FORGE in the News

Published: 05/03/2015

Five Things Associations Do to Unbrand Themselves

By Forge Branding

Significant changes in the economy, the competitive landscape and the ways people consume information have propelled branding and marketing to priority status among associations. Our work with scores of associations and membership organizations led to our compilation of the Top Five things they do that undervalue their brands and limit their own success.

And, drumroll…. Here they are.

1. Associations are great at telling their members’ value story but usually earn low grades for telling their own

Most associations are member service focused enough to be able to tell you what’s great about their members and their members’ work without blinking an eye. But, ask them to tell their own value story and they don’t know where to start.

Building your brand effectively means taking the time to understand your value and how you contribute to your members’ success – and telling that story with unyielding consistency.

2. Marketing that doesn’t market at all

When the economy is strong and competition weak, it’s fine to just pass along information about yourself and what events, programs and reports you are offering. Today you need to not only tell your members what you’re up to, but you need to tell them why they should care.

Go beyond conveying information about what you’re doing and put that information in a context that will show members and prospects how they will benefit from what you are doing. Help them connect the dots so they can quickly grasp the value and why they need to jump on board.

3. All departments have their own brands

Associations most often have decentralized communications responsibilities with too little brand coordination between them. Spread a broad sampling of your communications out on a table. Is it clear at first glance that they all came from the same organization? Or does each department have its own way of expressing your brand? Do they work together to tell a bigger picture story or do they give siloed glimpses that reflect your inner organizational structure instead of reflecting the way members think about you?

Giving everyone autonomy and control over their own communications may make individuals in the organization happy, but it will also work against building a strong organization-wide brand and reputation.

4. If you don’t consider your website to be a brand tool, think again

In the early days of websites, technology departments managed their design and architecture to meet technology protocols. Now, the starting point of your website design needs to be an assessment of how to best tell your brand story and create a brand experience – not as an assessment of technological functionality.

Strange as it may seem, many associations seem to like starting their web redesigns before their brand identity initiatives. Turn that around and you’ll yield a site that works twice as hard toward your goals.

5. Social media that is unrelated to member value

For most association’s members, networking ranks as one of the highest value benefits of membership. Social media is made for networking. Find out what social media sites your members are using and what they want from networking. Then deliver it.

Like with all other media, reflect the purpose and personality of your brand. Social media enables you and your members to extend relationships beyond gatherings and gives you opportunity to add value to their lives every day.

Learn how to apply these ideas and the rest of FORGE’s experience to your specific association’s challenges and opportunities.

For our free advice on how your brand can work harder for you, fill in the form below and
Matt Sibert will contact you to set up a 30-minute call.

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