In September, I will be teaching two workshops on social media for nonprofits at the Fall Leadership Conference of The Association of Junior Leagues International, Inc. As soon as I was offered the opportunity to speak at their conference I started thinking about the many different tips and pieces of information I could provide about new media for nonprofits.
It occurred to me that what nonprofits, particularly volunteer run organizations, miss in executing their social media efforts are recognizing the role of their brand in social networking, and developing a well-thought and well-articulated social media policy. In the interest of brevity, in this post I will focus on the importance of branding.
The problem with branding is that so many people know what a brand is but don’t really understand how branding works and what goes into managing a brand. We know what brands are but if asked to explain how branding works, many of us are unable to provide a full answer. We can recognize brands like Coca Cola, Microsoft and Toyota but fail to appreciate the work that goes into developing and maintaining those brands.
Maintaining a brand is what external communications is all about. Whether building a website, writing donor appeal letters, speaking at events, or engaging in social networking, having a clear and consistent message about who you are and what you are about is key. Every member of an organization, from board member to volunteer, is a brand ambassador anytime they present themselves as affiliated with a particular organization. Being a brand ambassador does not mean that one is the owner of a brand but that one has a stake in the ownership of a brand. No one person, particularly if they are not in leadership, can unilaterally make a decision about how to use the brand without getting the green light from those charged with overseeing the brand. A consistent brand image is upheld only if and when everyone within an organization clearly understands the brand and how to communicate about it.
New media is just another part of your external marketing strategy and should require the same attention to branding as any of your other marketing efforts.