I dropped in to see a friend last week at his communications agency. Mark told me that his agency was doing much less ‘brand development’ work these days “because so many organisations don’t rate its importance as much as they once did.”
The next day I attended a meeting with a fundraising charity head and a fundraising expert. I raised questions about the quality (or lack of) of their corporate identity and general brand situation. I was told they didn't think it important and that we needed to focus on the communications and fundraising needs immediately in front of them.
Yes, the communications and fundraising needs are critically important, but are the tactical efforts as fundamental to the overall health of the organisation as the brand question?
Put another way, what’s the difference between a fundamental issue for an organisation, looked at against all the other issues an organisation might face?
I suggest that a fundamental issue is one that is not merely an issue, it is one that creates a major impact on the organisation and that for every day it’s not resolved, it has a significant impact; either in a positive or detrimental way.
The development of an organisation’s brand is fundamental for any organisation because the essential health of an organisation is so tightly tied to the reputation and perception of that organisation. Organisations that dismiss this basic fact and don’t bother to consider how their audiences perceive them will forever consign themselves to ongoing under-performance, or worse.
Why is ‘brand’ forgotten or dismissed?
Fundraising charities are like many organisations and businesses. The battle to flourish and survive is often so pressing and day-to-day that taking time for a trip to the hill top to consider the big picture of the brand, is likely seen as a luxury.
But consider this? All the tactical work of a fundraising organisation, such as raising money from other people, can be immeasurably assisted if the brand is planned and made as good as it possibly can be. This creates a core genetic code for the organisation so that all actions are then assisted and guided by that core.
The need for brand quality is particularly true for charity organisations that need to make a shift from an internal orientation, to one where they must be much more externally focused (community centric). See blog post The pressure is on in 2012 for social enterprise and fundraising.
I guess another barrier for some is the cost of brand development from external agencies. As always it’ll be an affordability or value-for-money issue, but organisations should not dismiss it as unimportant when cost is the real barrier. They should at least spend some of their own time on addressing the basic questions and work from there. See blog post Strategies for brand development are changing.
FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE: Imagine you’re given a bike to ride every day. Your whole financial security and future depends on how efficiently you ride the bike; in other words, it’s about how far you ride in the least possible time, and with the minimum of energy. You would hope that the bike was a good one and suitable for you and the terrain. Now imagine that the bike has a rusty chain which slows you considerably and forces you to expend more energy than you should. Worse, the chain could deteriorate over time and damage other bike functions, or you. Even if you didn’t know much about bikes you’d at least know enough to stop as soon as possible and fix the chain. Why? Because the cost of stopping and taking the time to fix the chain outways the cumulative impact of a slow ride. Every day the bike is ridden with a rusty chain is just another day you’re seriously under achieving – it’s a fundamental issue.
If you have a brand development story or a question to ask, please drop a comment below.
Fraser Carson is a respected communications and social media consultant, and commentator. He has particular experience and interest in community building, the not-for-profit sector and business development.