When you walk down the street or through the mall, what makes you stop and enter a particular store or restaurant? My guess is there is something that draws you in. Maybe it’s a cute outfit in the store window? Or maybe it’s a sale sign? Perhaps it’s a fun, eclectic display sampling of what you will find inside. Whatever the case might be, if the outside didn’t match the inside of the store, you’d probably be disappointed.
Much like a storefront, your brand online and in print should match the in person experience. Whether your organization is a nonprofit or a clothing store, this rule holds true. The difficult part comes in getting the outside to match. Most organizations know very well who they are. You might walk into a clothing store with unique boutique-esque decor on the outside and be greeted at the front door with a glass of wine and attended to personally by the staff. Maybe you walk into a hip and edgy t-shirt shop and are immediately immersed in a sea of shirts filled with diverse and equally hip sayings. The outside looked modern and industrial and the inside did not disappoint. Or, you walk into a nonprofit with banners outside of children being helped by an adult mentor and witness first hand, mentors interacting with teens — helping them find their way.
But, what if they don’t match?
Would you even walk through those doors without something on the “outside” that gave you a clue as to what you were expecting to find? Probably not. Unless you are on Let’s Make a Deal, chances are you could probably not care less about what is behind door #1, #2 or #3 unless there was something to entice you to look inside. Telling the story of your brand is imperative to your success. You need to tell the story through everything your brand touches: website, social media, fairs and events, brochures, the list goes on. You may ask, where do I begin? Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Put it on paper (or Google doc): Before you start, write down what you already know, who you are and what you want to be. This part should be easy. You know who you are, writing it down helps develop the story around it (and it helps people that are trying to help you tell your story).
- Review your brand and compare it with your story. Do the two match? Maybe your store front is great, but everything seems to get lost in translation on your website. Or maybe your website is great, but your front door is nondescript. Try this test: Pull out any one element, like the homepage of your website or a picture of your front door and show it to people. These could be people you know or strangers. Then ask them, “If this was the only piece you had to show you what my organization does, what would you think we are about?” This will help you identify what is working and what isn’t.
- Think strategy. If there are only a couple of areas that are needing some tlc, this should be pretty easy to figure out. If there are several areas that need attention, think through what makes the most sense to approach first. Typically, it is best to start with foundational pieces, like your website or overall brochure.
- It’s time to make a change. Channel the inner man or woman in the mirror and roll up your sleeves and get to work. Let’s take an example of a website that isn’t quite matching the in person experience. Find a partner to help you translate your website into something that does match. Your website should tell a story — your story. Think about images. A stock photo tells nothing. On the other hand, photos of customers at your establishment or people benefiting from your nonprofit tells a great story. It’s like an opportunity for the visitor to your website to step inside and experience your organization. Words matter too, but perfection does not. A perfectly imperfect example of this is a story by Hercules’ Haven co-founder, Alison Stone. She’s not a writer by trade, but she knows the mission of her nonprofit inside and out. By putting her thoughts out there, the reader can feel her hurt and the immense importance of the work being done at Hercules’ Haven.
- Keep it going. Each time you introduce a new branding element (a brochure, blog, sign, display, etc.), ask yourself, “Does this match my brand?” Most importantly, think about if this were the first impression for someone about who you are and what you do — would they walk away with the right first impression. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it count.
Your brand is uniquely yours.
There is no other store, company or nonprofit that is exactly like yours. Make sure every component that is connected to your brand tells your story. By celebrating the things that make you unique, you will celebrate success in finding the people that align with who you are and who want to support your organization. Need help navigating the waters of branding confusion? Let’s chat! I would love to help you tell your story.