2 min Read
October 14, 2009

Your online brand

National Military Family of the Year site

How much of your organization’s communications are happening online at this point? To be more specific, what percentage of your fundraising, programs, or advocacy communications are you doing through your website, email and social media channels? The answer, I suspect, is more and more.

So what about that logo that was developed 25 years ago that looks, um, less than stellar online? Or the inconsistent messages and language on your website?

Lots of organizations are trying to rebrand themselves simultaneously as they build new websites, create integrated outreach or fundraising campaigns, or even as they launch new social media platforms. We regularly hear organizations say things like, ‘we need to redo our brand for this site’, linking the organization’s overall visual identity and messaging to its most important channel: online.

While I applaud the ‘kill two birds with one stone’ mentality that often drives this point of view, I must admit, I’m not a fan. Here’s why: Your brand is bigger than your website.

An effective brand must also work in person, in print, face-to-face, perhaps even on a cell phone- or in whatever new communications vehicles are around the corner. If done right, the development of your visual identity and messaging platform (the two core components of a brand) should grow out of your vision, mission, and values as an organization. This means the branding process might take some time and involve work that happens long before wireframes or web pages can be developed.

Tackling branding first slows down a web development process, which can make staff and board members nervous, and appears to inflate costs (but really it’s just that you’re doing two big projects under one job called ‘web’). Also, there are a handful of folks who have the talent to both develop a logo and design a great website- but not many. Why not hire the best folks for the brand work then the best folks for the web work?

Instead of rebranding your organization through a process that focuses on a web ‘deliverable’, why not unbundle the projects? First, develop a clear, effective visual identity and messaging platform that reflects your vision, mission and values well across all channels, tools and technologies. Get your staff and board to participate in the process- and develop something you’ll be able to stand behind for years, working with the best folks for the job. Then, build those visuals and messages into whatever you create- online or off.