Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seize the Opportunities of Challenging Times

There is certainly a lot of doom and gloom these days. Even with mainstream news reporting a turn by the end of this year. It just doesn’t seem real. People aren’t feeling it, or perhaps just not believing it. The challenges are, after all, undeniable.

Yet, I submit there are always challenging times. Even in boom times, people struggle. Organizations are forced to make tough choices about who stays on the payroll, what programs might need to be cut. In the best of times, there are still those without. And, nonprofits know that very well. Nonprofits see and serve it. In fact, the third sector often sees it more clearly than any other. And, in these times, nonprofits must find new ways.

Thankfully, these challenging times also offer opportunities. Opportunities for organizations willing to stretch. Willing to get a little curious. Willing to take an honest and candid look at how they do business and what they are truly intended to impact and achieve.

I’ve had the good fortune over my career to work with and in some pretty incredible organizations, across all sectors and of all sizes, during not-so-good times and when things were humming along just fine.

What I’ve observed is that during the not-so-good times, the organizations that focus on their intended impact, that focus on the people who make that impact and focus on finding a new way – these organizations emerge stronger.

They refocus and they recharge. They prepare themselves for a new way. Not without making tough choices, but they move forward knowing that in the challenging times there are opportunities to make positive changes – to make tough choices rather than reveling in the luxury of avoiding them for one more year.

Thus, it makes now a great time for nonprofits to re-connect with their missions. To take a good hard look at whether or not it still makes sense. To have deep constructive conversations about the future. And, to embrace (or create) the opportunities to make it happen. Thinking of it in a new way: not as things you have to do, but as things you get to do.
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Don't Micromanage the Message

We simply must accept that we cannot control everyone -- a challenge for many, from many perspectives. Yet, really, the best we can hope to do is to be as consistent and clear in our messaging such that people understand it, internalize it and share it in ways that are appropriate with how we intended it. We can only seek to shape actions by being clear and authentic in our own. If you have ambassadors out there, be they in the physical or the cyber world, don't spend energy worrying about controlling them (their message, or their actions); rather, give them the stories, connections, understanding and inspiration to spread your mission to people you might never reach otherwise!
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Boost Your Brand by Exploring Collaboration

Collaborations or partnerships can be great brand boosters. You might enhance people's impressions of your organization simply by the connections they associate with your collaborator/partner. The possibility of that connection might also be the shot in the arm needed to take a look at the brand you've built and either affirm it or evolve it.

Examining the respective brands may also be helpful in the conversation about how the collaboration or the partnership will work. Are your intentions aligned? Are your actions consistent (and appropriately complimentary or divergent)? How do your impressions compare, contrast and help you make progress as an organization?

Worry less about losing your brand in a partnership, think more about how it will be enhanced as a result.
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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

One Voice, Many Tones

Clarity and consistency are critical for effective brand building. That does not, however, mean that everything has to be the same. For instance, organizations with a focused brand framework can still appeal to multiple, divergent audiences. Think of it as creating one voice for the organization, a voice that is consistent in its intention, yet a voice that can adapt to the needs of different stakeholders or the different circumstances within which it finds itself. Consider how you may speak in different tones when sharing information before a large gathering of strangers versus around the conference table with your co-workers. You may seek to leave a slightly different impression. Yet, the impression you want to leave needs to be consistent so that people believe their is some authenticy to what you are representing. So, when you think about framing your brand, think about your organization's identity, consider your target audiences and dig deeply to uncover what impression you want to leave. Narrow it down to two, possibly three, and use them as brand channels for shaping your actions and your communications.
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