How to leverage your brand as a strategic asset for your nonprofit.
At St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, we’ve been on a brand transformation journey of our own the last 10 years. Today, we have strong brand awareness and excel in key brand health metrics – and it’s because we intentionally focused on our brand strategy. Below are a few steps we took to lean into the power of our brand that can help guide you on your brand journey.
1. Start with research.
That’s right – homework. To fully leverage your brand, you will need to research and understand how others perceive it. The words, logos, and language that comprises your brand can trigger powerful associations with your target audience. To fully uncover this information, you’ll want to gather feedback by using multiple methodologies.
- Focus Groups
- Employee feedback
- Competitive Analysis
- Social Media Impressions & Engagement
- Creative and Messaging Audit
2. Take the time to get your story right.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so take the time to nail the details. Take a moment to look at the mission statement of successful nonprofits. In the nonprofit space, we all want to impact the greater good, but it’s essential to stand apart and position your organization as fulfilling a certain need.
When building your brand story, let your research be your story’s guide. Be authentic to your mission, placing careful emphasis on standing out amongst your sister chartities. By paying careful attention to the language you use, you can differentiate yourself from similar causes. Finally, identify the core pillars that define your values and culture. These foundational elements will help inspire the audience to remember your brand and come away with positive perceptions.
3. Empower everyone to be accountable for your brand.
This is a group effort and each person plays a partin making decisions on behalf of your brand. Take the time to educate your team, making sure that they understand the importance of your brand strategy and reputation. Equally important is leadership. Consistent, genuine, and transparent leadership can inspire purpose-driven accountability.
4. Know your audience.
Identifying your audience is an essential step on the way to building a strong brand. In order to connect with your audience, you need to understand who they are. What moves them? What compels them? Your initial urge may be to cast a wide net, but it’s important to have focus. Your brand cannot be all things to all people. Uncover how they think, what they want, and how they speak. Utilize your research findings to gauge what is most motivating for your audience. Given the impact your brand will have on the lives and well-being of others, you have an even greater responsibility to reach your audience effectively.
5. Meet them where they are.
Media consumption habits continue to evolve and change at a quick pace, meaning your single ad on a single network may not reach your entire audience. Take the time to properly evaluate your audience and learn where they’re consuming information. Embrace this as an opportunity to be even more precise, responsive, and efficient in delivering messaging to your audiences.
6. Lean into innovation while staying true to core values.
Sitting still is a surefire way to get left behind – especially in a day and age where disruptions to the status quo seem to come at a faster pace. In the face of disruption, transformation and innovation are essential. Start small, test new innovations, and gather insights before investing heavily. As we move forward, it will be important to embrace positive, future-facing innovation while remaining true to the central tenets of your brand.
Just as the landscape around us is constantly in flux, your nonprofit’s brand will evolve. While your mission will remain concrete, it will always be important to adapt. By carefully and consistently applying your brand story, leaning into your differentiators and evaluating your audience’s response, you can create an environment ripe for success.