Today, most nonprofits know that maintaining strong, positive brand positioning is as important to their health and well-being as are their activities aimed at keeping donors informed and engaged or their staff members motivated. Yet, like so many things we have to worry about, understanding what it takes to maintain brand excellence is markedly different than it was just a few years ago.
Today, with so much of a brand’s identity is channeled through informal social networking and other web 2.0 user-directed interactivity rather than paid advertising and traditional media coverage, how do you protect and nurture your brand? What and who do you measure to understand brand impact? And, does it make any sense to try to measure brand impact in traditional ways when influence and brand value have been put on the digital public common for all of us to tweet or blog about.
Your nonprofit’s brand value is no longer protected behind the marketing director’s gate. Rather, it now takes a very smart, savvy marketer to know how to let go of the urge to “manage the brand”( really outdated language that implies controlling the brand) and instead “guiding the brand experience” which is a more realistic way to understand and nurture brand excellence in a world where anyone can grab your brand identity, trash it, embrace it, and do who-knows-what-with it.
Nonprofit marketers need to stay both cool and current. You need to be in the moment; participate and know what people are doing with or saying about your brand and be poised to give those brand activists support that enhances the brand’s value (always in an honest and transparent way – like up to the moment and accurate information about your work; testimonials; facts; statements of performance) and prepared to dispassionately counter those unhappy people who had a negative experience with your brand (including those very few bad actors out there looking to destroy you) who may choose to virally spread negative messages about your organization.
Your job is not to be gatekeeper. That is over. Your job is to be always mindful of both the opportunities for brand support and enhancement (think of that unknown army of friends who each have 50 friends they tweet routinely) and ever watchful for the critics (both legitimate and otherwise) who will from time to time, put your brand identity through the wringer of public scrutiny.
Certainly, there is still a valid place for traditional, well-placed media stories and even paid advertising; but today the brand nurturing job is more about looking beyond the basics and realizing that your brand is an asset that people either want to associate with or not. Its’ value is determined by the marketplace. The question is what are you doing to assure they want a positive association between their personal brand and yours and what are your doing to make your brand one that everyone wants to wear? And, figuring out how to use the new metrics that matter so that you have a handle on the pulse of your brand as users experience it.
Gail Hyman is a marketing and communications professional who currently focuses her practice, Gail Hyman Consulting, on assisting Jewish nonprofit organizations increase their ranks of supporters and better leverage their communications in the Web 2.0 environment. Gail is a regular contributor to eJewish Philanthropy.