How to develop a strong brand strategy - Free Checklist

Earlier this year Macmillan Cancer Support was recognised as the UK’s top charity brand by YouGov’s CharityIndex. This is the third year in a row where it has topped the polls and the win is well deserved; with its strong branding, commitment to healthcare and evidence of improving services for those affected by cancer, its clear message is a great example for other charity organisations to aspire to.

For smaller non-profit organisations in Northern Ireland however, it’s important to acknowledge the financial budgets Macmillan works with to maintain this high standard of success. For instance, in 2014 Macmillan raised over £215.2 million, which afforded a £4.05m spend on online support via Macmillan websites and social media to increase its exposure online. (Read the Annual Report)

In Northern Ireland, research to date from the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI) shows that more than 7 out of 10 charities have an income of less than £100,000 per year, and 25% have under £10,000 per year. The work these local charities carry out in our communities is as important as larger charities, but various constraints can make it a difficult challenge to reach their targets and goals.

At Green17 we work with several clients in the charity and non-profit sector and understand that it can be difficult to invest in your online presence when dealing with limited budgets and resources. However, digital marketing is a worthwhile opportunity and with the right guidance it can gain big results with just a small level of investment in time and money.

With this in mind, we wanted to share some helpful free advice and tips for NI non-profit organisations online. There's lots to think about including how to use social media for charities, increase your search engine traffic and craft successful email campaigns, but we’re going to start with the most important thing to get right – branding!

Branding – getting your message right

When I say branding most people think of logos, and you would be right, a logo is highly important to get right. However, branding covers much more than just a logo; it’s your name, your image, your tone of voice, the way you communicate with the media and the public, your staff and volunteers. It’s someone interacting with your organisation in some way, and recognising it immediately with your brand, who you are and what you do.

Whether you want to create a new brand for your organisation, or you’re trying to strengthen your existing brand, here are the 5 top things you need to consider:

Be clear about who you help and what you can offer

This is without doubt, the most essential thing you should get right for your brand. Once you’re clear on the specific people you’re helping (age, background, location, socio-economic status etc), and truly understand the services you offer you need to confidently convey this through a strong identifiable logo and strapline. Remember to keep your straplines short, simple and consistent. Once chosen, use the organisation’s name and strapline in every possible means of communication to ensure future recognition and brand association always comes first.

Girlguiding Ulster is a great example of a non-profit organisation in Northern Ireland promoting a strong brand both online and offline. Its blue and pink logo is instantly recognisable and the friendly yet responsible tone of voice for parents and children is rolled out through all communication via web, print, and interaction with staff and volunteers. Girlguiding Ulster makes its message clear from the first line of its website and clearly demonstrates why and how to get involved.

An effective way to understand your stakeholders and their expectations is by asking questions directly through online surveys, and creating action points based on the results you receive.

Why not try incentivising these with shopping vouchers or tickets to improve your responses? It costs little in return for the valuable information you can glean to help strengthen your brand!

Understand what you want your brand to achieve

You might want to get more volunteers, more online donations, support from more funders or you just want more users to benefit from your services – it’s important to remember this is the end goal of your online efforts and investment. Make sure your brand reaches out and makes your needs clear to the right people. A short and simple strapline, clear calls to action on your website and perhaps some impressive statistics on your accomplishments will help to explain your goals to the public and encourage involvement from online visitors.

Action Cancer do this well using prominent categorisation between “How we can help you” and “How you can help us” on the homepage which clarifies the organisation’s goals for online visitors. They also incorporate simple graphics to present their results and statistics in a quickly digestible format for visitors.

Stick to Brand Guidelines – both web and print

Make it as easy as possible for your staff, volunteers and the media to follow the brand guidelines (both offline and online) for your organisation by making them easily accessible on your website. Gaining media attention can have a huge impact on a non-profit organisation and if someone is promoting your organisation through a news article, press release, print material or another way your organisation should be responsible for ensuring they use the correct logo, colours and are on board with the agreed tone of voice for your brand.

If you’re not keen on housing this information directly on your website, make sure that you are prompting people to ask for it via phone or email.

Communicate with a vibrant & friendly personality

A consistent tone of voice can be hard to achieve when you have multiple content writers across different mediums but nailing this is key to a strong and memorable brand. There are many writing styles ranging from professional and educational to conversational, relaxed or witty, and particularly for non-profit organisations we would recommend staying in more informal territory. You should want your audience to feel that you’re all in this together and that you’re easy to relate to therefore a more conversational, open and friendly tone is what seemingly works best.

The Prince's Trust in Northern Ireland is a great example of non-profit who does this excellently. Its tone of voice is fluid across all online and offline communications whether generated from its website, email campaigns, social media, or staff and volunteers.

Brand Guidelines will help you to pin down the exact tone for your brand and explain this to your content creators to achieve consistency across your website, social media profiles, print articles, radio/TV advertisements and more. For social media in particular, determine what opinions and viewpoints your organisation hold before allowing your organisation to comment on topical issues and debates - this can do a lot of damage to your brand if not controlled properly.

Be ready for spontaneous fundraising opportunities

A great example of this is 2014’s #nomakeupselfie campaign by Cancer Research UK which raised over £8 million in a matter just a few days. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula to making content go viral online (we all wish there was!) but what’s particularly interesting about this campaign is that it wasn’t actually Cancer Research’s idea… but they were quick to react to the trending hashtag #nomakeupselfie and use it as a springboard for what quickly became a viral campaign.

The key to these campaigns is to connect with people on an emotional level, and make it easy to get involved and donate through mobiles and social media, communication tools which are used on a daily basis by a large percentage of people.

These tips will help to get you asking the right questions and set you on course for improving your new or existing brand as a non-profit organisation in Northern Ireland. Creating a strong brand doesn’t need to be expensive, but it does need to be well-planned and consistent if you want to start seeing the results you want.

Why not schedule some time to conduct a full review on your current brand and pinpoint any areas you feel could be improved?