If you’re looking to craft a brand that naturally attracts donors and volunteers the way social movements attract followers, start by getting a mirror. Just about everything you need to know about your brand can be found by looking within your organization.
A brand isn’t just conjured out of thin air. There must be substance behind it or your brand will never amount to more than just a catch phrase. Your organization’s culture and the personality of your people should serve as the greatest source of inspiration for your brand. This will keep your brand grounded in something real and tangible while attracting followers magnetically.
Social movements sell culture. Aside from a shared passion for the cause at hand, movement followers buy into all of the cultural elements of a movement like rhetoric, music, art, and the feeling of empowerment that comes when you join a like-minded collective. These are the elements that make movements grow virally and organically.
Consumers’ connection to a brand will always be less than or equal to employees’ connection to it. The same can be said about non-profits and donors, volunteers, and board members. If they’re not evangelists, you can bet no one else will be.
The first step in leveraging your culture is to find out what it is. You probably don’t know it as well as you think. Do some internal research to figure out why, and to what extent people within the organization connect with the brand. Set up some employee focus groups and interview executives. Look for discrepancies in how the different constituencies articulate the values of the company. How do they describe the culture? What is the temperament of the organization? How do they describe its personality? How much do they really understand the brand?
You may find out that your culture is rather nondescript and bland, in which case your brand is weak. If you do have a well-defined culture, that is to say, there’s a distinct style, attitude, and personality, it’s time to apply that to the communication channels – this is the fun part.
Your mission statement should have the tone and voice that your employees have. Your email campaign should have an attitude. Your tweets should be undeniably “you.” People will join your cause not because of all the rational reasons that you present so vividly, but because you’re speaking their language. You share their core beliefs, opinions, and passions: their culture. And if you don’t have one, they won’t find you.
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