Brand Alignment: Part 1 — Start With Strategy

Earning the trust of a local community is tough. Getting people to give of themselves is even harder. Asking donors for money? It’s the ultimate challenge for nonprofit organizations. But, regardless of how hard you work to achieve these things, there is one factor that can either pave your path to success or throw up endless roadblocks: the degree to which your organization is aligned to its brand.

Strategy Closes The Gap

While communications and marketing professionals are generally responsible for making promises on behalf of their organizations, it is the public-facing folks that are responsible for keeping those promises. As the strongest brands can attest, brands must be built from the inside out. But, it is more than developing or executing an internal communications plan. Instead, it is about engaging leaders, employees, volunteers, participants, and donors –everyone that lives with, is impacted by, or directly communicates the brand – on an intellectual and emotional level.

 Key Elements of Brand Strategy

So much more than just a visual identity, your organization’s brand should be founded on a strategy that contains certain key elements that guide everything your organization says and does. These include:

  • Purpose: the definitive statement of the difference you seek to make in the world
  • Values: a succinct set of principles that guide how people within your organization behave and make decisions
  • Positioning: the way you define your unique place in the competitive landscape
  • Value proposition: a statement of who you are, what you do, and why people should care
  • Personality traits: the human characteristics that capture the spirit of your brand, evident in personal behavior and both visual and verbal identities

Like any strategy, brand strategy is only effective when there is sustained organizational commitment to realizing its potential over the long term. When everything is working, the outcome is sure to be a unified organization that is well known, well understood, and effectively delivering on its mission.

Maintaining a Vital, Brand-aligned Organization

While purpose usually remains the same, an organization’s needs and capabilities may change so it is critical to keep up with the times and maintain a high degree of internal alignment through periods of change. With that in mind, here are a few things you can do to gauge the internal health of the brand and gather insight that leads to the actions necessary to maintain a vital and relevant brand in the market:

  • Conduct periodic all-employee sentiment surveys
  • Complement qualitative surveys by integrating values into the daily lives of the people in and around your organization through brand-centered learning and collaboration
  • Conduct a bi-annual review of the brand strategy to confirm that your internal alignment efforts are in sync with the demands of the market

In order to optimize your organization’s ability to realize its purpose and achieve its mission, the brand needs to give people something to believe in that is larger than the work they do or the specific part of the organization they serve. Tuning your brand strategy and aligning your organization to it will go a very long way towards meeting these goals.

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Evan Molho, guest blogger, is Managing Partner, Molho & Co. Brand Consulting; a brand strategy firm that helps organizations sharply define, effectively deploy, and efficiently manage their brands.

This blog post is the first in a series on brand alignment.

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