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A Branding Mistake We Almost Made

Posted by on August 5th, 2014
Posted in Blog   

At Mission Minded we counsel our clients to think of branding as everybody’s job. It’s not only the responsibility of the executive director, or the marketing committee of the board, or the marketing director (if you’re lucky enough to have one). Once you’ve set the strategy for your brand, everyone who works and volunteers for your organization has a role in bringing it to life.

We also teach that your brand gets built one interaction at a time. Your public decides what your brand is based on what you say, how you look, what you do, and how you act.

People make conclusions about what kind of an organization you are based on every single experience they have with you – not just the formal communications carefully crafted for public consumption.

Remembering that brand should impact everything you do at your organization is not always easy. Take it from us. We recently made a huge mistake by missing the opportunity to reflect our brand’s personality in a vital communication – one that should have gotten to the heart of who we are.

We have a job opening for a nonprofit brand strategist at Mission Minded. We’re not a traditional branding agency since we work exclusively with nonprofits. We’re here to bring out the best of the nonprofit and foundation clients we serve by finding the best of ourselves in order to do it. In short, we amplify the good internally so we can help our nonprofit clients do it, too.

As we were about to go live with the job posting for this very important position – a position we’re hoping to fill with someone who really understands the Mission Minded brand and what makes us special – a senior brand strategist on our team yelled, “Stop the presses!”

The job description we had drafted was as dry, humorless, and traditional as any you’ll ever read. We had made the classic mistake we counsel our clients to avoid: The description of the position said one thing, but did the opposite. It described Mission Minded literally using our brand personality attributes (professional, good communicators, confident, warm & friendly, quick-witted, optimistic and accommodating), but failed to illustrate them. Here’s an example:

“As a Nonprofit Brand Strategist at Mission Minded your role will be to develop successful brand positioning plans on behalf of our clients. You will conduct and analyze qualitative and quantitative research, facilitate brand strategy meetings, write brand documents, act as a client liaison, write messages, and provide counsel, as needed. Our clients have multiple stakeholders and often operate within complex organizational structures offering a range of programming to their constituents.”

And here’s how we re-wrote a portion of it to make sure our warm & friendly, accommodating, professional voice came through:

“As in all good strategy development, we are constantly pushing ourselves and our clients to think bigger, broader, deeper. We like to challenge assumptions. We like to look at problems from multiple angles to find the best solution for a nonprofit. So being someone who is comfortable with collaboration, input, and iterative thinking is key.

We’re a small company, and we genuinely value and respect one another. We don’t mind being stuck in an airport together on a business trip. In fact, because all of us are based in home offices, we welcome the chance to see each other non-virtually (and we enjoy our Tuesday morning video staff meetings).”

Your brand is your reputation. How do people perceive you and your work? What’s the big idea behind how you achieve your mission and how you’re unique from all of the other similar organizations out there? Being clear on the answer to these questions will help you improve everything you do, and drafting the right player to be on your team will be just one of the many important ways in which you do it.


Jennie Winton is a Founding Partner of Mission Minded, a 25-year marketing veteran sought for her expertise in branding nonprofit organizations, and a one-on-one leadership coach.

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