Your association’s brand is your image, or the perception of the association by your target audiences. In short, it’s your association’s personality.
Often we think of a rebrand as changing your association’s logo—but it’s more complicated than that. Rebranding also involves your color scheme, tagline, and messaging. It includes your print and digital communications such as your magazine, letterhead, e-newsletter, emails, and social media. A rebrand also includes content for your meetings, membership recruitment, government relations and fundraising.
So where do you start? Take a look at your mission, vision, core beliefs, or even the paragraph that appears at the end of your news release. Do these elements reflect the heart and soul of your association? Are they timely and relevant? Do they represent your members, leaders and future members? Keep the elements that work; revise the ones that aren’t working.
There are a series of questions to ask when undertaking a rebranding effort. But the first and most critical question to ask is WHY? Why are you launching a rebrand? The answers may be as diverse as the number of associations. Some responses may be that a rebrand is to:
- Reflect a new member base
- Attract younger members
- Expand an industry base
- Mirror a change in the industry
- Escape a recent crisis
- Differentiate yourself from competitors
- Stay relevant
- Reflect a new trend
Once you’ve answered the main question as to why you are rebranding, there are some additional questions to ask:
- What problem are we solving?
- Who are we talking to?
- What is our story?
- Have we outgrown who we are?
- Does our brand accurately represent our members?
Launch the rebrand campaign following these steps.
Start at the end. Define what you want to achieve at the start of your rebrand. Imagine what you will be able to achieve with your new rebrand and what elements will be the most important.
Determine the challenge. Identify the potential barriers and obstacles to launching a successful rebrand. You want to identify these so that you can consider how to overcome them as you begin the campaign.
Identify your stakeholders. Internal audiences or stakeholders might include leaders, members and staff; and external stakeholders might include journalists, elected officials, regulators and competitors.
Obtain buy-in. To conduct a successful rebranding effort, you need both internal and external buy-in. To obtain internal buy-in, start with your staff—often a forgotten key audience—and include your leaders and members. For external buy-in, find allies among related organizations, elected officials and journalists—especially trade press reporters.
Conduct market research. Many associations think they can’t afford to conduct market research. But you can ask your active members, leaders and other stakeholders such as journalists and elected officials, what they think about various rebranding elements.
Develop a plan. Create a strategic plan and write it down. Recognize that this is a living document and that you will alter it as you move along in the process.
Continuously communicate. You need to constantly and consistently communicate with your members, leaders and other stakeholders.
Create messaging. Draft key and sub-messages to begin to position your organization as an industry leader.
Tell your story. Rebranding is a great launching pad to tell your association’s story.
Use materials and content. When telling your story, use your materials and content to make your story more appealing to your target audiences.
Draft a style guide. A style guide will help keep your brand elements consistent.
Promote your brand. Even when the rebranding campaign officially concludes, remember to continue to promote and strengthen your brand.
Following these steps is a good start to creating and launching a successful association rebranding campaign.