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Episode 1 – Branding, Brand Promises and Broken Brands

Episode 1 - Branding, Brand Promises and Broken Brands

In this episode, Adam talks with Elyse Hammett from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta about branding, brand promises, and broken brands. At its simplistic form, Elyse shares with us that a brand is a promise to a consumer from an organization. That promise may be something like Coke’s “open happiness” campaign that promises that a coke will bring happiness, or it may be something more tangible. A broken brand is when an organization doesn’t live up to its promise in the eyes of the consumer. Adam talks with Elyse about how to identify your brand and brand promise, and some ideas around fixing your brand if it is broken.

Transcript of the interview

Adam: Hi, and welcome to the Good People Good Marketing podcast.  A podcast about nonprofit digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people at good organizations can have good marketing as well.  I am your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing company and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that built forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.  In this episode, I interview Elyse Hammett from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  And we talk about what is a brand, what is a broken brand and what do nonprofits need to do to build their brand.  So, stay tuned and hear some wisdom from Elyse and then I will wrap up the episode with some takeaways and things you can do to help build your brand moving forward.

Adam: Hi, I am here with Elyse Hammett from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  Elyse is the Vice President for Marketing and Communications and President of the Public Relations Society of America.  How are you?

Elyse: I am great, thanks for inviting me to be a part of this podcast series.

Adam: It is going to be so fun.  So, is there anything from that little bio that we need to fill in?  Any gaps you need to fill in for me?

Elyse: Wow, well let me tell you, it is fabulous to have two roles.  One that’s a paid gig and the other that’s a volunteer.

Adam: I know all about that.

Elyse: But the passions are definitely there for both.  

Adam:  That’s great.  I am glad you are enjoying that and really serving in that capacity.  That’s exciting.  So, we are here to talk about marketing for nonprofits so tell me what about marketing are you passionate about?

Elyse: When you are marketing for nonprofits, you have to be passionate.  That’s the undercurrent of the force that drives what we are doing.  We make defined decisions based on the roadmap that we take when we go on a journey to drive through marketing for a nonprofit.  I have double trouble, or double GPS because I am driving marketing for a billion Dollar nonprofit called the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  And I am driving the elevation of public relations through the Public Relations Society of America, the second largest chapter, the Georgia chapter, which has over nine hundred volunteer learners and educators on the topic of marketing and public relations strategies.  

Adam: Sounds fantastic.

Elyse: It’s a fantastic combination because at the Community Foundation we spend our days matching the passions of donors with the purposes of nonprofit.  And, not everyone in the world gets to say that they spend twenty-four hours a day working with incredible philanthropists, who in 2016 alone, sent in  $135,000,000 to our foundation and we sent out, with their guidance and help, $127,000,000 to make those nonprofits thrive.  

Adam: That is amazing, I love that!

Elyse: There is real joy in that because you can see positive change occurring whether it’s in homelessness or affordable housing or education for K 12 or the arts nonprofit effectiveness, the list goes on and on.  And I can get really excited just to tell you umpteenth stories about how these grants make a difference at making Atlanta the absolute best place to live, work, learn and play on the planet.

Adam: I am a fan of Atlanta, I like that- that’s great.

Elyse: That makes it all palpable and real.  In the Public Relations Society what I’m doing is helping my colleagues in learning more about marketing communications, whether it is SEO or pitching journalist or branding and how the brand comes together through the promises that the brand makes and holds.  It is all about helping move the next level up in their thinking and shepherding those senior stewards to continue to identify best practices and next steps forward in the compulsion of the brand so that we’re constantly catapulting brands forward across the Atlanta landscape.  

Adam: I love that, I would love to dig into that in a minute.  Let’s talk brands and brand promises because I think the idea of brand can be a little bit nebulous sometimes to people.  If you say brand, they don’t really know, is it like Kellogg’s or Proctor and Gamble, what do you mean by brand?  Then, brand promises, I like that idea.  Give me a quick synopsis on both of those things and what do they mean to you, and how you leverage that from a marketing perspective.  

Elyse: Sure. At the end of the day, a brand is a promise.  It is this finger-twist link between what people believe that it is and what it actually is.

Adam: I like that.

Elyse: If the promise of the brand is broken, then the connection that the brand has with its target audience is also broken.  If you look at the incredible legacy of the Atlanta company Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola’s brand promise is that it opens happiness.

Adam: That’s right.

Elyse: So, every day when we open our Coca-Cola we are expecting to open happiness, that it brings us joy.  If you stop at the convenience store and your Coca-Cola product is not at the Seven Eleven, you’ve got a broken brand promise.  In its most simplistic definition.

Adam: Or if it is super-hot.

Elyse: Right, not cold, not served to your taste buds or desires.  What we have to do at the Community Foundation is fulfill our brand promise which is to match the passions of donors with the purposes of nonprofits doing that work.  We have these amazing philanthropists that don’t want credit for what they are doing, but they want to see that their grants out to the community are making a difference.  What we are constantly doing is working on that promise and the fulfillment of it.  And then telling the stories, which can bring you to your knees, about the work that we are doing.  What I am also amazed by is that giving grants aren’t always about the money.  So, $5 000 to one nonprofit can be just as elevating as $5 000 000 to another.

Adam: That’s right, yes.

Elyse: It’s the tale of the women whose mite made a difference.  The dime that makes a difference in the hearts and minds of that consumer and how we can we change them to inspire positive results in the neighborhoods that we serve. 

Adam: One thing about nonprofits that I find alarming sometimes is that you say- What do you do? And they can’t really answer that question.  They say we do this, this, this and this, they have a very broad brand.  Not very focused, you don’t really understand what they are about or what they’re doing.  Are there any natural steps that come to your mind that a nonprofit can take to really focus on and understand what their brand promise is and then how they can begin living up to that promise?

Elyse: Yes, absolutely.  What they really have to do, obviously, is they have to look at the 5P’s that we all learned in marketing school, around price and product and promotion and place and the people that make it up.

Adam: I am impressed you can still remember that, I can’t remember that.  That was awesome.

Elyse: When you look at the larger promise you have to look at what makes that promise personal, what makes that product pervasive and what makes that promise predictable because if you don’t open happiness with Coca-Cola every time, it is not predictable and therefore you can’t make the promise.

Adam: That’s right.

Elyse: So, here at the Community Foundation we really focus in on sterling service and how we take care of our thousand plus donors across the landscape of what their passions are from a nonprofit perspective and delivering that.  At the Public Relations Society, what I am focussed on is the needs of a Senior Public Relations Counsellor or The Chief Communications Officer at the Chamber are going to have very different needs for his or her own growth than a person that is starting out with two years of experience at public relations agency.  So, being personal and being pervasive and being predictable with those two different clients is very different.  And serving their needs, based on their personas, is very different.  Talk about passionate, I get really passionate about it because we live in a myopic world.  We live in a place where it is, most unfortunately, all about me.  So, when I am serving those target audiences, we’ve got to look at what’s in it for them and how that’s going to cut through the clutter of the five hundred email messages that I get in a given day to really reach into my heart, into my head and out through my fingers so that I will say “yes, I want to come to this event”, “yes, I want to sign up for your webinar”, “yes, I want to follow your SEO trail on your google” or whatever it is.  

Adam:  One of the threads I heard in there too is that not only do you need to understand what your promise is, you need to understand who you are making the promise to and how you’re communicating that because, who you are making it to, you’re going to communicate it differently to different audiences, right?  

Elyse: Yes, so I guess we are adding about a tenth P, and that P would be persona.  As public relations professionals we’re constantly looking at our target audiences and through quantitative and qualitative research, primary and secondary sources, we’re trying to really segment that audience so that we can clearly define who it is that we are looking to and then how do we need to talk to them to get them to engage with us.  Then, what you do at the backend is you turn around and drive loyalty with them because, if your messages are consistent and pervasive then you can actually predict their next behavior. I love fashion, in my personal life, and one of the things that I caught that Giorgio Armani said is that elegance is not catching someone’s eye, it’s staying in their memory.  

Adam: I like that.

Elyse: And, if you think about the impact of what Armani did for the fashion industry, we are doing the same thing as marketers.  We are trying to stay in their memory so that they would spend five minutes looking back through their email, “Oh, there was that email I got,” that was compelling, it stayed in their memory.  I think that plays a very big role in how we catch and then keep that potential consumer.  

Adam: Fantastic, I love that.  One other thing we talked about, peripherally, and I think you may have mentioned it too, but I want to mention it during this conversation, is the idea of broken brands.  So, you’ve got the brand; you got the brand promise, you got the people you are making the promise to and then you have also got this idea of broken brands that you and I discussed.  Tell me a little bit more about that concept.

Elyse: This is one of the really beautiful things about the work that I do on a nonprofit realm.  My grandfather was a Methodist minister, and I learned an extravagant amount from sitting the very back wooden pew on a hot summer day and listening to him practice the rhetoric for the Sunday sermon.  At its infant state, what I would like to say about that is that regardless of what religious path you might choose, a lot of us obey ten simple rules.  I think that when you look at those simple rules, they so apply to how we make decisions in our lives, how we navigate the choices that we make.  They apply to branding too.  If you catch the brand in a lie, the brand is broken.  If you catch the brand being jealous of another brand

Adam: By trying to copy.

Elyse: By trying to copy, a copycat, the brand loses its value.  You could really go through and make an argument that the ten simple rules apply to everything.  In this age of the online world, there really are no secrets.  We’ve learned things about the President of the United States that we certainly maybe didn’t want to know.  

Adam: I certainly didn’t want to know.

Elyse: What that means to me is that we have to be transparent in all of our thinking and in all of our actions.  Our actions, indeed, do speak louder than words.  If we say we are going to do something, our brand must follow up and actually do it.  

Adam: So,  from your perspective, then the brand is the promise.

Elyse: Yes.

Adam: And we’re making a promise about something specific and when we break that promise, either through our own means or it’s broken for us, like in the example you gave us of Coke, its opening happiness, but if the store clerk has it out in the hot sun and tries to sell it to you, that brand promise is now broken.  That’s a broken brand.  It’s a minor example of a broken brand because it is a broken brand promise.  So, the question for nonprofits is what’s your brand, what’s your promise and who’s breaking it?

Elyse: Yes, and the North Star is how do we keep that ever in front of us so that we can continue to carry it out.  

Adam: That’s right.  I think the other question too is how do we continue to understand what our brand is as it evolves and how do we keep that message simple and clear.  Like the way, you described the Community Foundation was fantastic.  I 100% understood what you do in a fraction of a second.  Most nonprofits can’t do that.  I think that is a critical component as well.  

Elyse: There is nothing like cutting through the clutter.  

Adam: Yes, like you said.

Elyse: If we are smart on our research, planning, implementation, and evaluation, which are the four caveats of any smart marketing programme, then we’re constantly going to be cutting every time we do more research, every time we do more planning, every time we do more implementation, every time we do more evaluation, we have to be  able to constantly have to cut that message down, and you should be able to concisely share your message in the time that it takes to swallow a teaspoon full of water.  

Adam: That’s right, I love that.  This has been amazing; I really appreciate your time.  I don’t think I have any more questions.  

Elyse: I so appreciate being with you.  

Adam: Thanks for joining me on this.

The conclusion by Adam: Thank you for listening to my interview with Elyse Hammett from The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.  Here are a couple of takeaways that you might want to consider after listening to that episode.  

First, consider this exercise.  Take a moment and write down everything that your nonprofit does.  Get it all out on paper, however, many paragraphs or pages or words or whatever else, Get everything on paper.  

Now that that is done, rewrite it in half the words.  

And now that that is done, rewrite it in half the words again.  

And last time, now that that is done, rewrite that in half the words.  

The goal is to get down to about ten to fifteen words that really describe your organization really well.  That becomes your brand, that becomes how you want to communication yourself to the world, that becomes your marketing foundation.  Now, look at your marketing materials and your programmes and social media and ask yourself is the message in all these things what I just wrote down?  Does it match? and if it does that’s great and if it does not then you’ve got a little bit of work to do.

And lastly, take about an hour and create a document to write out your message and really understand what your message is, how you want to communicate it and then write down who you want to receive that message.  What does that individual look like.  How do you want to communicate with them?  If you do that then you will have a solid brand, you will understand what your brand promise is, you will understand if your brand is in fact broken and you will know exactly what to do about it.  

Again, I am your host, Adam Walker; you can find out more about me on my blog at adamjwalker.com where I talk about leadership and all kinds of other fun stuff.  You can also find out more about digital marketing on my company’s website sideways8.com, and you can also find all kinds of resources for nonprofits, as it relates to digital marketing at goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com.  I encourage you to check those sites out leave a comment, and if you liked this podcast, I would love for you to rate it.  Thanks and join us next time.  

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

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