Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash
2 min Read
April 28, 2020

How a strong brand keeps you a step ahead in a crisis

In times of crisis, like the current moment shaped by COVID-19, the strengths and weaknesses of nonprofit brands are evident like never before. Having that strong brand in place, and using your brand strategy to guide communications and other decisions, can mean being able to keep doing mission-driven work—or losing focus. It can also help a nonprofit survive some of the stresses that this crisis is presenting.

A foundation for a rapid response

Some nonprofits whose missions overlap with the effects of the novel coronavirus have launched what look like external advocacy campaigns within weeks—or even days—of confronting the disease landing in their communities. The organizations that have been most quickly able to pivot and engage with these new challenges and realities already had elements of a strong brand in place. Instead of reinventing the wheel, they used their trusty megaphone to amplify their message further, faster.

Strong brand assets support swift content generation

Investing in a strong brand includes having an established visual and verbal identity. This allows you to create materials quickly and responsively to communicate about the coronavirus and its effects—shortening your response time. 

The Shriver Center on Poverty Law was able to nimbly pivot and do just that, expressing new and urgent advocacy priorities to lessen the devastating economic damage COVID-19 is having on communities.

Planned Parenthood is another nonprofit that was able to nearly instantaneously put out useful resources just days into the crisis, like this branded video speaking to an information gap at the intersection of pregnancy and COVID-19.

Strong brand trust increases momentum

Building a strong brand often means nurturing a broad base of support and allies by continually leaning into a well-established mission, vision, and values. If your audiences trust you they will be more likely to trust the information you’re putting out in response to COVID-19. This is a huge asset in a moment where misinformation is spreading widely, especially when conflicting information from misaligned leaders can generate confusion around issues like public safety, health, and economic relief. 

CPC (Chinese-American Planning Council) is leveraging its brand’s already well-established trust to quickly create and distribute resources to their audiences. They’ve rapidly—and successfully—tapped their highly engaged community and partnerships to directly combat COVID-19-related threats like distributing food to seniors, fighting against racial discrimination, protesting the loss of summer employment for youth, and advocating for more aggressive economic relief from the city.

Now is the time to examine the gaps in your brand

This is a pressure test of sorts. Use this moment to reflect on how your brand is performing.

Are you feeling as prepared as you could have to confront the unexpected challenges that this moment is presenting? What structures do you wish were in place right now—a more agile team, a tighter visual identity, a clearer brand strategy (consider taking this self-assessment)? Do you wish you had clearer alignment on your vision, or mission, to know what to prioritize at this moment? Do you have the right messaging in place, or clearly articulated values, to allow you to speak to your audiences? 

This is an opportunity to assess your brand’s vulnerabilities and plan for tomorrow. What is serving you well, and should be celebrated—and what needs to be shored up, to strengthen your communications to better weather the next crisis?