Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Focus on Substance

In challenging times and when facing tough issues, it's easy to get distracted or overwhelmed by a flurry of possibilities, opportunities or actions.

A focus on substance can help. People often spend their time thinking about how to make something sound good rather than focusing on the substance that will make it good. Rather than taking the time to articulate an intention, they throw out scattered ideas and bemoan a lack of direction. Rather than offering leadership or thoughtful direction on moving forward, they focus on word choice and paragraph order for what others suggest. It may feel like progress or what is needed to move things forward, but it lacks a clarity and commitment that are essential for the organization to make sustainable progress.

Next time you are about to embark on a project or feel like you're spinning your wheels, focus on articulating substance with a few guiding questions:
  • are you clear on the intention?
  • do you know how you want the 'it' to advance your mission and build your brand?
  • have you determined success?
  • how have you pushed the envelope?
  • have you articulated the details that support the 'it'?

Clarity and commitment in these areas will help you communicate in a way that connects with the people who can help you make progress and move forward.
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Friday, February 20, 2009

A Process for Effective Fundraising

A process approach to fundraising can help you organize your effort for greater success and maximum efficiency. Begin by assessing your starting point. Align your purpose and your people. Then, move forward with confidence. Each step offers greater focus and progress toward your goal, ultimately allowing you to leverage the campaign to move the entire organization forward. It also gives you a thoughtful roadmap for your next initiative. See what we mean?
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ideology + Identity = Basis for Branding

The fun part about branding is that there are a lot of different approaches and you simply need to find/adapt the one that works best for your organization's culture.

We find it is helpful to use small group dialogue and interactive processes to get stakeholders thinking and talking from the organization's perspective about who they are, what they want to achieve and how they are going to get there. Combined with other insights, it helps set the stage for a framework that outlines the mission, vision and values of the organization. This ideology then drives the identity involving the tagline, logomark and the brand framework, which includes traits, color, typography, key messaging, tone and application. All of this information becomes the basis for the 'brandsition.'

Key concepts for the ideology:
  • What is your core purpose?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • What will guide people in their actions?
  • How does it lead to a framework for progress?
  • How will people connect with it?
  • Why does it matter? 
Key concepts for the identity:
  • What does it look like? sound like? feel like? act like?
  • What is the main point? the critical emotion(s)?
  • How will it reflect a vision of success?
  • What should people believe as a result of their connection with it?
  • What matters? Why does it matter?
That information can then be distilled into a brand framework. We believe that such a framework becomes a platform for consistent communication when captured more like a coloring book than a rules manual. It provides clear guidance on how to live and represent the brand with room for adaptability as needed by unforeseen circumstances. It may even include examples of how the brand might live forward through collateral, materials, events, etc.
If you directly link these phases (distilling the ideology and crafting the identity), you might find there is more commitment to the resulting communications and future deliverables. For instance, having the creative team represented at the strategic planning sessions offers a visible connection for the participants and a strategic connection for the process. Identifying a group of "brand champions" who are trusted by the organization (at varying levels and/or in diverse departments) often strengthens the recommendations that would be presented for decision.

Our hopes for these projects are that the person(s) accountable are able to carry forward a process that allows an effective brand to stem from within the organization's culture and ideology and then blossom due to commitment of leadership and staff that live it forward in how they represent the company. And, never underestimate the value of doing it with a process that is fun, meaningful and swift.
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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Corporate Giving: Clarify, Engage, then Give

No matter how you ultimately decide to give back, the search for the right philanthropic act should be an enjoyable and rewarding activity. Once you've clarified your purpose, consider your players. If your employees dread having to put on face paint and floppy shoes for your favorite annual fundraiser, consider engaging them to find another way to give back and multiply the good feelings or perhaps doing some of your own homework to discover something that works for you and for them. Once you've clarified your purpose and considered your players, do one more thing: clarify your commitment. Nonprofits count on what you say to plan for their future. Knowing how far and frequent you want to be with your contribution can guide how you communicate with your nonprofit(s) of choice. When everyone is clear on the intentions, everyone can win.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Corporate Giving: Consider the Players

There are a number of details to consider when thinking about your philanthropic future: give to one or many; give based on a themes or whims; contribute regularly or in one shot; go local or be global; do your own thing or join in with a crowd. That makes it very important to consider the people involved and let them help shape the decisions about where and what you will offer (e.g., time, money, skills, goods, image, etc.).

If you're giving as an extension of your internal culture or are trying to spark employee camaraderie, consider a project that involves teamwork in which you donate time and skills. Connect with an existing cause, like Habitat for Humanity, or establish your own unique endeavor that requires joint planning. When planning something special, employees can really shape the effort. The more internal involvement when deciding, the more internal support you will likely receive.

If you're looking to improve perceptions, consider a cause that links to your mission and business focus. For example, a computer company might donate hardware/software to a national literacy organization. Or, a design firm might volunteer time to dig out flower beds at a community center. Think about who is involved, what makes them tick, what you want to accomplish and then make a list of possibilities. What organizations might fit your bill?
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