You’ve probably heard a zillion times by now that the best marketing communications involve telling stories. Stories that define your brand. Stories that your customers/donors can readily absorb and respond to emotionally. Stories penetrate. So, are you telling stories? And how effectively?
Here’s a branding creative, Chad Cipoletti, writing on the subject, "Three Questions Every Brand’s Story Must Answer."
His questions (plus my slight rewrites) and explanations …
Are you inward-focused or outward-focused with your marketing and fundraising?
If your organization's style standards restrict your ability to create highly emotional messages, you’re leaving money on the table. Here are seven ideas that will help your organization develop branding requirements that will make your life a lot easier:
A strong brand isn’t about having the right logo, tagline, messages or other things you’ll use to communicate. First and foremost, a strong brand is your reputation, and it emerges from your work, which has to be clear and should be excellent.
Over the past 20 years, it’s become obvious to me that a good organizational development process is critical to making sure the organization is still clear about its vision, mission, values and objectives.
Pixar is the animated movie studio loved for its award-winning films. The key to Pixar’s success is its stories. And they are similar in structure. In fact, there is a code to that structure. It is made up of just six sequential sentences: Once upon a time … Every day, … One day … Because of that, … Because of that, … Until finally …
This model pitch or story could be a simple way for you to distill your charity’s story in preparation for a pitch of some sort.
Harnessing the power of co-creation requires letting go. Particularly with organizational identity and messaging, there is an inherent need to control every word. Consistency is often valued over accessibility. Researchers at Harvard University’s Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations found that successful nonprofit brands have elements of democracy baked into them, trusting that the “story shapers” have an understanding of the organization’s core identity. If organizations want greater community ownership of the cause, then they need to allow staff, volunteers, participants and the greater public a true opportunity of ownership.
"What Great Brands Do" is relentlessly practical about brands. It starts with the assumption that great brands make their brands their businesses, not something they add on to their businesses to make them look better. The book is about commercial branding, so there are a few things that don't quite connect for nonprofit brands. But a lot of it does.
Here are the main points, the things great brands do. I've interpreted them a bit for the nonprofit sector.
What is it about your organization that sets it apart from all the others? How can you show donors and potential donors that you are unique — even irreplaceable because you are doing something that no one else is doing? If you can’t show why you are different from everyone else, you’re going to have a hard time proving that someone should donate to you instead of another organization that does what seems to be the same thing.