3 Essential Back to School Nonprofit Brand Habits

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Summer is winding down, and it’s just about time for the season of shiny apples and bouquets of sharpened pencils, e.g. Back to School.

Many purePR clients and friends work in the area of education, but this post is relevant for any nonprofit leaders who are focused on building stronger, more intelligent and more deeply aligned branding habits across their organizations.

back-to-school3 Essential “Back to School” Brand Habits

1. Never underestimate the need to talk vision, incessantly, constantly, persistently.

I’m plowing through John Kotter’s classic work, Leading Change, which unpacks this habit brilliantly (go read this book). There is an application of this concept for every organization, whether or not you consider yourselves in a time of change (and let’s be honest, quality organizations are organic and therefore always changing).

You might think you’ve communicated the vision (the essential “where are we going and why” message) of your organization, and you probably have. Still, most leaders grossly underestimate the need to talk vision all the time. This is an essential habit of quality branding because vision talk is what build your internal culture, and internal culture is what drives your brand identity.

2. Rally the team, daily.

Recently, I was enjoying a meal at a great new restaurant in St. Charles. We ate early so that my five year-old could join us and so we saw the shift change in action. Gathered in a glass-walled side room the entire wait staff, kitchen staff and front house staff listened not only to the daily specials, but also to the owner and head chef coach the attitude and spirit of the restaurant for the evening.

The daily huddle is essential to building a better brand. Some resources also call it the “adrenaline huddle.”

Whether that huddle is 15 minutes at the top of the day, a rally-focused email that hits your team’s inboxes early in the morning or a midday check-in, there’s a certain sense of urgency that is cultivated by a brand-focused huddle. This is not a 30-minute meeting. It’s a rally time. It’s a reminder of the mission and vision. It’s a culture creator.

3. Story tell.

We know the power of story to communicate significant truths, capture attention and engage action. Andy Goodman argues it’s the most important weapon in your communications arsenal. How well are you honing this tool? Stories take the language, often the jargon and internal speak, of your organization and turn it into something people crave to receive and can’t wait to be caught up into.

Most nonprofits engage story when they are focused on donor relations or fundraising campaigns, but story needs to be a bigger part of your total organizational communications effort. Story is the larger, comprehensive narrative driving your organization, not just isolated case studies or testimonials.

Cultivating story means that you are paying close attention to how every piece of communication on every media (face-to-face, print, digital, social, etc.) is contributing to the Big Story of your mission. What is the crisis? What challenge is being overcome? Who are the key players? What drama is unfolding as you live out your brand’s promise each and every day? Infuse your communication with elements of story and you will see a dramatic uptick in active listening and engagement by your community.

So whether your organization is a school or not, enjoy this season of Back to School energy and take on the challenge of adopting a new brand habit (or two, or three).

Have other brand habits that you are adding to your strategy this fall? Tell us about them!


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