how the charity's ethos changed dramatically. They used to only support those from the "middle and upper classes" but now provide a "support community" for all older people. Key to this rebrand, which included a new logo and values, was research with different stakeholders including staff, online audiences and focus groups with Independent Age supporters. "Testing helped us create a brand that sends out a clear statement about what the charity does," said Simon.  

6. Learn the branding lingo.

"Vision", "mission" and "values" are elements that make up part of your charity's "brand platform" but they can be called different things, said Dan Dufour, Senior Brand Planner at The Good Agency. Values are the principles that direct your charity's way of working and communicating, and can be called "proposition" or "positioning". Mission is the way or ways your charity will achieve its vision, also referred to as your "promise" or "essence". And vision, a sentence that sums up what your charity is striving to achieve, is often called "personality" or "purpose".

7. Know when to stay in-house.

Some aspects of a rebrand can be done in-house and others are better led by an agency, argued Steven Ramsay, Creative Director at web design agency Baigent Digital and Juliette Stevenson, Information and Communications Officer at Refugees into Teaching. It all depends on the skills, resources and capacity of the people that work at your charity. When you’re creating a new logo or renaming your charity, you may decide that this is where an agency can help, but before bringing them on-board, do your research in-house to save money. There are free sites to help you consider different fonts (www.fontstock.net, www.1001freefonts.com and www.dafont.com), colour pallets (kuler.adobe.com) and codes (www.perbang.dk).


Trina Wallace, copywriter and editor, freelance

Trina Wallace is a copywriter, editor and communications consultant with around 14 years’ experience in the charity sector. She has worked with over 70 charities, including Cancer Research UK, Rethink Mental Illness, Alzheimer’s Society and Oxfam. Trina specialises in writing audience-focused communications that inspire people to take action.