What is branding?

 image courtesy of @risingtidesociety

image courtesy of @risingtidesociety

To most people, BRANDING means the same thing as LOGO. It's the swoosh or the apple or the bullseye.

This is unfortunate because a logo is just one piece of what shape's a brand. It's also troubling for nonprofits in particular, because hiring a top-level designer to create a visual system means investing serious cash.

There's good news though. Most of what shapes a brand happens in house. Branding is a process of presenting a unified message at each touchpoint.

It's the email signature that your staff use. It's the "about" section of your website. It's the way you introduce your services to clients.

Other touchpoints include press releases, annual reports, Board Member communications, newsletters, and proposals.


It's tough work to stay consistent

It's easy to reinvent the wheel with visuals and copy. It's much harder to narrow in on the exact words you use to describe your services, the one style of memo you use for all internal communications, and the reason you're posting to social media. This all should all tie back to your organization's highest and most enduring value.

In other words, your brand should be driven by the reason why you exist, not what you do.

Sometimes it's hard to articulate what your organization's highest and most enduring value is. That's when it's helpful to engage someone from the outside who can ask you the right questions and guide your thinking. I've done this with many nonprofits.

If you can't hire someone right now, here are some great questions to ask yourself that will begin to generate your brand promise:

  • What gap are you filling with your services?
  • Why is this important?
  • What would happen if your organization didn't exist?
  • How is the way you do things different than other organizations serving a similar need?
  • From your organization's perspective, what does an ideal world look like?
  • What should someone expect to feel, know, do if they decide to support your organization?

Just remember, every organization has a brand, whether you're actively working on it or not. Your reputation is out there and it's up to you to communicate your brand's promise again and again.

Kim Wensel