Your brand is one of your charity’s most important assets. Brand awareness is the crucial first step on the brand journey. When the public are aware of your brand, they are more likely to donate to you, more likely to fundraise for you and more likely to volunteer for you. Furthermore, stronger awareness means your beneficiaries are better able to find and use your services.
For some charities, increasing brand awareness is not necessary or a strategic goal –increasing understanding and loyalty among those who are already aware of you is more important. But for many charities brand awareness could and should be higher. Here are five priorities your charity needs to get right if it is to achieve the full potential of its brand.
- Do your planning before you start building
The best charities know exactly who they want to reach. Finding out who is already aware (or unaware) of your charity and what they know about you is a crucial first step in making your brand shine. This evidence should form the foundation of your brand strategy.
Are you content with how many people are aware of you? Do the right type of people know about your charity? For example, if you’re an animal charity, are pet owners aware of you? Or if you are a specific health charity, are you known by people who have had experience of the condition?
When you answer these questions your strategy can take your brand out to cold audiences or nurture those already aware of you. You’ll then be able to further refine awareness raising strategy by investigating the media consumption, communication preferences, lifestyles and values of these potential supporter groups to help you target resources efficiently and hone messaging which appeals and attracts attention.
- Do something bold, expensive or memorable
You don’t have to spend money to make your brand shine. Over the course of the US election the Trump campaign spent half of what the Clinton campaign spent, ran a very memorable campaign and had a clear message; make America great again. Can you tell me what Hilary’s campaign message was? Likewise what was the figure the Brexit campaign claimed we sent to the EU each week? A memorable and focused message, repeated over and over again.
Of course spending money can help overcome one major problem with brand awareness - if the public haven’t seen your charity, they can’t be aware it. But spending money does not always have positive results. To quote our Ringing a Bell report in which we analysed media spend vs awareness figures for charities, “spending money on media does not guarantee an increase in prompted awareness; the investment in advertising needs to be spent in the right way”.
Many charities will already spend money on advertising. Often this will be part of fundraising, campaigning or comms to beneficiaries, as opposed to specific brand awareness raising. However, whatever the goal and whichever team works on the advertising material, the impact which each communication that is released into the world will ultimately have on your brand must be considered as well. Are these ads doing enough for your brand, as well as getting their message across?
- Be consistent and long term
Attitudes and perceptions take a long time to shift. Your brand will only feature briefly to a member of the general public. Keeping design and tone consistent gives you a better chance of being remembered than adverts that are completely different. The same is true for the message you are putting across about who you are and what you do – you are more likely to be top of mind if the public is clear about your purpose and activities and this is distilled into a clear, digestible message. Ensuring this clarity of message is fully understood and bought into internally is a vital step in ensuring consistency across your external comms.
Some of the most successful charity campaigns are the those that have been around longest, they have had time to embed into the public consciousness. Save the Children’s No Child Born to Die or NSPCC’s Full Stop are prime examples of this.
- Be authentic – use voices from the frontline
In the current environment of fake news, politicians never answering questions and suspicion of experts, the public are crying out for authenticity. Charities possess this in bucket loads. Charities are at their best when clearly and effectively communicating the needs of their beneficiaries and how they are helping. In today’s cynical world, the voices of frontline staff in particular are trusted and will cut through, as our recent report highlighted.
- Know your values and beliefs, and stay true to them
Beliefs lie at the heart of what makes charities different from corporate organisations and for this reason it is logical to use them as the source of a charity's brand. As Joe Saxton’s 2008 report on building a brand stated, “charities who follow a beliefs and values model, and make sure it permeates throughout their entire organisation, will find they can create a powerful brand much more cheaply and easily than the commercial sector.”
Charities exist to help. The UK public know this and are very supportive towards these positive values. However, it does also mean that they are bitterly disappointed when they see stories of misappropriation of charity funds, excessive Executive pay or more aggressive fundraising practices.
It is important to demonstrate the positive values of your brand from the start of the brand awareness journey. It will help members of the public decide if their values align with those of your organisation, and will inspire loyalty and advocacy in the long run.
At nfpSynergy we work with over 150 charities a year, helping to deliver the evidence and insight to inform brand strategies. The evidence we provide is based on research with over 30,000 members of the general public, a quarterly survey of 150 MPs, a biannual survey of 150 journalists and an annual survey of 250 healthcare professionals.
If you would like to speak to a member of the team please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org, or alternatively please find more information in the attached briefing packs.