(L to R) Arlene Holt Baker, Diane Feeney, Jackie Jenkins Scott, and Jane Fox Johnson
4 min Read
August 22, 2019

Engaging staff for a successful rebrand that lasts

Katherine Ollenburger and Karla McLean

Most nonprofits are so excited to launch their brand with external audiences that they forget their most important ambassadors: staff. Katherine Ollenburger, Director of Brand Strategy and Chief Writer, and Karla McLean, Donor Communications and Marketing Manager, at Community Change explore how they used friendly competition to get staff thinking on-brand.

After 50 years of intentionally staying behind the scenes, Community Change and Community Change Action, with the help of Big Duck, launched a new brand in November 2018. Through an intense strategic planning process, we identified our brand as an essential tool to advance our vision of economic justice, racial equity, and immigrant rights. 

But we knew that our brand’s success would depend on our ability to change organizational culture.

Because Community Change is so rooted in the principles of community organizing, we started by thinking like organizers. How do we motivate our colleagues to act on behalf of our shared values and interests? How do we challenge each other to feel a sense of ownership for our brand?

Boosting staff engagement with a brand challenge

Following the initial public rollout, we launched a team-based “brand challenge” to motivate our strongest organizational resource—passionate staff—to become our most effective ambassadors. We challenged teams to compete for bragging rights and a grand prize: a team massage package.

Each week, we rolled out a new challenge that included practical rebranding tasks (how to access new templates and order your business cards) mixed with deeper reflection on our brand strategy (how does our vision, positioning, and personality show up in you daily work?).

At the conclusion of the brand challenge, we reached a 95% engagement rate. We received feedback that our staff had a holistic understanding of the brand, knew where to access resources, and knew who to engage with their questions. Most importantly, they felt invested in bringing the brand to life and understood how it was a tool that everyone can use to achieve our mission, not just something for the advancement team to leverage.

Five keys to fully engaging your staff

  1. Gamify: We made “brand engagement” into a game, dividing staff into teams and assigning points for each person who completed a challenge. Teams received bonus points when every person on the team completed the challenge. Over the four weeks of the challenge, we shared rankings by team, and we announced the winners at the opening session of our All Staff Retreat–the one time a year when our location diverse staff comes together in one place. Each person on the winning team received a trophy and a professional massage during the retreat.
    Competition trophy
  2. Use social pressure: In each team, we recruited a colleague to champion the brand, and they encouraged their colleagues in the spirit of competition. Brand champions helped to reach brand skeptics and use social pressure to win the game. By using collaboration tools like a #brand Slack channel, staff could share challenge entries across the organization and build momentum.
  3. Work the calendar: The brand challenge took place within the context of a phased brand rollout. We launched the brand publicly the day after the 2018 midterm elections, which had been a major focus of Community Change Action’s organizing for the year. Rather than trying to make brand engagement a priority before the launch—when everyone was focused on other priorities—we kicked off the brand challenge in the new year, after well-deserved vacations, leading up to our February 2019 All Staff Retreat.
  4. Mix up the challenges: Each task played to different strengths and challenged staff to engage with aspects of the brand in different ways. They were:
    • Review your professional contact information and submit your order for re-branded business cards.
    • Find and download the rebranded letterhead; use it to send us a few sentences about which personality trait in our brand strategy best represents your team. 
    • Share your elevator pitch on social media, including our new name and talking points to describe Community Change. Send us a screenshot.

    • Take a picture of your workspace and share how it inspires and motivates your work at Community Change.
  1. Celebrate: At the All Staff Retreat, we celebrated the winning team–and the new brand. Everyone received new swag–including Community Change Action t-shirts and CHANGE tote bags–as part of an event that prominently featured our new branding.
    Community Change staff member wearing branded T-shirt at All Staff Retreat

If you are looking for other ideas for how to get your brand to take root with your team, read Big Duck’s ebook: “Brand stickiness: Building, integrating, and managing your nonprofit’s voice so it succeeds.”