How non-profits become experts at Social Branding

Posted on January 17, 2012. Filed under: Storytelling | Tags: , , |

This article by Simon Mainwaring is very insightful and I would recommend every nonprofit to take the time to think about this topic in the context of their own branding.

Thank you Simon, you’ve definitely given some food for thought here!

Kathie van Vugt

How non-profits become experts at Social BrandingSimon Mainwaring

There are two elements critical to the success of any branding effort, non-profit or otherwise. The first is compelling brand storytelling, and the second is fluency in social technology. Unfortunately few brands effectively master both, as veteran storytellers struggle to deeply understand social technology, or digital natives rush to emerging technology only to overlook the importance of storytelling. Here’s how a non-profit effectively combines them both.

Brand storytelling, the process by which a company defines and shares its purpose or message, has three parts:

1. You have to make a conscious decision to look inwards and work out what your brand stands for. This is even more difficult for non-profits as often the cause itself can mistakenly serve as a substitute for this important work. A cause is not your brand and this work is important if you hope to define your core values, business strategy and vision for the future.

2. Having done the difficult work of defining your core values and purpose, each non-profit must now frame their story in a community-facing way. Like most marketers today, many non-profits still tell their story in a way that positions themselves as the focus or destination. Instead, every brand must shift from being the celebrity of their community to being its chief celebrant. That means the brand and its story exist to celebrate the success of its donors, field workers or community at large, and in so doing, inspires further fundraising and volunteer efforts on the basis of shared values and a sense of community.

3. Like any product category, every non-profit must also frame its messaging in a way that distinguishes it from competitors within the cause space. This is not being done to beat out “competitors,” but rather to make it very clear to donors as to why they should support your particular non-profit.

The second major element of social branding success is fluency in social technology. The beauty of effective storytelling is that it ensures your brand makes an emotional connection with its audience and that’s when social media works best for you. For what compels a reader to share your cause, event or donation drive with others using social media channels is not the tools themselves but their emotional connection to your brand.

Fluency in social technology is a complex issue but there are three key elements.

1. Fascination: Despite limited resources and time, every non-profit must develop a persistent interest in emerging technology because that is where their customers or donors can be found. This should include a daily diet of blog posts from industry leaders, a study of best practices and case studies, and a curiosity about how for-profit brands are using social media in ways that you can also leverage.

2. Familiarity: Every member of a non-profit should engage in social media themselves to understand the tools and the human dynamics that drive engagement. This takes time and new competencies but the rewards are waiting for those that tap into the scale made possible by these new, relatively inexpensive tools.

3. Failure: Failure implies a willingness to learn new things and to risk mistakes. It demands a decision to be accountable and to apologize. It implies recognition of the fact that online engagement is now a tireless organic, fluid and real time practice.

It’s through the marriage of brand storytelling and social media that non-profits become effective community architects. It also makes them better candidates for for-profit partnerships as the alignment of values, stories and communities becomes far clearer to prospective strategic partners. Ultimately, it is this powerful combination of effective storytelling by non-profits and purposeful branding by for profits that will transform the lives of millions, and ultimately our economy, country and future.

Source: How non-profits become experts at Social Branding –
Author: Simon Mainwaring, Founder/Author WE FIRST 

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