Your Message Matters
Why A New Website Won’t Solve Your Branding Problem
Today’s nonprofit business leaders consider their websites to be a key tool that is essential to the success of their efforts. This is good for their organization, as well as agencies like ours; after all, our work in online communications often focuses on helping mission-based organizations use the web to succeed, thrive, and facilitate their mission online. It's what we do.
However, even though just about everyone agrees on the importance of a web presence, the content that goes with it is too often an afterthought. We have noticed that many Community Action Agencies and other non-profits struggle to effectively communicate what they are about – their brand – including the organization’s key message and their larger role in the community. This is a more significant problem than most people realize.
More Than Marketing Jargon
Concepts like "Brand Identity” and "Messaging Strategy" can sound as if they are more appropriate to selling packaged goods than to providing services for vulnerable populations. But the truth is that today it often takes a strong, well-articulated Brand Identity to reach and prompt a reaction from both those who benefit from your organization’s programs and those who donate to or otherwise support it.
This is often amplified for Community Action Agencies, since much of the public is only vaguely aware of Community Action Programs (CAPs), even within target communities, and just as often do not understand exactly what they do. That results in a great need for ongoing public education and awareness efforts, which can eat up needed funds, time., and other resources. But building a strong Brand and an effective Messaging Strategy not only makes your organization more effective, it can also greatly reduce your costs for marketing, fundraising, and operations – including your website.
A Weak Brand Can Cost More Than Money
Think about any cause, product, or service you have heard of, but don’t truly understand – any one at all. What are the chances that you will buy that product if you don’t know what it does or how well it does its job? How likely are you to donate money to a cause if you don’t understand what they do?
Without a strong Brand Identity, you‘ll need to spend more on advertising, web tools, and other marketing and operations materials every time you try to raise money or initiate an action –because your target audiences don’t understand you.
Having a weak Brand Identity or vague Messaging Strategy also makes it more costly for you to build a new website or carry out fundraising and awareness campaigns. How? Without a strong Brand Identity, your marketing team will need to explore one direction and another and another to find the right message and images to build with for every outreach effort. It’s a very inefficient use of time and talent, often with so-so results.
Perhaps most importantly, a weak Brand Identity and Messaging Strategy means that you may not be reaching the very people who need your services most.
A Strong Brand Benefits CAAs More than Most
A strong Brand Identity relentlessly educates target audiences every time they are exposed to your brand so that they know why you exist and what you do. All of which makes it significantly more likely that, at the right moment, they will immediately also think of why they should support you.
If the only thing that developing a strong, clear Brand Identity and Messaging Strategy achieves is to build a foundation that assures your constituents will understand your purpose, all efforts toward that are a wise investment of resources. Again, people only trust or support causes that they understand. But the benefits of a strong brand go well beyond constituent understanding, especially for Community Action Agencies.
When a CAA develops and adopts a Brand Identity that is clear, memorable, and meaningful to the communities it serves, and to other key target audiences, it benefits in 6 significant ways:
- Increased trust and participation by those whom the CAA serves;
- Increased trust and support by financial donors, government officials, and the media;
- Increased volunteerism and legacy/alumnus involvement;
- Lower marketing costs with higher ROI per effort;
- Lower staff and volunteer training costs;
- Decreased resistance to the mission by current and potential agitators
A Strong Brand Carries Across Media
Once your organization has developed a strong messaging strategy to represent your brand, that will lay the foundation for all of your communications, whether online of offline. This means that everything you produce – from you’re your website, to brochures and handouts, social media, direct mail, and billboards – will carry a consistent message that reinforce one another every single time they are viewed. This means that not only is your message going to be more effective across all media, but the media will be less costly to produce because you have a strong established foundation to build on.
What You Can Do
How much of each benefit above experienced by different CAAs and other nonprofits vary, but all originate from the same place – better understanding of why they exist, whom they help, and how their actions benefit the communities in which they operate. When you use all of that to create a powerful, tactically-astute Brand Identity and Messaging Strategy, it strengthens every aspect of your organization.
Whether you turn to an outside branding agency to craft your messages or choose to try it internally, the overriding question to be asked throughout the process is, “What one clear thought will accurately explain to a total stranger what we are genuinely about?” To help get to the root of this question, start with fundamentals, including:
- Do a SWOT Analysis to support a roadmap for determining who you are as an organization.
- Review recent surveys and studies to learn what audience perceptions of you are most and least accurate.
- Survey your staff and volunteers to learn what they think your mission / purpose is.
- Collect and review testimonials about your organization and REALLY READ THEM as feedback about your success helping others.
- Analyze the branding of competitors to see what they are doing and what you do better than them.
- Apply all learning to plans for future programs.
Of course, how you turn this research into creative, effective, and memorable Brand Identity materials is a whole other step, but one that’s well worth taking.
To learn more, simply complete the form below and we’ll be happy to follow-up with additional information, including:
- Needs Assessment
- Cost Estimates
- Questions & Answers