Your brand is not your product, your logo, your website, or your name. A strong brand is your organization’s North Star.
At every step of your strategy and theory of change, a strong brand is critical in helping to build operational capacity, attract top talent and partnerships, galvanize support and maintain focus on your social mission. Executed well, a strong brand creates that hard-to-pin-down feeling that elevates powerhouse brands above everyone else in their space.
So when you’re fortunate enough to have an organization trust you with helping them define their brand, they need to feel confident that you truly understand them.
Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA) is a nonprofit organization that advises on and manages more than $200 million in philanthropic annual giving by individuals, families, corporations, and major foundations. They also serve as a fiscal sponsor to more than 25 projects, providing governance, management and operational infrastructure to support their charitable initiatives.
During our first meeting with RPA, their team humbly admitted that it had been years since they’d invested in their website. The design, user experience and content were outdated and perhaps more concerning, the organization had fallen out of touch with how best to communicate with their target audience.
The good news for RPA was that both their audience and mission had expanded and diversified over the last few years. The bad news was that their brand and communications strategy had not. Their bio and boilerplate were out of date, and their communications material lacked a consistent voice that comes from an organization having a clear internal brand strategy. Therefore, our first order of business was to develop the brand and communications tools RPA needed to uniquely position itself in the highly saturated philanthropic advising space.
Over the course of several weeks, Briteweb held a series of workshops with RPA’s leadership team to determine an appropriate brand strategy. Rather than dictating what we thought they needed, we worked collaboratively with their team, guiding them in the process of articulating their own definition of what made them unique.
Together, we worked to crystallize RPA’s values, core beliefs, unique approach and audience profiles, compiling them into a living document that guided the development of their new brand and communications material. This included a brand positioning statement, boilerplate, long bio and brand personality profile. This process carved out key talking points to describe the organization…
thoughtful, effective, rewarding, tailored, customer service, advisor, partner, trust, diversity (people/ideas/experience), collaboration…
And talking points to avoid…
luxury, passion, classy, consultant/consulting, impact (sparingly), innovation/innovative, philanthropy/fiscal sponsorship (sparingly).
Together, we crafted a new way for RPA to communicate its unique personality to its audience. We then set about bringing this new personality to life through design. From the start of the project we knew that any major changes to RPA’s logo were out of the question. They were not in a position to drastically change their logo, both for budgetary reasons, and because their staff and board were relatively happy with it. To meet in the middle we offered some subtle evolutionary adjustments to their visual identity, including new typefaces, a more modern color palette and updated photography guidelines, which breathed new life into their established brand.
Investing up front in the brand strategy phase really paid off. It gave us a strong foundation to build on, but it also gave RPA faith that the final design, copy and overall look and feel of their new site would support their strategic conversion goals.
After we presented the brand strategy work at an RPA staff retreat, one of their VPs told us that she had never felt so proud to work at RPA. She felt reinvigorated about what they were doing and how they were doing it.
A complex project like a website is a moving target in terms of deadlines. There are so many interconnected pieces that can determine how well the project stays on track and where it might get stuck. We made the mistake of promising a hard delivery date, which had to be pushed back due to changes in the scope of the project. This experience reinforced the importance of building a cushion for delays caused by scope changes into the project timeline.
The quick pace of the design phase reinforced the value of first building a brand strategy foundation, including a brand positioning statement, brand personality profile and supporting communications assets. Doing these in the right order and building from brand strategy to design and copywriting helped maintain a forward-moving workflow so we didn’t have to go back and revisit any of the core principles that we established early in the process.
This project was defined by trust. Because we were referred by a trusted source and had a reputation for branding in the social sector, RPA felt comfortable with our expertise before we even started the project. But we had not worked with RPA specifically before, so we needed to reward that faith by getting a solid jump off the starting block, which came in the form of a successful brand strategy process.
Trusting someone’s talent and instincts are one thing, but to back it up with on-point strategic criteria seals the deal. This, and many other things, made RPA a dream to work with, allowing them to zero in on preferences quickly and unanimously, and ultimately wind up with a brand and communications strategy and website that we could both be proud of.