August 22, 2014


The guerilla-style brand audit

Hannah Brazee Gregory

Hannah Brazee Gregory

If your nonprofit's brand isn't consistent, or if you just have a gut feeling that things may not be right, it may be time to talk branding with the decision-makers at your organization.

Instead of pulling your hair out because fellow staffers just don't get why you can't print your logo in a different color in every newsletter, conduct a do-it-yourself guerilla-style branding audit for your organization.

Below is a checklist that will get you started (and get management and your board to listen to your concerns).

Gather all printed marketing collateral materials. This means every flier, brochure, newsletter - anything you can find that is produced by or for your organization and its mission.

Print out all of the pages of your organization's website. And don't stop at the home page. It is important to actually print them out so you can physically put them next to all of the other materials. Imagine a scene in a crime drama series on TV, where the detectives lay everything out in front of them trying to solve a case.

Print out the last year's email newsletters. Ditto.

Gather all letterhead and business cards. You may need to be sneaky or ask fellow staff members for their assistance. You might be surprised that not everyone's business card looks the same (or has outdated information because they don't want to be wasteful and feel bad they asked for 2,000 during the last print run).

Solicit emails from staff members. You can do this by make excuses to email everyone and require a response. The goal is to gather everyone's signature lines in their emails. Then, print them all out so you have them in front of you. You are looking for variations in email signatures - from fonts and colors to logos, links and taglines (or random inspirational quotes). Signature lines are part of your organization's brand and should consistent.

Call your organization's main number. Call at different times of the day and write down how the phone is answered, and the answer to the question "what does your organization do?" If you think they will recognize your voice, cash in a favor from a friend.

Interview staff and board members. This one is a bit trickier to pull off without the interviewees knowing what you are doing. You can say you are working on the next newsletter perhaps. Or, come clean - either way, this is a very important step in the process.

Ask each staff member the same set of questions (do it through email and you can kill two birds with one stone and have a record for their answers.)

Two simple questions you can ask: 1) If you were sitting at dinner and someone asked you what our organization does, what would you say? 2) If you were talking with a funder at an event and they asked what the main focus of our organization is, how would you answer? Again, you are looking for consistencies (or a lack thereof).

After gathering the intelligence, look closely and compare. What you are looking for are all the variances in the logo, tagline, colors and messages among all of these different communications channels.

Catalogue and summarize your findings and prepare a report (including the print outs for a visual show-and-tell). Sometimes people just can't understand things until they actually see them.

By physically presenting the variances side-by-side, you will be able to make a stronger case. And remember - your logo alone is not your brand, but just one representation of your organization.

Your brand is the sum of all of the messages and promises your organization makes through its various communication channels - whether a professionally printed brochure, job ad in the help-wanted section, or how your board members describe your mission.

You goal is to get everyone on the same page and improve the positive perception of your organization through consistency and strong messages. You have to dress respectably to be respected.

Hannah Brazee Gregory is a nonprofit marketing expert and founder of Shoestring Creative Group, the nonprofit's agency. She can be reached at nonprofitexperts@shoestringgroup.com or 1-888-835-6236.


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