What is brand building for non-profits / social sector in India?
Many social sector organisations assume that brand building is restricted to the idea of branding and identity of the organisation, which is incorrect. The branding of the organisation is only a starting point for the target stakeholders for recognising and connecting with the organisation’s work. Brand building on the contrary is a continual strategic process of building your organisation’s brand across marketing channels and formats of communication. Non-profit organisations in US and Europe clearly recognise the value with many brand firms offering services specifically to social sector. We also have academic institutions like Kellogg and many other universities that offer short courses in brand building. There are no initiatives currently in India supported by large grant making foundations, ecosystem players or institutions that offer courses on brand building. MICA has introduced modules in their Masters course that teach marketing and communication in non-profit sector which is a good start.
Brand building is a strong tool for marketing and fund raising in social sector, it has a strategic and tactical component that needs to be internalised in an organisation and in their work before they carry out external outreach.
Brand building components
Brand building is a process and evolves with the growth phases of the organisation. Brand building is a consistent investment to reap benefits from multiple stakeholder and touch points of interaction. The building blocks of brand in the social sector can be broadly defined under the following areas:
Brand & Communication
Starting from brand identity, standardisation of brand to the brand and design language applicable across all formats and medium of communication. Brand standardisation and a brand manual will ensure then that all communication, advocacy collaterals have a consistent brand experience of the organisation with creative design language unique to your organisation and the work. Communications need a strategic view in current scenario of multiple mediums and formats of outreach. It needs to have specific goals, target audience for each piece and monitoring the performance. The frequency of communication, prioritisation of mediums or tools, branded content are important pillars of communication strategy. This will also need to be linked towards marketing, digital and PR too.
PR & Media
In the non-profit / social sector, PR is often an ad hoc approach to personal network leverage for few PR activities. Larger organisations do invest in PR comprehensively but also have now focused on reputation management as an important PR mandate especially when they are prominent under public view and dependency on government relations, international partners, local communities. An interesting article on reputation management of non-profits. PR can be a great value add to an organisation’s outreach efforts and sometimes organisation leaders are hesitant to put themselves out there. It is important to recognise to have good public presence and PR visibility that pushes content about your organisation’s positive impact for awareness, education and possible engagement. PR of social sector work is as important to occupy more media space as commercial initiatives or news. Media is another area where nonprofits can leverage immensely if they strategically engage media companies and platforms with relevant content shared regularly or consistently with them. The opportunity lies in leveraging multiple media channels to optimise the organisation’s content in addition to digital channels.
Digital and digital marketing is the future in our mobile economy, and all our target stakeholders will be primarily accessing and engaging your organisation through the digital medium. Your organisation’s website will be your largest digital asset and your social media handles will potentially be the most important marketing tools. Digital content is critical for outreach and producing branded digital content will be critical to engage your audience. It is imperative that your organisation equips itself with capacity, resources and skills of digital for the growth of organisation.
Marketing / Outreach
The organisations’ marketing or outreach efforts are closely dependent on the organisations’ brand building activities. Brand is the content, marketing is distribution, brand is the custodian, marketing is an extension. So, considering all marketing activities and events, the brand strategy will primarily direct the marketing calendar and activities. The marketing and fundraising team need to be aligned and trained with the brand functions of the organisation, should be able to articulate and communicate the organisation’s work and impact across multiple channels and formats consistently over a period of time to build the credibility and trust of the organisation’s work/ impact.