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Insights
Brands
June 12, 2024

When and how should you share branding work in development?

Farra Trompeter, co-director, is joined by Sarita Joseph, director of accounts, to discuss sharing nonprofit branding concepts and what questions to ask before inviting others to view and provide feedback on branding work in progress. Get tips on what to avoid and what to emphasize.

Transcript

Farra Trompeter: Welcome to the Smart Communications podcast. This is Farra Trompeter, co-director and worker-owner at Big Duck. Today we’re gonna ask the question, when and how should you share branding work in development? And I am delighted to be joined by Sarita Joseph. Sarita, who uses she/her pronouns, is director of accounts and a worker-owner here at Big Duck. With experience as both a project manager and fundraiser, she leads our account management team and makes sure that projects run smoothly and successfully. She’s been here for eight years and before Big Duck, Sarita was a project manager at the Taproot Foundation, where she helped nonprofits tackle challenges in marketing, human resources, IT, and strategy. Sarita studied international relations at Boston University and received her Master’s in nonprofit management from The New School, specializing in fundraising and development. If Sarita’s name sounds vaguely familiar to you and you haven’t been a Big Duck client, ’cause if you have, then you definitely have heard of Sarita. She was on the podcast once before. Back on Episode 45, exploring how can your staff co-create your brand with former Duck Gil Mejia, and former client Ambar Mentor-Truppa from the Shriver Center on Poverty Law. Sarita, welcome back to the show.

Sarita Joseph: Thanks, Farra. So good to be here.

Farra Trompeter: Well, before we get into today’s topic, I do wanna take a moment for our listeners to learn a little bit more about you since it’s been a hot minute, almost five years, but we’re gonna remedy that and have you on the podcast more moving forward. Now, you’ve dedicated your career to supporting nonprofits, working and volunteering at several organizations in both New York and abroad. And I’m wondering if you could share a little bit more about that and how those experiences have shaped your approach to managing projects and being on our leadership team here at Big Duck.

Sarita Joseph: Sure thing, Farra. So, like you said, I volunteered and worked for several nonprofits throughout my life, and it eventually led me to getting my Master’s in nonprofit management. And I started in the wonderful world of fundraising, helping to plan galas, working on appeals, all that good stuff. And then eventually I moved into a more project management role at the Taproot Foundation. And now here I am at Big Duck. It’s been an amazing eight years, and it’s been a pleasure guiding so many nonprofits through big branding challenges. And I know what it’s like to work at a nonprofit. We’re stretched thin, we don’t have that many resources, we’re juggling three roles at a time, and I’m really empathetic towards our clients who come to us for help and support and some capacity building. So really excited to help the nonprofit community at large.

Sarita Joseph: Like you said, I love interacting with people from all over the world. I studied international relations in undergrad, and I think I really bring that lens to how I work. I love learning about different cultures, missions, traditions, and it definitely is a common thread throughout my work at Big Duck. I like to think of myself as a tour guide for our clients as we start to wade into the uncharted water of rebranding. And thankfully, I’ve been on this ride many times before with different clients, and it’s so fulfilling to help our clients see what’s coming up ahead and help them plan for it. My team, the account management team, specifically works with our clients to think through how they’ll bring their new brand to life, starting from the practical project management part of our work, but we also help our clients think through how they’ll bring the rest of their staff and board through the journey of changing their brand.

Farra Trompeter: Thank you for that little bit, overview of who you are, and I love the tour guide metaphor. I think it’s the first time I’ve heard you saying that and you know, I’m definitely gonna refer to that in the future. Now, earlier this year, Sarita wrote a blog post titled The fine art of sharing branding concepts with your team. And we’ll be sure to link to that in the transcript, and you can always reach that and our blog post at bigduck.com/insights. I’m curious Sarita, though, to start with why you wrote that post. What led you to write it, and what have you been seeing in your work with our clients when it comes to sharing branding concepts?

Sarita Joseph: Thanks, Farra. I was inspired by so many of our clients who were just too excited to not share. It’s always a fun thing, hearing their excitement, and they’re like, “I shared with all these people, I shared with all my staff, the board, their neighbor, their cousins who studied art in college”, you know, their whole community. And I have to say, and I wanna caveat this for this whole podcast, is that sharing unfinished work is not a bad thing. We encourage it, it’s a more inclusive process, but just wanna make the point that it’s important to plan ahead for that. The point of the blog was to encourage folks to plan before you share, so that way you’re more in the driver’s seat of the whole experience and not being reactive when people are giving you feedback.

Sarita Joseph: Just to give you example, I’ve seen things go horribly wrong when you’re just sharing logos or names and you haven’t primed folks about the rebrand at all. You wanna make sure folks are not surprised and your stakeholders should know that you’re going through the rebrand and that you’ll let them know when they’ll be involved in the process. If you mass email around one logo to folks who have no idea about your goals or your audiences, then you kind of open yourself to all kinds of feedback. Not just the feedback about the logo, but “Why are we doing this rebrand?” “What’s the process?” You know, “How come I was just pulled in right now?” So you put yourself in a hard place not knowing what to do with that feedback and not thinking ahead of time to predict their questions. So if you mass email out round one logos to folks who have no idea about your goals and audiences, then you open yourself up to all kinds of feedback. And not just about the logo, but about the process. Why you’re rebranding. “Why are you coming to me right now?” And you put yourself in a hard place of not knowing what to do with that feedback, and it ends up being chaotic instead of a proactive situation. So yes, my blog piece was a piece of advice based on past experiences with clients,

Farra Trompeter: And we’re gonna keep it talking all about branding. But I will say, I really do love this post and this whole conversation because I think this can be true for any kind of communications work, or fundraising campaigns work. You and I have a lot of common history in terms of our backgrounds: both working within organizations and studying organizations. And I think this whole idea of really being intentional and thoughtful with feedback is really important. But we’re gonna go back to the post. And especially, you know, there may be people listening to this who are in the middle of a branding process or thinking about embarking upon one. So, I really do encourage you to think about what Sarita has to offer there. And in the post, you offer four questions that people should answer before they invite others in to view branding work that’s in progress. Again, that’s branding work that we’re debating colors, logos, names, taglines, messaging elements, whatever it may be. And I’m wondering, Sarita, if you can share what those four questions are and maybe an insight behind each one.

Sarita Joseph: Sure thing. So the first question is: What’s the purpose of sharing the branding work? You wanna take a step back, really think about why you’re sharing and what you’re looking for. Are you looking for buy-in? Are you looking for a specific point of feedback, or are you just excited and wanna celebrate with someone? Is that the whole reason you’re sharing? If you’re sharing with your whole staff, that’s great, but know the purpose of asking. Give them specific questions to answer and let them know how you’ll integrate that feedback.

Sarita Joseph: The second point is: Who are you sharing work with? Really pause to check the equity implications of asking folks for their feedback. So, a lot of folks just focus on their leadership, but forget about stakeholders or people who will be interacting with their logos out there in the world. Their beneficiaries. Could this new logo or tagline means something else to different communities? You would hate for leadership to be all aligned around the logo and then find out six months later that it’s not easily understood or worse, it’s offensive to the rest of your staff or the community you serve. So you wanna be intentional about who you’re sharing with and not just kind of living in a bubble and just sharing with those folks.

Sarita Joseph: The third question I have is now the right time to share? Think about the general calendar and rhythm of your organization and what’s going on for folks on your team. Is there a big gala or an annual appeal or a board meeting that everyone’s really occupied with? Maybe now is not the best time to ask them for really good feedback. You could also think about the person or audience group, and if they’ll benefit from seeing the work right now, would it be wiser to wait for another round of drafts before sharing? Would it feel like a waste of time at this point? Also, just have an awareness of where board meetings are coming in throughout the year. A lot of the times clients will be like, “Oh, there’s a board meeting next week. We forgot to tell you. And we, we didn’t prepare anything.” But if we know all of those board meetings ahead of time, we can really think about how to actively engage the board throughout the whole process and send out updates. And then we can also have a good presentation prepared for that, for that meeting. And also just ask: if you weren’t sure if the person would be available or if they wanna be involved in the process, just ask them. Just ask them what their preference is, and then that way you could save time and also set expectations.

Sarita Joseph: And the last question I had was: What is the plan for addressing feedback? So we all know, not all feedback is created equally. Make sure you’re prepared and know how you’ll respond to different types of feedback. Think about how much weight a person’s feedback should carry and what you’re asking. I see this happen a lot, too, when our clients send out surveys or have big staff meetings where they share work and they have an amazing plan for outreach and they’re very inclusive, but when they get the feedback, they get stuck and they don’t know how to proceed. I would say just plan ahead of that. Make sure you know what to do if everyone hates it or make sure you know what to do if some people, half the room is going one way and the other half is going another way. And that way you’ll be able to plan out the different routes you could go in.

Farra Trompeter: Appreciate that. It’s just like: be intentional, be planning, but also be inclusive. You know, I know you are personally and, and our whole team is a big fan of inclusive branding and really thinking about, as you said, not just holding branding decisions or input to the leadership team or just the board, but really thinking about engaging the entire staff. And engaging our program participants and other members of our community also, not just donors. Right. And in your blog, you also share five tips nonprofits can use to be intentional in their planning when and how they share branding work. And I’m just wondering, for the sake of this conversation, if you just pick one, what is your number one tip or advice that people should follow when they’re thinking about this?

Sarita Joseph: This is super hard. I would say all of them, but I would say the first step is to start mapping out your stakeholders. So I would say that’s the most important because that’s step one. Map out all your stakeholders and just sit with your staff, sit with your group, and figure out all of the stakeholders that you have to engage. And then from there, you can start communicating that to them. Think about expectations, and then everyone will know their role and be ready to jump into their part.

Farra Trompeter: I’m sorry, I made you pick one. And if you’re curious what the other four tips are, you’re just gonna have to go to bigduck.com/insights and read the post. Sarita. Let’s say someone is so eager to follow your guidance and get started. How do they actually know it’s working? What does it look like when this is all working the right way? What does it look like in practice?

Sarita Joseph: This is such a good question. Thanks for asking this. I would say, you know it’s working when you look around your workplace and you know, folks know what’s happening. They know they’re rebranding. They feel solid about the plan. They know their role. No one is rushing in the middle with new groups of people to ask for feedback from because you already spent that time thinking about it and it’s planned for. And I just have to say, nonprofit organizations are beautiful and that there’s so many people who are really invested in your mission and your work. We have board members, we have donors, we have stakeholders, and they’re all very passionate. They wanna see you succeed. And it’s really about how to engage all those folks, how to corral all that energy and focus them in at specific moments and when it’ll be most useful for you and the future of your organization.

Farra Trompeter: And I’ll say here, you know, when you ask for feedback, there’s a good chance that not everyone’s gonna love what you have to do. Not everyone’s gonna love the top three name choices. Or everyone knows me, f it’s purple, you know, I’m gonna love it. But not every logo is purple, much to my dismay. And you also have to be okay sometimes hearing that, and that can be hard. And like when in the process, are you ready? And does it make sense to hear that? So that there is room to pivot if you’re going to, or also room to say, this is an input moment. These folks are the deciders, we do wanna hear your input. We value your input. At the end of the day, however, we have a working group, we’ve entrusted them to make the final decision, whatever it may be. So to your point, map out that process in the beginning and making sure everyone understands what it is throughout. And a lot of times we have to remind them, here we are at this step of the journey, here’s what’s happening. This is the next thing that’s gonna happen. Now Sarita, before we sign off, there’s so many good things here and tips and advice. I’m just wondering if there’s anything else you would like to share, maybe anything people should not do or should avoid when it comes to sharing work in progress?

Sarita Joseph: Well, just that when you share, don’t do it without any context. And that goes two different ways of using context. When you share, don’t just email someone, a logo, a name and say, “Hey, what do you think?” That’s just so open-ended and that’s scary. You don’t know what you’re gonna get back. And then another part is also share the context of how it could look out in the world. So send it with a website mockup or send it with on a flyer or a ticket if you use tickets. Or just think about how your stakeholders will be experiencing the brand and out in the world. And that helps people put it into perspective. So just always share the work along the process so far. And also just share, you know, we’re at this point and then the next step is this, so that they know where they fit in the, in the grand scheme of things.

Farra Trompeter: And I know we were talking beforehand, part of your first point here about not just what do you think, but to say, “Hey, in this branding process, we’re really striving to be seen as positive and vibrant and maybe some of our other brand personality traits. We hope people when they see our logo, here’s an example of our new logo on our new tagline on a mockup of an annual report. We’re hoping that this is the sort of big idea people take away from us. Here are three options for what we might do here. Which one do you think best accomplishes that?

Sarita Joseph: Exactly.

Farra Trompeter: So we’re using that brand strategy, we’re bringing in, whether that’s positioning and personality is how we think about brand strategy here at Big Duck. Might also be goals and audiences or this moment in time. “Here’s where our organization is, this is what we hope our brand can do for us. Which of these helps guide us toward that way?” So again, it’s not just like, “What do you like personally?” or “What do you think?” open-ended, but giving a little bit of a sense of how it’s meant to be experienced. So I just wanted to lift that up.

Sarita Joseph: Yeah, absolutely.

Farra Trompeter: Now at Big Duck, we think, talk, and write a lot about developing brand strategy and identities for nonprofits. Be sure to check out bigduck.com/insights for more blogs, podcasts, eBooks, and videos on these topics. Sarita, thank you so much for joining us today.

Sarita Joseph: Thanks for having me.

Farra Trompeter: Alright, everyone, enjoy the rest of your days.