“Brand” has been defined as many things in both for-profit and nonprofit fields: a symbol or identifier, a logo or an image, a psychological perception of a company, an asset.
In the nonprofit world, branding has experienced a paradigm shift that has moved away from simple imagery to the embodiment of mission and values. Branding goes far beyond a logo, and when managed well, can project our promise to the community, our expertise as a network, and our care and passion for our mission.
Last month, I had the pleasure of joining Community Action Partnership, and several colleagues from across the country, at the 2017 Branding Summit. Together, with Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel, authors of The Brand IDEA, we discussed the impact managing our brand could have on the communities we serve.
According to the authors, the brand IDEA framework includes three components:
Brand Integrity aligns the identity and image of the agency with its mission, values, and strategies. Identity is the internal view, and image is the external perception. Managing our brand’s integrity will result in cohesion and trust for a strong organizational and brand foundation.
Brand Democracy engages stakeholders, both internal and external. Agencies who regularly engage their staff, board, volunteers, donors, legislators, and community in two-way conversations can create strong brand ambassadors who will help to communicate your brand to others they encounter. By engaging your community and empowering stakeholders, your agency can gain community participation and support.
Brand Affinity refers to how agencies extend their influence beyond the walls of their organization and into the community in which they serve to enhance and maximize social impact. Brand Affinity goes beyond the success of just the agency and dives deep into the success of the mission—in the case of Community Action, to alleviate poverty and help low-income people become self-sufficient. Affinity recognizes that all organizations have strengths in different areas and can work alongside each other to develop strong ideas, projects, and programs to make a greater impact.
Brand management has shifted away from a single departmental responsibility to all levels of an organization. We are no longer managing just a logo, but together we are managing our brand and how we are viewed by those we encounter. As we shift our stakeholders to also act as brand ambassadors, we can “free the brand” and open ourselves up to possibilities beyond our current reach. Whether your agency uses the national Community Action “huggy heart” logo, or a logo unique to you, we can also maintain our strong connection to the Community Action Network’s history and heritage through the relationships we build and the stories we share.
I highly suggest leaders across the Community Action Network take the time to read The Brand IDEA to learn more about the IDEA framework to engage your staff, board, and community.
Kathryn has over a decade of nonprofit experience with more than half of that time spent directly in the Community Action Network. She manages the association’s public relations and communications efforts, as well as supports member agencies’ communications. Kathryn earned undergraduate degrees in business management, marketing, and photography from Ohio University, and graduated Summa Cum Laude from Franklin University in Communications. Kathryn also earned her master’s degree in mass communication and public relations from Kent State University.