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2 min Read
August 10, 2011

Brand Check-Up

Three years ago the National Brain Tumor Foundation (a patient services organization) merged with the Brain Tumor Society (a research-focused organization) to create a new go-to organization leading the brain tumor community called the National Brain Tumor Society.

Big Duck worked with the two organization’s staff and boards on the merger’s communications. Over a few months, we set a new communications strategy for the organization, developed their visual identity and messaging platform, created a style guide, gave their website a facelift, and more. (When it was over, their staff was thrilled to get rid of us, I’m sure.)

Recently, I visited them in their office to talk about their fundraising and conduct an informal brand check up. To get started, they collected all the materials they’d produced in-house or with vendors over the past year or so. They printed out screen shots of websites, social media, and other online communications. They grouped the communications by area (fundraising, patient services, etc). We gathered the entire communications team and the executive director in the room and talked it all through.

To guide our conversation, I began by asking about the positioning statement we’d created in 2008. Positioning is the big idea we want people to think of when they think of the organization. In their case, new areas of work had been added and it seemed that their original positioning was too specific. We agreed it might need to be refined after strategic planning (currently in the works) was complete.

I asked about their personality: the list of attributes we developed through our brandraising process. Seemed the personality was still on track, but certain attributes (‘innovative’ and ‘trustworthy’, for example) were rising to the top.

Then we reviewed their materials using their positioning and personality as a guide. I was really impressed with their work. Despite growth and some staff changes in their in-house communications staff, the materials looked, felt and read very consistently. Without exception, they used the visual identity outlined in the style guide flawlessly, and reinforced their positioning and personality.

The work had clearly ‘stuck’. Why? Because they’d done a great job hiring good staff to develop it in-house, staying true to their style guide, and being strategic. They’d resisted the temptation to change things out of boredom or to ‘mix it up’. As a result, each piece connected to the others and sent consistent messages about the quality and credibility of their work.

Doing a brand check up this way is easy and cheap. Consider spending an hour reviewing your nonprofit’s materials this way yearly. You might even invite a board member or volunteer with marketing or communications expertise to join you and weigh in. Better yet, ask a donor or a client to join the conversation. And please let me know how it goes.