6 Key Questions to Ask

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1 6 Key Questions to Ask When Considering a Branding or Messaging Project If you are considering investing in a branding, message development, or communications project with Mission Minded, we hope these general guidelines will help you evaluate how well our approach meets your needs. This document is intended as a guide for staff and board who are evaluating whether or not the time, dollars, and will really exist within their organization to undertake a strategic communications initiative.

2 1. To brand or not to brand? Your organization already has a brand. It s the reputation you ve created through your past efforts. But is the brand you have the brand you want? Do people perceive you the way you want to be perceived? What reputation do you have? Do you even know how your most important supporters and stakeholders feel about you? Are you seen as vital and critical? Worthy of support? Are people confused about you, or worse, confusing you with other organizations? Is your reputation helping or hindering you from reaching your highest potential? What reputation should you cultivate in order to attract increased support for your mission? These are questions that get asked and answered during a branding project with Mission Minded. Brand building is as important for nonprofits as it is for major consumer marketing companies such as Nike and Coca-Cola. The aims of nonprofits are generally more beneficial to society than those of for-profit companies, but, the benefits of branding are the same: having an organization that is understood by and attractive to those people most likely to support it with their discretionary resources. In short, someone who understands the work your organization is doing is more likely to value it. And valuing your work is the first step in deciding to support it in the form of donations, volunteer time, attending an event, exhibition or performance, or taking some other action critical to your ability to achieve your mission. While the process of brand building discovering a brand s essence, determining what factors make up a compelling brand, and working to turn an organization into a great brand can be complex, in its simplest form brand is just another word for reputation. By articulating how your organization wishes to be perceived what reputation you wish to have and then doing everything possible to establish and reinforce that reputation, you re building a brand that will enable you to better achieve your mission. Your brand is not your name, logo, or tagline. These are signifiers about what your organization stands for, but your brand is the combination of facts and emotions about your organization and its work that comes to the minds of your audiences when they hear or read about you and your activities. 2

3 The best brands are defined by clarity of purpose, not a list of strategies or programs. Think of the bestknown nonprofit brands, such as the SPCA or Amnesty International. You may not quite know what these organizations do every day, but you know why they matter. So be clear: the goal of your brand is not to describe comprehensively what your organization does, but to explain compellingly WHY it matters that you do it. It s about articulating your organization s unique niche in making the world a better place, and claiming the distinctive role that will attract the public support you need to accomplish your goals. Having a strong brand makes it easy for people to quickly understand what you do and why it s important. A strong brand is actually a service to your stakeholders and wouldbe supporters because it creates a shortcut for them when determining how to think about your organization and its value. If your brand is muddled, people will have to take a lot more of their precious time to figure out how your work fits with their interests and whether or not you are worth their attention. That s if you re lucky. More likely your muddled brand will cause people to simply dismiss you quickly because they just don t want to spend the time and effort to understand you. So do yourself and your potential supporters a favor and be clear, concise, and compelling with your brand. The Mission Minded team guided us through a very challenging process a long overdue name change and rebranding with deep insight, grace, and humor. They are infectiously passionate about communications and incredibly smart. We are delighted with our new brand, and our overall communications moved up several notches. We couldn t have done it without them. LaShawn Routé Chatmon Executive Director National Equity Project Changing public perceptions takes time. Each interaction a potential supporter has with your brand contributes to the overall impression that person has about your organization and its value. A thoughtful branding process, including the development of key messages and visual cues, such as a new logo and website, will help you simultaneously build the desired brand and achieve your organization s day-today goals. 3

4 2. What does branding even mean? Think of branding as the process of asking, answering, and acting on a series of questions: 1. What is the current brand (reputation) of our organization? 2. Where is that brand strong and where is it weak? 3. Who are our most important audiences? 4. How do these audiences need to perceive our brand in order to support it? 5. How can our brand be conveyed succinctly? 6. What words, phrases, and key messages must we use to bring our brand to life? 7. How should we act, look, and sound to bring our brand into focus? 8. What marketing and fundraising tools must we create to disseminate these messages so the brand can be brought to life? 3. Should my organization consider a branding project? Probably. Because building a clear brand takes a lot of thought and time, many nonprofit organizations have not committed to the effort. Some make the mistake of thinking that they don t need a brand. Others think they don t have the staff time to devote to making branding a priority. Even if your organization is very clear internally about what you re in business to do and how you re doing it, chances are that your public portrayal of your work is not nearly as clear. Branding is the responsibility of everyone who works and volunteers for your organization. Our process at Mission Minded engages all of the right people in your organization and equips them to be highly effective representatives. A good branding process results in everyone, from the receptionist to the board president, understanding the brand and their role in promoting it as they go about their duties. Our approach is not cookie-cutter. Each engagement Mission Minded has with a nonprofit, foundation, independent school, or public sector organization is created to meet the needs of that organization. Variables that will impact our work with you include: The specific challenge your organization is facing The size and complexity of your organization The specific outcomes you desire The amount of research needed in order to make effective recommendations The amount of time you and your colleagues can devote The deadline by which you need the project to be completed 4

5 4. What does a branding process involve? In short, the branding process will require an investment of the key leadership s time and decision-making. Whether your organization needs to reposition a misunderstood or outdated brand, refresh a relatively strong brand, or create a new brand, Mission Minded has developed a clear process for leading you to success. Phase I: Brand Strategy Development We ll start by reading everything about you that we can get our hands on, and ask you all the questions about your organization that only an outsider with an unbiased approach would think to ask. And we ll ask, Why? to almost every answer we get. We like to challenge conventional wisdom, provoke conversation about whether assumptions hold true, and turn over every stone that might have a new insight under it. We re polite, but persistent. Thank you for all the guidance you provided throughout the last year. The experience was invaluable and lessons learned will be carried forward with us as we continue to build and expand our brand. Susan E. Rivers PhD, Deputy Director Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence We ll use a variety of means as appropriate, including oneon-one conversations; facilitating group discussions on the state of the organization ; web-based surveys; reading any previously conducted research; reviewing your strategic, marketing, or fundraising plans (if they exist); combing your website; and learning what has been written about you in the media. What we want to learn first is: How do internal stakeholders (staff, board, faculty, volunteers) perceive your organization and its value? Who are your most important constituents and how do you believe they perceive you? How do you believe your organization should be perceived in order to be more effective? What barriers, if any, exist to your being seen as you d like? How has your organization been portraying itself (intentionally and unintentionally?) 5

6 Once we get a handle on what insiders think of you, we ll move outward to survey the perceptions of your target audiences. If your budget allows for it, research among your constituents (existing and potential) is critical. Here s where we learn what people really think of you. Do you think donors see you as highly effective while they actually see you as too confusing to understand? Do you see yourself as lean and mean while volunteers see you as insensitive to my needs? Are donors or potential members confusing you with a similar organization, even though you see your work as being in a class of its own? Do your current supporters understand the full range of services you offer and your impact? Or do they see you only through a limited lens? Research is where Mission Minded learns what the barriers to your greater success are and how they can be overcome. Our methodology may include web-based surveys, private one-on-one conversations, focus groups of various sizes, or telephone surveys. We ll work closely with you to determine the best people from whom to gather opinions and the best mix of how to gather them. Research can be expensive, but it doesn t have to be. Mission Minded is experienced in working with nonprofit organizations to make maximum impact with small budgets. All of our clients have big things to accomplish and limited resources with which to do it. So we ll tailor the research phase to get you the most valuable information with the least expenditure possible. What if your budget doesn t allow for research at all? That can be okay, too. In this case Mission Minded will make recommendations to you based on the best practices of nonprofit marketing, our years of experience in effectively positioning organizations for success, and the internal wisdom we ll tap into to finalize our recommendations. That wisdom is a combination of yours and ours, and through Mission Minded s interactive, collaborative process you ll achieve amazing results. Authentic brands are the most powerful. They should be devised by those who know your organization best; listening to key stakeholders inside and outside the organization. But just as relying on a few senior leaders to decide on your organization s brand could lead to trouble, so too would completely outsourcing development of your brand strategy to consultants. Mission Minded has devised the perfect balance of both. Based on everything Mission Minded has learned, we ll get the right-brained people in your organization together with the left-brained people and talk about your BrandEquation. 6

7 Your BrandEquation is the elements of your brand that, when added together, form your overall brand. Your BrandEquation recommendations include the following: Target audience insights Brand Values Brand Personality Brand Value Proposition Brand Positioning We then help you summarize these into a Brand Promise, which is a succinct distillation of your brand and is the heart of what is most important for people to know about your work. A good brand promise acts as an inspirational rallying cry for all board, staff, volunteers, and others charged with making good on that promise to your external stakeholders. We ll recommend the right BrandEquation for you, explain our rationale, and how to use each component to its fullest power. How do we get there? Mission Minded has developed effective (and fun!) methodologies to gain these brand insights. We re here to help you determine your BrandEquation and you ll be best served by involving key staff and board members the people critical to creating and activating your brand. The highly interactive BrandEquation session begins with a discussion about what brand is, why it s important, and how it can help your organization be successful. We then move into exercises that draw out the insights that are the foundation for your brand, and identify the audiences critical to your organization s success. Time and time again we hear from our clients that this session is one of the most valuable steps in our process. It brings internal stakeholders together. It s one part brand education and one part brand exploration. The result is always the same: a group of participants feeling enthusiastic and aligned about being powerful brand ambassadors. Following the session, Mission Minded will report our findings and recommendations in a brand brief, including a draft BrandEquation for your review. We will discuss the draft with you and revise it as needed to ensure it is both on strategy and a comfortable fit. With the approval of your decision-making team, you ve got yourself a new brand strategy. 7

8 Phase II: Minute Message Model Once the brand strategy is set, the next step is to determine how to communicate the brand. To develop those messages that will serve your organization over the long term, Mission Minded developed the Minute Message Model. We ll engage you and your colleagues in an interactive session that is part training about what makes messages effective and part workshop to develop those messages with your staff and key board members. Following the Minute Message Model session, we will draft messages, including a One Minute Message (elevator pitch), more detailed messages that describe the problem your organization is in business to solve, the contributions you make to the world, and stories that show your impact. In addition, the document will include sound bites to sprinkle liberally throughout all communications that help keep everyone on message. We will work with you to revise the messages as needed to ensure that we capture your lingo while avoiding the use of jargon that can have the effect of excluding certain key audiences. At the end of this engagement with Mission Minded you will not only to have the answers on how to march mightily forward toward a stronger brand, you will understand the principles of good communication and how they apply to your particular organization. Our goal is to ensure everyone in your organization understands how to be better communicators and representatives. So our process and deliverables include not only good recommendations that are realistic for you to implement, but also instruction on getting the most out of them. At the end of the collaboration, you, your colleagues, and board members will be armed with strong messages and recommendations that will enable your whole team to consistently, confidently, and effectively tell your organization s story. Message recommendations typically include: Elevator pitch: The One Minute Message that conveys simple, high-level information about your organization and the problem it seeks to solve Two Minute Messages: More detail on why your organization exists, the problem it addresses, and its vision for a better world Five Minute Messages: Messages with stories that illustrate the impact of your organization s work Ten Minute Message: The work you do and how you do it 8

9 Refinement and Adoption of Message Recommendations We re nonprofit branding experts, and you re the experts on your own organization. We ll never know you as well as you know yourself. So in the Refinement phase we work with you to make adjustments to the brand and key message recommendations that are sure to succeed in helping you achieve a stronger reputation. Does what we recommend make sense? Does it feel right? While we ll base our recommendations on research and strategy, they have to work for you and your colleagues if a branding effort is going to be successful. After a few rounds of your feedback and our refinements, the brand and key message recommendations are complete and match the cultural realities of your organization. Phase III: BrandActivation Great brands know that the more powerfully they reinforce their value through consistency, the more likely supporters will be able to find them and remain loyal. Mission Minded will meet with organization leadership and guide you through a 90-minute evaluation. The session is designed to help you determine how the new brand promise should influence the way you look, the way you sound, and the way you act, so that you ll be sure the entirety of your organization is in brand alignment. We will work with you to determine the steps that you must take to effectively communicate your new brand internally and externally to your most important stakeholders. Building on the work that we do together, you will complete our BrandActivation outline so that, upon leaving the meeting, you and your colleagues have a detailed checklist for all actions you ll put into place in support of your new brand. Phase IV: Implementation Building a brand takes more than a branding and messaging framework. At the completion of Phase II, all you ll really have is the strategy or goal for the new reputation you wish to achieve and the key messages with which to start to do it. To achieve the goals set forth for the brand strategy, sending the right message is critical. At this point success often calls for reconsideration of your organization s brand elements. These may include: Name Logo Tagline Website And other external communications such as the fundraising case for support, annual reports, presentations, and brochures. 9

10 Mission Minded provides award-winning graphic design and writing based on sound strategy. Depending on your needs, we will write and design the tools that will give you the greatest impact for achieving your goals. We can also help you create the specific marketing plan that determines which tools you ll use to reach which audiences given the goals for your brand and your day-today work. 5. What does it cost and how long does it take? Below are ranges for how much each phase of work may cost, along with the typical length of time to conduct the work. In addition to the fees summarized below, it is critical for you to factor staff time into the cost of a branding project. You and your colleagues will be asked to participate in meetings and conversations with Mission Minded, to gather background information, to coordinate the participation of research study participants, and to give feedback to Mission Minded. While we will take the lead in driving your project forward and keeping it on track and on budget, you will be responsible for contributing time and ideas at various phases of the work. While it may be great fun to participate in this exciting work, it does take staff and volunteers away from their normal duties even if your organization is lucky enough to have people already dedicated to communications. Phase I: Brand Strategy Development $20,000 $100,000 (Note: The amount of research required is the biggest variable for this work.) 3 4 months Phase II: Minute Message Model and Message Development $7,500 15,000 6 weeks Phase III: BrandActivation Planning Typically included in all engagements with us; Single meeting following Phase II Phase IV: Implementation Visual Identity $15,000 $25, weeks Naming $7,500 $10,000 6 weeks Tagline Development $5,500 $7,500 4 weeks Website $35,000 and up, depending on scope Fundraising Case for Support $12,000 $25,000 for writing and design weeks including printing Admissions Viewbook $20,000 $40,000 for writing and design weeks including printing Annual Report $12,000 $40,000 for writing and design weeks including printing Note that printing, photography, and videography are additional and are researched and priced based on your needs. 10

11 6. How do we get started? If your organization has recognized that it will benefit from a stronger brand, or simply understands that more clear messages are needed in order to be better understood and better supported, please call us. We will be happy to develop a customized proposal for your organization based on your needs, budget, and timeline. Give us a call at or or Helping nonprofits, foundations, independent schools, and public agencies communicate their work and impact more clearly is what we all love to do here at Mission Minded and we feel privileged to do it. We look forward to talking with you and hope to be of service. If you haven t already, please visit our website to see our work and learn what our wonderful clients have to say about working with Mission Minded: Working with Mission Minded has been a highlight of my professional career. They are smart, creative, strategic, and fun! And, they deliver on time and on budget while keeping you informed the entire journey. Unique in my experience. M. Melanie Beene President & CEO Community Initiatives Mission Minded is a branding firm that works exclusively with nonprofits. We believe that foundations, independent schools, and public agencies can only have an impact if people understand the importance of their work not just what they do, but why it matters. Every day we partner with clients like San Francisco Opera, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and the Denver Art Museum to help them determine the brand or reputation for which they want to be known. Then we help them bring that brand to life through key messages, logo design, web design, and more. As a result, our clients successfully raise more money and attract the support they need to achieve their goals. To find out how Mission Minded can help your organization, call us today at

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