Branding and Messaging Handout

Telling the PLT Story – 2012 PLT Conference session – Thursday, May 17
What is a Brand?
A brand can be viewed as the "personality" of your organization. It is also the "gut feeling" someone has
about your organization. A brand serves social, emotional and functional needs. It's much more than
selling a product or service - it's selling an experience. For example, Nike sells motivation. Apple sells
innovation. An organization or program should "own" a consistent persona, so it can build enduring
relationships with supporters and stakeholders. What does PLT “sell?” What is PLT’s persona?
What is Branding?
Branding is the process of creating a clear, consistent message about your organization or program.
Branding creates visibility and convinces supporters of the organization's value. The essence of branding
is developing a clear identity. This identity needs to be supported by relevant messages that are
consistently communicated through the best channels to reach your target audience.
What Makes a Strong Brand?
The best brands elicit positive emotional responses because people understand and identify with your
mission and know that the organization is consistently true to it. When carefully developed and
nurtured, the brand becomes the fabric of an organization’s culture. Over the long-term, organizations
with strong brands become well known and tend to raise more money. Brands are about emotion
because people make decisions largely on emotion.
Branding is a five-step process:
1. Conduct a SWOT analysis
 Strengths - What do we do best? How do we want our target audiences to view us?
What distinguishes us from our “competition”?
 Weaknesses - In what ways do we have trouble clearly explaining to people outside our
field what we do?
 Opportunities - Can we identify an expanding market for our products and services?
What is the current economic landscape of our community?
 Threats - Are there external factors that would prohibit our organization from
promoting our brand? Who are our “competitors”? How much do we know about
2. Determine what messages your audiences want or need to hear
 To complete this step, you will need to think about what’s relevant to your audience. If
you can survey a representative number of your audience and/or conduct a focus group,
that’s helpful. If not, be sure to learn as much as you can about what are the main
concerns, desires, attitudes of your target audience. What is the context in which your
messages will be heard? For example, the administration is going to care about costs;
the teacher, how to keep their kids interested and engaged; the parent, is my kid getting
a good education, etc. etc.
What are your audiences’ wants, values, habits, and preferences?
3. Create a "messaging package"
 A 'messaging package' is a compilation of the core messages you want your brand to
convey. Its purpose is to help you stay on message whenever you communicate
information about your organization. It includes such things as a tagline, a mission
statement, a positioning statement (a “repetitive persuasive message”), supporting
statements (e.g., audience-specific “talking points”), visual direction, and a logo.
4. Before finalizing your messaging package, take it on a test drive
 Test your messages. Get real reactions from real people to your messages. This step is
absolutely necessary to make sure that the words or messages you have picked mean
what you think they mean to your audience.
5. Deliver your messages, over and over again
 Once you have a set of core messages, they need to be delivered and used consistently
in all communications.
Branding is not marketing and advertising (although both of those activities will help your brand).
Branding is about “selling” everything associated with your organization. To be successful, be
consistent. Incorporate the essence of your brand in every element of communication.
Components of a Successful Brand
By assessing your organization or program’s strengths in each area, you’ll begin to understand how your
brand value can be built, communicated and delivered.
1. Reputation
 How well known is your organization?
2. Esteem
 How highly thought of is your organization?
3. Differentiation
 With 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, to stand out, you have to
be very clear. Are there other organizations out there that do what your organization
does? Is your organization distinct from others in the minds of your target audiences?
4. Relevance
 How important are your organization’s mission and activities to the concerns of your
target audiences?
5. Credibility
 Before someone makes that online donation or steps up to volunteer their time, they
have to believe that your organization has the ability to deliver on its promise.
6. Authenticity
 Successful organizations know that they need to go beyond the support from people
who are directly affected by the issue they are working on to attract a wider audience.
By speaking authentically about the challenges you face as well as the expertise you
bring to solving the problem, you make it easier for people to trust your organization
and ultimately to volunteer their time or donate their money
Ten Have-Tos for Powerful Messaging
1. Must convey your organization or program’s impact or value.
2. Must be persuasive.
3. Must be memorable, avoiding jargon and acronyms.
4. Must be succinct. Simplicity plus brevity = clarity.
5. Must be relevant to your target audience.
6. Should make an emotional connection.
7. Should capture the spirit or promise of your organization or program.
8. Should take the tone that will connect with your audiences.
9. Should be authentic.
Make sure your organization can stand behind your messages, 100%. When you do, you build
credibility. When you don’t, you may lose what credibility you have.
10. Should be specific to your organization, not easily used by another nonprofit.
This is a particularly tough one, but differentiation is the name of the game. Otherwise, it’s just a
“me too”.