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10 Steps to Ensure Your Membership Organization’s Branding is Adopted

Phil Tretheway March 1, 2022

If you’re initiating a rebrand for your membership organization, you’ve probably known it needed to happen for a while. The evidence is clear as day: perhaps it’s been a decade since your brand got a refresh, or there’s a lack of cohesiveness in your brand elements. Or more than likely, your audiences (or services) are changing. 

While the branding need may be obvious, the way forward certainly isn’t. Rebranding requires a huge investment of your time, energy, financial resources, and reputation. And the reality is that a board member could shut the process down at the last minute and shelf your efforts. Frankly, you can’t afford that — in more ways than one. 

Follow these 10 steps to better ensure your staff and board adopt your rebranding plan. When they do, the enthusiasm of your organization’s members and prospects isn’t far behind. 

1. Identify the Stakeholders

The sooner you get buy-in from those critical to the rebranding success, the better. Naturally, that implies you need to identify just who those stakeholders are. Sure, that will include the CEO, but who else should be involved?

In addition, do some research and determine who was in your organization when branding was last approved. Understanding who made previous decisions and why they chose what they did is extremely valuable. What was that process like? 

If those who participated or witnessed the last brand evolution considered it a success, they may have emotional attachments to the results. If the last brand felt exceedingly difficult, stressful, or otherwise unsuccessful, you’ll need to have empathy for that. They may dread undergoing a rebrand as they imagine round two. 

2. Choose a Small Committee of Decision Makers

One to three people should work on the rebranding project from start to finish and make the decisions. Then, at key points, they can communicate the decisions to everyone else.

Invite whoever has the most to gain or lose on your project to serve on your committee — so long as they are trusted and respected. Make an ally out of them before they become an adversary. Of course anyone who has previous brand experience can be an asset, too. 

Whoever you choose to be on your committee has to be invested and willing to act as a champion for the rebrand. Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure committee members have integrity, energy, and resilience. After all, they’ve got to be able to speak authoritatively to your leadership and board. 

3. Get Sign-offs at Key Milestones

There are several points in the rebranding process in which you’ll want to include more than your committee. You’ll want your CEO and board president to sign off on:

  • The creative brief so they agree on the goals and constraints of the project. 
  • The chosen concepts, which aligns the team on the direction. 

You may want to pull in the department heads for involvement and approval as well. 

The rebranding process is a cumulative one — each decision impacts the following. When key players sign off at key milestones, they’ll all feel ownership and responsibility for its success. 

4. Listen to Staff and Board

Conduct a survey to gather feedback from staff and board members. Be sure to ask specific questions regarding their thoughts and feelings about your organization. Surveys can be done online or in person.

Weigh out whether to do it yourself or have a third-party administer the survey. Individuals will typically honestly and openly share their feelings in a survey given by a neutral source.

Listen and take into account valid concerns. Your staff and board will then feel legitimately connected to the branding project — and more likely to embrace and defend it.

5. Conduct End User Research

Staff and board aren’t the only ones you need to listen to. There’s no substitute for knowing the end-users: your members. 

It’s all too easy to extrapolate that other opinions might accurately represent your members.’ Working on that assumption, though, can prove costly. Instead, use objective quantitative data at your disposal (like demographics) and qualitative research (like surveys, focus groups, and interviews) to better respond to your members’ actual needs.

6. Present One Solution 

The entire board only needs to hear the one rebranding solution you’ve settled on. They ought to be told explicitly what problem it’s solving and how it solves it.

However, the board presentation is more than a courtesy call.

The board has chosen who is heading up the rebranding project. Now, it’s time for them to trust they’ve made the right choice and prove it with a vote of confidence. Or, if they identify serious issues with your solution, now’s the time for you to make adjustments. If step 4 is done properly, this shouldn’t be an issue.

7. Develop a Realistic Rollout Plan

Remember, the people on your committee have day jobs. The plan you outline needs to work within those human constraints. Ask these questions as you plan:

  • Are specific team  members suited to specific tasks?
  • Is the workload balanced and paced reasonably across staff?
  • Do we have a budget for outside assistance? 
  • What needs to be prioritized  on the timeline?
  • What milestones should be on the timeline?

8. Build Strong and Comprehensive Brand Guidelines

Easily accessible and usable brand guidelines will help ensure that staff can implement new brand components. Your brand guidelines reflect your organization’s messaging, voice, and visuals. It’s the instruction manual from which you build your organization’s identity. Cohesiveness of all visual elements and messaging is vital as you communicate your new brand. 

9. Facilitate Staff Brand Awareness

Your entire organization should be introduced (or re-introduced) to the branding work upon its completion. Handing them a swag bag won’t cut it. Your staff members will be your biggest asset or liability, so you’ve got to educate them and convert them into brand champions.

Your brand is more than your logo and colors; it’s who your organization is. Have conversations about how your branding captures your organization’s purpose and promise. Show the staff all the new tools at their disposal. And encourage them to embody the brand with pride.

10. Make it fun.

It’s not everything, but your staff will love a swag bag. And they’ll enjoy a launch party. 

While it’s fun to wear a tee and drink from a mug featuring your updated logo, the results of rebranding work can actually be much more profound. Rebranding is not a “marketing thing.” When done right, rebranding can inspire and revitalize your entire organization.

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