Three Small Words Can Help Build Your Nonprofit Brand

EAG, August 15, 2004

As originally appeared in the Jeffrey Byrne & Associates, Inc. newsletter, News You Can Use

At the recent American Marketing Association Nonprofit Marketing Conference, one theme kept recurring among speakers and facilitators: a solid brand message must be developed and delivered internally, long before any external advertising is created. 

But developing a brand message is easier said than done. While most nonprofits painstakingly create vision and mission statements, the brand statement (also called brand positioning) is not usually a focus, and is often missing from internal and external language.  An unclear brand message can result in poor communication to the community and decreased advertising impact.

But how do you know if your brand message is intact? Assemble key members or your organization, including volunteers, board members and staff.  Ask the group to individually describe “What we do,” using only three words.  The result might look like this: We help people. We build bridges. We create hope.

If the assembled group has widely divergent answers, then the brand message is already unclear, even among your internal audience.

Building a powerful brand positioning statement begins the same way.  Through dialogue and consensus, the group should agree on the three key words that describes “What we do.”

Then the exercise expands, adding words to the statement in segments. In each case, answer a specific question that focuses on your audience or customer. You may also include questions and statements that distinguish you from competitors or others with similar services.

Each statement segment builds your brand position with clarity. For example, the results of a brand positioning exercise might result in a series of statements like this:

We create hope (what we do), for families facing financial crisis (for whom), through counseling and support (how), in a faith-based community environment (unique proposition).

This statement then expands to fill your communication needs, but the strength of this exercise is that each person who helped create the wording will carry the same message to others in the organization and in the community. A brand positioning statement must have champions whose challenge is to permeate the organization with these words and phrases. Repetition is the key to memory. The average American is exposed to over 3,000 advertising brand messages a day. Consistent delivery of the same words and phrases, developed with thought and clarity, is the first step in building an effective brand.

How much time and energy should you devote to establishing a series of brand positioning statements? As much time as necessary to develop a clear and concise message. In absence of this process, future communications and advertising can significantly lose its impact. Three small words can help start a process that will add power to your message. Big consumer brands have understood the importance of brand positioning for some time.  Many in the nonprofit community also understand the value of the process. If your organization has yet to explore your unique brand position, consider the importance of spending a little time to make your words more powerful and more memorable.


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