Friday, January 7, 2011

When Brand Awareness is For the Birds

  • Do you attend conferences where no one knows your name?
  • Do you spend most of your “elevator speech” explaining where you work vs. what you do?
  • Do funders ignore your calls because they’ve never heard of your nonprofit?
Then you may have a problem with brand awareness, a concept which refers to "the extent to which the public are aware of a product, company or brand."

Part of your marcom effort should include a plan (and budget) for increasing awareness about your nonprofit’s mission and services.  That said, traditional PR tactics like sending out press releases and mass advertising may do more harm than good.  Unless you have a thoughtful plan in place for reaching a particular audience, brand awareness is for the birds.

Think Activation vs. Awareness

You want more people to know about you.  That’s Ok.  But don’t make the mistake of approaching brand awareness as an end in itself.  Instead, engage in public relations as a way to MOVE people to DO SOMETHING like donate, volunteer or take action on your issues. 

This means being wary of impressions based advertising, where you pay for “eyeballs” alone; it may not deliver the results you seek.  Sure you know you’re reaching someone but are you actually CONVERTING the right people into new supporters, members or donors?

Who Really Cares About You?

Building awareness without thinking about who you are trying to reach is like going on a weekly blind date.  It may be exhilarating (NOT!), but is it really getting you closer to your goals?  Before you start “spraying” your messages into the Universe, take some time to reflect on whom you are trying to reach, what you want them to do and why they might care about you. 

In sales, we call this creating a persona.  You actually sit down and draw a picture of your ideal customer.  You give her/him a name, professional title, address (and cat or dog)!  You can do this with donors too.  For example, if you work on educational reform, you might focus on reaching High School parents in Washington, DC with one stay at home parent.

Once you have this persona in place, it is much easier to envision ways to meet and introduce your audience to your issues.  It’s also easier to imagine the barriers your target donor will face (and that you will have to overcome) in order to get her behind your cause.

Most people really don’t give a lick about you and what you do.  They’re busy thinking about how busy they are!  Don’t waste time and money trying to REACH anyone and everyone to tell them about your cause.  Instead, ruthlessly focus on a core constituency and do your darnedest to tailor your outreach efforts to them alone.


Mazarine said...

Thanks for writing about helping create a persona to reach for nonprofit branding.

It is tempting to just scattershot your marketing presence via newspaper, TV, billboards, radio, or whatever you can request inkind donations for.

However, if you survey your current donors and volunteers, you'll realize where they hang out isn't looking at a bus, but engaging with people online, perhaps. Or, maybe your donors also give to a sister organization in town, and you should be partnering with them on events, or in appeal letters, to save money, and time, and get more done with fewer resources.

What do you think?



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