The author is the Marketing and Communications Manager of Mission Minded client, Children’s Council of San Francisco.
From the spring of 2013, when we began our branding engagement, through June of 2014, when we launched our new web site, a group of us at Children’s Council of San Francisco got to know our colleagues at Mission Minded quite well.
And Children’s Council derived a number of benefits from that work. We have a clear sense of who we are and the reputation we are committed to building. We know how to describe the impact of our work (cool!) instead of bogging it down with programmatic details (yawn…). We also have a great new visual identity to use as a platform.
So good for us, right? But how can you make the most of an engagement with Mission Minded? Here are some top-level takeaways from our experience at Children’s Council:
Trust Mission Minded and express your own ideas
Trusting our Mission Minded team was central to our project. We also pushed back on some of their recommendations. You can do both without any contradiction. The folks at Mission Minded are very good at what they do. And you can be 100% confident they have your best interests at heart. These are people who truly enjoy helping their clients achieve greater results.
And yet you and your team are the experts on your organization. So speak up if there are language or design recommendations that don’t feel right. There is thinking behind everything Mission Minded recommends. It can’t hurt to throw your ideas in there, talk it through, and see what develops.
Involve a wide range of people in brainstorming and evaluating ideas
A big factor in our engagement was involving a highly diverse group of staff and board. We have about 110 employees. For the large input sessions we invited 20 participants, which included four board members. In terms of staff we had people from every program, those up and down the org chart, lengths of service from 15+ years to practically brand new, and a wide range of cultural backgrounds.
The diversity of perspectives and experience at the table gave insight into who Children’s Council serves and how we are seen. It also gave everyone the chance to understand why some big changes were needed and approach solutions collaboratively. And in the long run, the staff who participated became the biggest internal cheerleaders as we rolled out the branding work to the entire organization.
Limit decision-making to a small group
While a wide range of perspectives will help you create the best brand strategy, in the end, final decisions should be made by a small group of people entrusted with leading the project.
It’s best to make clear to all of your colleagues early on who the decision making person or group will be so there is no confusion. It’s then the responsibility of this group to share its thinking on what decisions were made and why. This allows everyone to feel good about their participation in the process, even if their personal word choices or other details were not adopted.
Impress upon everyone that a branding project is a beginning, not an end
I mentioned that a branding project is a beginning, not an end. There’s a lot of work in figuring out your audiences, the reputation you want to have, and the messages you’re going to use along the way. Maybe you even design an awesome new logo!
Yet all of that crucial work is a lot like spring training or rehearsals. You’re getting ready behind the scenes for what the public will eventually see. One lesson I learned the hard way is that planning ahead for all of the new stuff that needs to be created is huge. Each organization is different. But you can imagine new brochures, stationery, signage, flyers, social media pages, web content, and so on.
All of that makes for a lot of projects and deadlines in a compressed time period. Especially if you’re changing your logo and visual identity, get started early making your list of what you need to produce and perhaps prioritize items you need on “Day One” of your launch, versus those that might come later. Mission Minded facilitates a session called BrandActivation to help you think this through.
Emphasize early on that your organization can’t control its reputation, it can only influence
Finally, remember that building (or changing) a reputation takes time. You can’t wave a magic wand. You have to do it one interaction at a time. That means direct client service, web visits, newsletters, phone calls, and all the other ways you interact with your constituents. But knowing the brand you’re trying to build sure makes it all a lot easier.
Check out more about our collaboration and see our new brand in action here.
If you have other specific questions about getting the most from your engagement with Mission Minded feel free to email me.