The CEO of a new non-profit carefully assembles his leadership team to prepare for a monumental launch of services. He scours the field for the most experienced and dedicated professionals he can recruit and entices them with an opportunity to be part of something new, something big, something meaningful.
One year later, the non-profit is launched and running. They are doing amazing things; the leadership team is working non-stop pouring their hearts into this new venture. Not only are they helping people with their services, but they are also employing hundreds of people who are grateful for the opportunity.
The new non-profit is also hemorrhaging employees and fighting an uphill battle to gain traction in the field. “Word on the street” contains as many good stories as bad, and the organization is struggling to define itself even to its own members.
What About Branding?
Although the CEO did a lot of things right, he missed one crucial piece of the launch team — communications. Somewhere in juggling the goals of the organization and meeting the demands of the Board of Directors, the CEO neglected an important element of building the start-up.
A board member offered a logo and tagline, which the board voted to use, and one of the members suggested a marketing company he knew to build a website and develop a brochure. That was the extent of the focus on branding at the initial start-up phase. The leadership team thought branding was covered.
What Could Happen?
Six months after launch, the non-profit had various versions of the logo in use, with the tagline attached to it, though no one could explain what it really meant. They were the first in their field to launch a website, but their competitors eventually surpassed their efforts. The poorly designed, cookie-cutter website was dated and, rather than promote their new brand, became a detractor.
Since no one in the organization was managing branding or messaging, various leaders created their own to fill the void. Different versions of business card designs were ordered from cheap online vendors, and homemade informational handouts became the norm with DIY skills being rewarded by leadership.
The unprofessional and disjointed branding efforts hurt the organization, making it almost impossible to market their services when the time came. They were also open to great liability since crisis communication would also be difficult if needed.
Branding is a Necessity?
Yes! And it should be done by a communications professional. Just because you are not selling a product in a competitive market does not mean you don’t need a comprehensive branding strategy. Establishing your branding, internally to your staff and externally to various audiences, is essential to any organization.
More than just a logo and color scheme, branding is the visual identity of your organization. We live in an increasingly visual world where first impressions are often the only impression. Without reading a word, people get a feel for your company when they see your logo or glance at your website. The visuals have to align with your mission and your message to make a positive impact.
Branding is also not a static concept. When done right, it grows with your organization and permeates everything you do with a consistency required to develop familiarity.
You want your employees to feel like they are part of a family; you want your customers to feel the same way. Good branding shows them what your family is all about and reminds them of their participation. It allows them to exhibit pride in their association with your organization; it helps them feel good about your organization.
And the Cost?
Bringing in a communications professional to be part of the launch team would have been far less expensive in the long run. Losing employees and attracting negative attention to the organization was an even higher price to pay for neglecting branding from the beginning. Now, it will take time and money to turn things around, and that can only happen if the leadership team understands the importance and provides the needed support for branding efforts going forward.