Monthly Archives: December 2010

Branding From The Inside Out

by Dan Woychick

You’ve got a great new logo and website, brand guidelines, a presence on multiple social media channels, and some soon-to-be-award-winning marketing materials. You’ve got this branding thing whipped, no? Well … um … no.

Think of your printed or online materials as the scaffolding around new construction. It is necessary and useful, but of little value on its own. Until the brand has been built from the inside out, you may remove the scaffolding only to discover there’s nothing there.

It’s a team sport
Successful managers are adept at putting their people in a position to succeed. Unlike Bugs Bunny, forced to play every position against the Gashouse Gorillas, a brand manager can’t succeed unless everyone on the team plays a role.

Because authenticity is the name of the game, it’s important to provide training, support, and incentives for coworkers so that your new branding effort won’t ring hollow.

Winning buy-in
From curmudgeons to the terminally shy, not everyone will proudly sing from your brand hymnal. Though uniform enthusiasm may be unrealistic, it’s not too much to ask for understanding and acceptance.

Dilbert.com

For a large, nonprofit client, we insisted on scheduling several voluntary, one-hour workshops as part of the brand launch. Each session was designed to provide participants with an overview of project goals, key messages and graphics, and practical tips for putting the brand to work. With a drawing for a free weekend getaway trip and other prizes as incentive, the internal training effort reached over two thirds of all employees.

Additionally, we encouraged the sharing of stories, regularly recognizing “brand champions” through internal communications after the workshops were a distant memory.

Training days
To keep everyone in tune with the institution’s brand, Virginia Tech developed a comprehensive, two-phase Brand Ambassador Certification Program. Since its inception, they’ve identified several best practices, including:

  • Recruit executive-level supporters who believe in the program.
  • Solicit feedback on everything – program content, presentation style, overall value.
  • Offer each class at least twice to accommodate scheduling conflicts.
  • Ask participants to recommend the program to peers.
  • Award participants with official recognition.

Actions speak louder than words
A brand is not what you say, it’s what you do – the sum total of all your actions. The better prepared your organization is to live its brand, the more vivid and indelible an impression you will make.

Don’t Wait for Perfection

By Claire Napier

The web is an amazingly flexible medium that can be updated at a second’s notice, yet many people seem to forget this when launching a site. A website needs to be functional and well designed when it is unveiled, but waiting for perfection is a trap that can delay a launch indefinitely. Here is how to avoid that trap.

Set realistic goals
Websites often get delayed because the scope of the site is too big to execute given the manpower. Don’t plan for content that no one has time to write or interactive features no one has time to build. Distinguish between functionality and features that are necessary and those that are simply nice to have.

For example, many organizations struggle with how to integrate social media into their website. While social media is an attractive feature, it adds little value if no one has the time to sustain it. Instead of setting up blogs, a YouTube channel, and an account on every networking site, determine how many channels you realistically have the time and passion to maintain. One well-maintained social media channel will be more effective than half a dozen that are not.

Not all problems can be avoided
Sites can be delayed by endless hypothetical questions. A common one I hear is: What if members of my audience are using a dial-up connection or an outdated browser? Yes, it’s possible that someone will want to access your site on Netscape, but frankly the number of people fitting this profile is statistically insignificant.

Be as thorough as possible when planning for the ways different people will be accessing your site. Make sure it is easily accessible from multiple browsers, screen readers for the visually impaired, and for smart phone users. However, it is impossible to prepare for every scenario. Inevitably, some people will encounter a few bugs.

Encourage people to report problems by including a link to your webmaster in the footer of your site. If enough people have the same problem, they will identify where the site needs improvements. Don’t waste time worrying about hypothetical scenarios. Wait and troubleshoot the real ones.

Embrace the web’s flexible nature
You may think your site won’t be perfect until that interactive slideshow is finished, or until you have time to write a great blog. Get over it. Don’t delay releasing new content or a more user-friendly interface just because a few bells and whistles aren’t ready. In fact, adding features at a later date can be to your advantage. New features draw the attention of search engines and give users a reason to return to your site after the redesign.

A good website is always evolving. Regularly adding new features and content should be the goal, not a reason to delay launching. If your organization’s website is perfect when you launch it, you’ve waited too long.