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It’s Time to Double Down on These Branding Best Practices

Posted by on August 21st, 2020
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Messaging   

Let’s face it: 2020 has caused us all to rethink things. Yet amid so much change, there’s an important discipline you should cling to: your brand. Even in these uncertain times, the foundational best practices of branding and messaging can guide you, making it easier to maintain a deep connection with your target audiences. Here’s how.

Know Your Audiences and Their Changing Priorities

Your brand hasn’t changed, but your messages will need to adjust to address the changing needs of the causes you serve as well as your audiences. Look at the audience profiles brand was designed to delight – who are they? Have their motivations changed because of the current times? How can your messaging and stories adapt to address these changes? The basics of good storytelling are unchanged by this era. View your messages through the lens of what your audiences need to hear, not just what you want to say.

Lean into Your Brand Values and Personality

Your brand values are the core of who you are as an organization; they are the ideals that you strive to live every day. Lean into these values, allowing them to guide how you act, what you say, what you do and how you look. The more you live and demonstrate your values in action the more engaged your supporters, who presumably shard those values, will be.

This is also the time to remember to let your brand personality shine; now is not the time to change how you look and sound. Your supporters want the reassurance that you are still you, and that your work is meeting the realities of today. So show them your true colors, how you’re meeting the needs of these times with your own unique and on-brand flair.

Leverage Strong Messaging

Strong, brand-centered messaging can engage audiences every time, whether you have one minute or 10 minutes to tell your organization’s story; this is no different in the COVID-19 world we live in now. How can you do this? Our Minute Message Model below is a tried-and-true method for creating messages that get results.

Belief Message

Your belief message is arguably the most important communication you can have. Think of it like an “elevator pitch,” or the top-line statement that concisely summarizes your work while capturing the attention of your audiences quickly. A strong belief message follows our formula:

[Your organization’s name], believes [deeply held value]. Every day we [verb] [object] for [constituents]. Because [problem statement or opportunity statement].

Need an example? We recently wrapped up branding, messages, visual identity, and website projects with Eden Housing, an organization focused on maintaining and creating affordable housing solutions in communities throughout California. Here is their belief message:

Eden Housing is a non-profit with more than 50 years of experience in tackling affordable housing from all angles. We believe that home is where your start is.

Every day, we create the housing needed to make sure all of our neighbors have a place to call home. And advocate for still more. Because safe and affordable housing helps families stay secure, allows communities to thrive, and solves many of our cities’ most pressing challenges.

Problem Message

Your problem messages are the next level of detail down in your messaging inventory. They should focus on the “why” of your organization. More specifically, what’s the challenge that only your organization can solve? The basis of these answers is the format for your problem messages (you may have a few in order to address all of your key audience stakeholders).

Here is an example of a problem message from Eden Housing aimed at their local government official and lender audiences:

Most people understand that housing in California is a problem. Many acknowledge the need for bold solutions that address all income levels, especially those at lower incomes. It’s easy to see the problem. But it’s risky and difficult to work tirelessly to solve that problem. In a polarizing environment where too many leaders are overwhelmed by the difficulty of tackling the housing crisis, our state needs someone who will take risks; someone who can effectively corral all the players and model the will and the way to “get to yes” on affordable housing.

Impact Message

Now it’s time to paint a picture of the impact of your work. What happens as a result of your efforts? It may be tempting to bring in data and statistics here, but numbers are not as powerful as a good story. Your impact messages can follow the following format:

  • Introduce your characters
  • Explain the plot/conflict
  • Describe the resolution/outcome
  • Explain how only your organization could have created this outcome

Note: Too many nonprofits have fallen into the habit of focusing on the deficits of the communities they serve rather than their aspirations. Ensure that your impact messages utilize asset-based framing instead, steering away from problematic results like White saviorism. A common nonprofit example is the reference to “at-risk youth.” Consider, instead, that this is a student overcoming systemic challenges who is aspiring to graduate.

Detail Messages

Detail messages are just what they sound like – the details of your work and programming that you are likely well-versed in internally. Although important, this information is strategically at the end of your messages inventory so that audiences are introduced to the more compelling aspects of your your organization first.

These messages should describe the specifics of your project, program, or approach. Not all of your audiences will even care about these if you’ve given them enough to get excited about with your Belief Message and your Problem Messages that demonstrate how your nonprofit is making a difference. Detail messages:

  • Detail how you achieve results
  • Explain programmatic details
  • Name operational specifics
  • Invite the reader/listener’s participation

So double down on these branding and messages best practices to engage with and mobilize your audiences into action, now and always.

If you want to refine your brand’s messaging to align with these changing times, Mission Minded can help! Let us know how we can support your next brand or messaging project.


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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