Posts Tagged ‘Brandraising’

Build your best LinkedIn profile with the “Brandraising” approach

LinkedIn is all about connecting with others who share commonality. This, of course, can be said of all social networks, but if you want to maximize your professional network, building a personal brand is essential.

Most nonprofit leaders make the mistake of waiting to build a profile when they need it, but the best time to build a profile is now. Additionally, it should be an ongoing “campaign” of networking so when you need a specific connection, your network is ready and waiting. Tommy Spaulding, author of It’s Not Just Who You Know, calls it “netgiving” rather than networking. This is a terrific approach to building your LinkedIn profile. Try reaching out to your initial contacts by looking for ways you can help others, rather than the “connect-with-me-because-I-need-you” approach.

How do we effectively build a brand? Let’s consult Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications. Durham’s definition of “brandraising” is a great way to get in the right frame of mind for building your profile.  I’ll customize her organizational definition for the purpose of profile-building: Brandraising is the process of developing a clear, cohesive identity and communications system that supports your goals and makes it easier to express your purpose effectively and consistently.

Here are seven steps to building a better profile:

1.       Picture your contacts in the room. Picture yourself in a meeting and introduce yourself similarly on LinkedIn. Sarah Durham talks about “audience-centric communications” in her book. The same rules apply here. Write in your voice as if you were talking directly to someone in the room. Don’t cut and paste your resume.

2.       What is your tagline? The line of text under your name is the first thing people see in your profile. It follows your name in search hit lists. It’s your brand. Try to distill your professional personality into a more eye-catching phrase. Durham recommends making a short list of organizations similar to yours and, if your tagline could apply to them as well, keep working at it until it’s specific to your nonprofit. The same rule can be applied to your tagline on LinkedIn.

3.       Make your summary section work for you. Put yourself back into the meeting room and think about your elevator pitch when you introduce yourself. This blurb goes in the summary box to engage your readers. You have five to 10 seconds to capture your reader’s attention. Durham discusses the importance of developing a messaging platform in the identity level of her brandraising model. The messaging that you create about yourself should include an introduction, key messages about you and, of course, the elevator pitch. Use elements of the messaging platform throughout your profile to build a more impactful impression.

4.       Specialties = SEO. Think of the Specialties field as your personal search engine optimizer, a way to refine the ways people find and remember you. This is where your social sector buzzwords belong. Personal values you bring to your professional performance and humor or passion always add more personalization. Durham explains a fun exercise in her book when you need to isolate the personality of your brand: Ask what mascot could represent you. When you land on the answer, think of words that describe that mascot. These words will help you pinpoint what personality you want to convey in your profile.

5.       Chunking copy helps. When you explain your experience, break down each company or nonprofit you’ve worked for into visual segments or chunks with a short description about what the company does. Make it easy to read and consistently formatted.

6.       Improve your Google page rank. Pat your own back and others’. Get recommendations from colleagues, clients and employers who can speak credibly about your abilities or performance. Think quality over quantity. According to Durham, your messaging platform is shared with board members and staff so everyone is consistently sharing the same message about your organization, thereby building a consistent and more powerful brand. In the case of your LinkedIn profile, your connections are your message carriers so make sure your tagline, summary and additional information fields portray your brand (and personality). Chances are they will reference your profile to make the recommendation.

7.       Build your unique brand. Use the Additional Information section to round out your profile with a few key interests. Add websites that showcase your abilities or passions. Then edit the default “My Website” label to encourage click-throughs (you get Google page rankings for those, raising your visibility). If you belong to a trade association or interest group, help other members find you by naming that group. Awards, recognition by peers, customers and employers add prestige without bragging by listing them here. This strategy looks much like what Durham might call your “experiential level” of brandraising, because this level is where your potential supporters or, in this case, connections may find you. Try to optimize the number of channels in which you can reach people by referencing your affiliations and acknowledgements.

Last but not least, make sure your LinkedIn profile link is on your email signature, website and blog. Now, start “netgiving.”

See also:

Married to the Brand

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Marketing Series–Volume One: Building a Persuasive Case, Seven Transformative Branding Principles, Multi-faceted Strategies and Bonding with Brands for Life

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Four branding authors agree: Imitation is the sincerest form of fall-flat-tery

Robert Antell and his wife, Marguerite, decided to make a break from the norm in their rural town of Perinton near the Canadian border in New York State. In 1970, the Antells built a home that most would call bizarre and others might call original. Their “Mushroom House” still stands today and is 4,200 square feet of sprouting concrete pods made to look like Queen Anne’s Lace Flower.

Modeling what already exists—in this case nature—is understandably a favorable strategy because, in most cases, it works. There are many forms of architecture that mimic nature beautifully. Depending on your taste, you might say this home is a work of art or a vision gone wrong.

In the case of nonprofits imitating corporate brand management, however, it’s not a matter of esthetics. Four authors agree it simply doesn’t work. Why? Allow me to excerpt each of their views.

Nonprofit life shouldn’t imitate the art of corporate branding

The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand

First, author Jeff Brooks in The Money-Raising Nonprofit Brand says, “Simply applying the principles of commercial branding to nonprofit fundraising is exactly the wrong thing to do. It’s the cause of most branding accidents.” He further explains commercial branding does not work for nonprofit
organizations because it focuses on abstract ideals of products or services. Nonprofits need to show clear, emotional images to motivate and connect with their donors. There are warning signs that your brand is too commercialized and doesn’t focus on the donor: the work is not grounded in donor behavior; the brand describes your organization in a symbolic way rather than in a clear fashion that moves donors to act; or the brand is design and little else.

The Brand IDEA: Managing Nonprofit Brands with Integrity, Democracy and Affinity

Second, The Brand IDEA by Nathalie Laidler-Kylander and Julia Shepard Stenzel argues today’s brands must uphold mission impact by building trust, cohesion, capacity and impact, not necessarily qualities for which corporate brands strive. Kylander and Stenzel’s book is the result of more than two years of research and collaborative effort, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, to examine the role of brands in the nonprofit sector and recognize that nonprofits are over-relying on corporate sector practices to oversee their brands.

The coauthors’ acronym, “IDEA,” further gives us insight into honoring the truly nonprofit brand. Integrity (the “I” in IDEA) is the “alignment between the brand identity and image and the mission, values, and strategy of the organization.” Democracy is the “extent to which an organization engages its board, staff, members, participants, volunteers, supporters, and other stakeholders in both defining and communicating the brand identity.” Brand Affinity “represents a mindset and an approach to brand management in which the focus is on shared social impact, rather than on individual internal organizational goals.” Kylander and Stenzel’s brand philosophy further brings to light that corporations often look at alignment between their image and selling a product, whereas the nonprofit brand aims to move a community and achieve social impact.

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

Third, author Sarah Durham’s philosophy is built upon branding that is grounded in the nonprofit mission. Specifically, “brandraising” is the process of developing a clear, cohesive organizational identity and communications system that supports raising money and increasing visibility. Additionally, brandraising makes it easier to express your organization’s mission effectively and consistently. Durham claims brandraising is a holistic approach to communications that involves everyone within the organization—board, staff leadership, volunteers, program staff and donors. Brandraising is ultimately measured by how the mission is advanced.

As you read each author’s viewpoint on how a brand must uphold the mission, you may have also noticed these authors agree on the brand’s role as champion of visibility and revenue. Follow other high-performing nonprofits and their pursuit of brands created with a nonprofit lens rather than a corporate one; otherwise, your corporate imitation will be the sincerest form of fall-flat-tery.

See also:

Breakthrough Nonprofit Branding

Married to the Brand

Marketing Series Volume I: 4 summaries in one bundle

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Battle of the brands

This week I read two blogs that converged on the same topic of brand management, more specifically, brand protection and I couldn’t help but weigh in with the help of some of featured authors on CausePlanet, like Sarah Durham (Brandraising) and William McEwen (Married to the Brand).

In the first blog by John Burke of visABILITY, he asks “Is it fair for a very large university to suppress a similar logo of a small, obscure high school 1,400 miles away?” Burke referred to a case where Penn State threatened to sue Buna High School in Buna, Texas if they continued to use a mascot that looked like Penn State’s long-standing and storied Nittany Lion. In the end, the high school changed their mascot and everything associated with it, including team uniforms, office stationery and collateral, logos on gym floors, the works.

Meanwhile, Elaine Fogel of MarketingProfs asks “How far should charities go to protect their brands?” Fogel, who formerly managed the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation’s brand, further raises the question, “Who gets to use ‘for the cure’ for example? Just the Susan G. Komen for the Cure?” Fogel cites a recent news segment: NBC News report on a breast cancer brand by Brian Williams because it asks the same question.

While Fogel understands that peer organizations who support breast cancer research feel that they should collaborate to achieve greater results for the shared cause, she argues “the reality is that nonprofits fund raising for breast cancer research and programs compete against each other for funding dollars. They also compete with other charities in their market that raise money for other causes. How can they stand out and differentiate their missions unless they have solid marketing and branding strategies? It is absolutely the same as in the business sector. Companies that invest heavily in their brand assets must protect them to avoid confusion in the marketplace.”

I have to agree with Fogel on this one. Organizations spend decades cultivating a purposeful characterization of their service or product and credibility surrounding their fundraising efforts as well as a tremendous amount of time and resources to research their messaging platform and visual identity. It’s no wonder smaller, under-resourced nonprofits want to ride the coattails of a brand that’s already flourishing.

But to the managers of the borrowed brand, it feels like a cavalier act that disrespects everyone involved. “Brandraising involves everyone in your nonprofit’s community—board members and staff leaders, volunteers, program staff, and perhaps donors and funders. Everyone plays a role in the development of effective communications,” says Sarah Durham, author of Brandraising. Those of us who have nurtured a brand know the painstaking efforts a well-developed brand requires especially when nurtured consistently among the staff and volunteers alike.

Furthermore, Married to the Brand author, William McEwan, argues that an organization’s livelihood depends upon its ability to develop lifetime donors, or in his words, “marriages” with donors rather than a series of one-time donors or “first dates.” According to McEwan, healthy brand marriages produce enormous benefits to an organization but these benefits aren’t build overnight. In order for consumers or donors to marry a brand, they must feel an emotional attachment to it. Between 2000 and 2004, Gallup delved into this emotional attachment to learn about the essential requirements of an enduring brand relationship. Their conclusions are summarized in the book and include:

  • Brand marriages aren’t built overnight, regardless of how much time and money is spent on marketing programs.
  • There’s a crucial difference between a customer and an engaged customer. Building customer engagement should be the focus of every company or organization.
  • What it takes to attract first-time customers/donors is different from what it takes to turn that prospect into a fully engaged customer/donor.
  • Creating a new brand relationship (a first date) requires conveying a brand promise that is not only credible and compelling, but also establishes a personal connection with the potential customer/donor.
  • Keeping customers/donors (a brand marriage) means continuously adding to the bond that initially connected the donor to your organization. Your organization’s brand promise must be reiterated at every subsequent contact with the donor.
  • Brand marriages won’t last without trust. However, brand passion is the ultimate determinant of a lasting relationship.
  • Emotionally engaging customers/donors results in demonstrable financial return. Disengaging them costs.
  • Successful brand marriages can only be achieved through organization-wide commitment and aligned, integrated efforts.

Given the level of strategic planning and endurance required to care for the lifetime engagement of a donor and his/her perceptions of a brand, shouldn’t nonprofits honor one another’s diligence by respectfully declining the use of an existing message or visual? I whole-heartedly say yes.

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Brandraising keeps an eye on the future

For all of our readers interested in smart communications, our featured book for May does a great job of keeping an eye on the future. Sarah Durham, author of Brandraising, includes some important statistics nonprofits should consider when leveraging their budgets for maximum results.

When it comes to resources for marketing, some nonprofits find themselves whispering in a world that’s been screaming marketing messages for decades, and it’s only getting louder and arguably more challenging as channels expand into the Internet.

And with smaller budgets, nonprofits cannot afford expensive mistakes; they must make their conservative budgets generate messages that are consistent and well researched. The important development efforts of a nonprofit organization are largely dependent on the success of the communications plan. That’s why it’s more important than ever for nonprofits to put some muscle into the planning process and make each message count.

Consider these factors Durham points out to readers:

A 2008 study found that 23 percent of all mobile users in the United States (58 million users) had been exposed to an advertising message in the past 30 days.

The average American home has the television on for seven hours a day—actual viewing is estimated at four and a half hours.

When radio, print and other traditional media are factored in with TV, the average American is estimated to spend 6.43 hours per day paying attention to media.

A 2006 survey found that 71 percent of all Americans are Internet users. (Even older adults—26 percent of 70 to 75 year olds are online.)

By January 2009, Facebook had over 68 million unique visitors visiting more than 1 billion times each month.

For more information about Brandraising, visit Sarah Durham’s site at or learn more about Page to Practice book summaries and summary store.

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