Nominations and applications are now open for the 2018 brandUP , a free 2-day intensive marketing and communication workshop co-presented with Full Circle Fund . Last year's Awardee Root & Rebound has now had some time to reflect on the...Read more.
Even nonprofits with established identities need to reevaluate from time to time in order to stay relevant. In many cases, a brand refresh may be necessary. What is a Brand Refresh? Simply put, a brand refresh is a makeover. The goal is to enhance...Read more.
Digital marketing has stolen the spotlight in recent years, thanks to its accessibility and reach, but does that mean print is obsolete? Not according to a Two Sides survey: “88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used...Read more.
Mood boards are a an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights and clarify communication. They will help you visually explain a feeling and in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand. What makes a successful mood board process? Here...Read more.
Mood boarding can be tough, but is a great excerise to help generate a new look and feel for your brand. We've generated an infographic to that makes creating a mood board fun and easy in four simple steps. Below we've written out a step by step...Read more.
Building a logo can be as easy as ABC, or 123...yes, just like the Jackson 5 song. It is composed of basic building blocks of shapes, colors and letters. Just like a children’s cartoon, because really, if it does not read that simply, then you are...Read more.
Recently, Rootid and American Rivers, a Washington, DC based nonprofit, launched a new website together that showcases refreshed branding, an updated UX design focused the use of storytelling to drive user conversions, as well as seamless...Read more.
1. Identify your core values This is not just your mission, philosophy or that elevator speech people are always telling to you refine. These are the heart and soul of the work that you do, the high level concepts, the attributes of your brand that...Read more.
A style guide should have a few main components, but often times it gets bogged down in a lot of “descriptive jargon” that is just not that useful for your typical non-profit organization or association. A style guide is needed so that anyone who is...Read more.
UPDATE: Our presentation at Innovations in Healthy Food at The Federal Reserve Bank on December 14, 2016. See Slide Deck This past weekend a few of our Rootid co-hort and friends participated in the first hackathon ever organized in Richmond,...Read more.
Mood boarding can be tough, but is a great excerise to help generate a new look and feel for your brand. We've generated an infographic to that makes creating a mood board fun and easy in four simple steps.
You do not need to be a typographic guru to know what fonts look good together and what ones don't. Focus on personality and legibility.
The first font you choose should be something that you would want to use for headers on your print and web materials (show something with some ‘character/ personality’). The second font you choose should be something that is easier to read and will work well as body text across your print and web materials. Choosing a font family that is flexible and has thin/narrow options, bold, extended and black will get you the furthest.
2. CREATE A COLOR PALETTE
2-3 colors is fine, you do not need a huge assortment to feel visually cohesive— less is more.
Overall, it is good to pick 1-2 brighter colors to use for accents and then think about something additional that is more neutral.
Also consider using lighter and darker tones of the same color (hue) you are already using...lightening up (adding white) to your header color and then using it for a sub-header is a nice way to have something feel cohesive without needing to choose an additional color— make sure everything you choose goes with your logo as well.
3. PATTERN & TEXTURE
Not everyone likes or wants texture, but it should be considered either way. If you already know you want your colors and backgrounds to be flat, that is still a texture...
Show Visually: ie. flat, smooth, clean, etc. Or maybe you want a little more of a grunge feel, or something else that has a tactile or 3-D quality to it.
Choose 1-3 main photos and/or illustrations and another 4-7 images that you can use interchangeably across all of your materials.
Make sure the images you choose (as a collection) show the core values of your organization, campaign, project or idea.
This is not just your mission, philosophy or that elevator speech people are always telling to you refine. These are the heart and soul of the work that you do, the high level concepts, the attributes of your brand that are inspiring to you, yes, you as a person who works for said company, organization, association, etc. Think about it this way, what makes you stick around other than your paychecks?
Good branding comes from within—it needs to be ‘REAL’ or everyone will know you are faking it. Authenticity is what will draw supporters and keep them around. If you begin by identifying your core values and then align your messaging and visual language around them, you will have a strong foundation for authentic branding and a cohesive strategy to turn supporters into brand champions.
Core Value Sample: “I am inspired by the people I work with and the impact we are able to have on our local community as well as the nation as a whole. Though we are only one part of a larger organization, our office really is on the front line, leading the charge. It is exciting to be a part of real change.”
2. Figure out how your brand thinks.
Branding is really just a fancy word for personality. A strong brand has a way that it thinks about, interacts, wants to be seen by the world. All of these things are based in the brand’s core values, and once you know what they are, you can begin creating conversations. Try breaking things down into silos. What are they type of things that inspire this brand and how would it talk about why that thing is inspirational? What would make this brand laugh/what is its sense of humor like? What would make this brand cry? argue? feel smart? You get the idea. Now actually come up with descriptions of at least 4 that are applicable.
Recent Client Sample: “We want our brand to feel professional, strong and be a thought-leader in the international arena, but have a little bit of junkyard dog/scrappiness mixed in there as well. We are a small but mighty group and take on issues many organizations can’t.”
Once the above building blocks are in place, you can begin to develop the assets to support them, ie. the actual language you are going to use (messaging) and the visuals that match (color palette, typography, iconography, photography, etc.). Ultimately, creating a short style guide at this point in the process can be helpful. Then you can move onto specific deliverables like websites, social media, brochures or other marketing materials.
3. Build relationships not subjects
No one is looking for a friend who is constantly engaging in monologue, so your brand should not be doing this either. It is more than abiding by the 80-20 rule. (80% of your messaging should be information, resources and opportunities and 20% can be tooting you own horn.) People make new friends when that person has something interesting and exciting to share—they are looking to connect with someone of similar interests. This is the same for a brand who wants to engage with new community members…start by being a good friend. Listen to what people want, teach them about issues and ideas they may not be familiar with, but do so through conversation, not preaching. Present new ideas, ask for input, and discuss. As Seth Godin would say, “Build a tribe.”
A style guide should have a few main components, but often times it gets bogged down in a lot of “descriptive jargon” that is just not that useful for your typical non-profit organization or association. A style guide is needed so that anyone who is creating marketing materials for you will have the basic components and rules to maintain brand consistency and cohesion, but this does not need to be the next Iliad.
Your basic style guide needs to have some examples of your brand’s personality, how it talks about itself in different circumstances and then examples of the visuals that support this messaging. I have seen a lot of style guides during my tenure as a graphic designer and brand strategist, and more often than not I come away thinking, “Half of that was not necessary and only would confuse people who are not used to looking at or using this type of thing.” Keep it short and sweet, less is more.
Here are the basics:
1. Come up with a concise list of frequently asked questions about your organization and then answer them clearly with the tone and feel that you want others to use. This gives your brand champions/staff members/volunteers easy talking points without bogging them down in concept and explanations. Show don't tell.
2. Provide examples of how your logo can and should be used across your various marketing channels and materials so that people using your logo do not stretch or deform it. Remember to show black, white and colored backgrounds as well as in print and for the web.
3. Identify primary and secondary color palettes. If you really only want neutral tones with one pop of color used, show that, but make sure you have a enough secondary colors that your brand will feel consistent and unified without feeling dull and flat. Many organizations/associations have silos to their programs, so being able to color code these different areas is often useful.
4. Provide font families for print and web. If you are not providing people with fonts that you have purchased, make sure that you choose some strong, free web fonts. Always using Arial can get pretty boring, so look into widely used Google Fonts. Their library has gotten pretty extensive now and you can find some good stuff. In this section of your guide, you also want to show people how to layout text. Show a few samples of headlines, headings, sub-headings, body text, quotes, bulleted lists and provide line-heights and letter-spacing notes.
5. Include photography and iconography examples. Your look and feel is important as well as any sensitivities you want to make sure brand messengers are aware of. Showing samples of good photography (even if it is stock) that illustrate the correct tone as well as any color or texture treatments is important to make available.
Final Note: It is important to provide guidance to those who are going to create print and/or digital assets that support your brand. It is also important to have your brand messaging and visual identity clear, consistent and cohesive. However, this can be easily accomplished in under 20 pages. Keep it simple.
Need help with your branding or building a style guide? We can help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
BrandUP Award Winner Root & Rebound - 1 Year Later
Nominations and applications are now open for the 2018 brandUP, a free 2-day intensive marketing and communication workshop co-presented with Full Circle Fund. Last year's Awardee Root & Rebound has now had some time to reflect on the experience, so we sat down to chat with them to provide helpful tips to this year's participants.
1. What is Root & Rebound currently focused on as an organization?
Founded in 2013, Root & Rebound (R&R) is a California-based reentry advocacy center that creates leading-edge solutions to one of the most pressing challenges of our time - mass incarceration - working to help people break out of poverty into freedom and economic opportunity, and alleviating the heavy personal and societal costs of our bloated and broken justice system.
Leveraging lessons learned from our California long-term work & our growing national collaborations & projects, our core initiatives have grown over the last year to include expanding to 2 additional sites with California; deepening our direct services work, expanding our legal clinics & hotline services; running employment clinics & educating employers, pushing for occupational licensing reform, & building a statewide prison/jail based curriculum.
Nationally, we are growing our footprint and initiatives, with 7 state-specific toolkits & beginning a national expansion strategy that will bring our model to key, high-need states in the coming years.
2. Through a communications lens, what have you been focused on over the last year and how is that supporting your overall organizational goals?
R&R has invested heavily in our PR and Communications strategy on both national and community levels to raise awareness about second chance opportunities through partnership and coalition building, educating employers, policy makers and journalists, and engaging corporations like Facebook to support this work as we explore our model for scale.
We are also in the process of building the first ever reentry legal wiki and sharing it across the country.
3. How did your experience with Rootid and our BrandUP Award inform your communications strategy?
Our experience with Rootid allowed us to think critically and holistically about the ways in which we communicate with our key stakeholders - donors, partners, and people directly impacted by incarceration. It allowed us to strip back our assumptions and dive into the way these people live their lives and how we could engage with them on a journey of discovery about Root & Rebound.
Now, we go much deeper and we have concrete engagement strategies for our key stakeholders whereas before we would keep a more broad and sporadic approach to our communications and PR and community connection.
4. Did anything change in your communications and processes from before to after your brandUP experience?
Our communications strategy has definitely expanded to include larger views of our audience and the ways we can help them to understand and see the value our work. Additionally, having realized the importance and potential in our communications, we have now made it a priority to align both the programs and development team in our communications strategy. Now our communications strategies are wider-spanning and effective for both teams.
We have also more deeply understood the impact of storytelling by launching a 48,000 barriers campaign in conjunction with Valerie at Rootid at our first ever Empowerment Summit in Spring 2017, which allowed us to gather quotes and stories that we can use going forward. This has deeply informed our social media communications on an ongoing basis
5. How have you integrated the work into your marketing materials and planning?
On the programs side, we have:
Leveraged Rootid’s design support to streamline our programs materials with new hotline cards, updated program flyers, and the ongoing creation of partnerships packets. With the hotline cards, we can easily pass out digestible information to the people we serve, at clinics, trainings, etc. As we ramp up our direct services across the state, this level of synthesised information is more critical than ever.
We are also re-creating the R&R website to more strongly reflect our growing programs and make sure that information is easy to read, digestible, and clear in how users can engage with our services.
We have also heavily leveraged Rootid’s consulting advice to promote our paid services to partnerships across the Bay Area and have secured three new long term contracts to date.
On the fundraising side, we have:
Committed to engaging more deeply with our existing individual donors and increasing our network even further, by creating a Circle of Friends to support R&R either through donations, leveraging their platform, or their skills. Over time, we hope to build a key initiative that draws people into the organization and creates long-term ambassadors for our work.
More heavily focused on sharing our stories of success to our wider audience via newsletters and social media to show the work we are doing and the impact it is having.
Finally, we have streamlined our communications strategy between the programs and the development team so there is a cohesive calendar and content strategy between them. We have also hired two Americorps VISTAs - one Development and Communications VISTA and one Community Partnerships VISTA to execute on this strategy and build our communications content.
6. Was there anything that was unexpected or surprised you that came out of the work we did together?
I think it’s easy to come into a consulting project saying you have an urgent need for concrete materials and plans and you need your online website hits to increase by X%, but the biggest value add for us was the thought partnership and the focus on approach of listening, hearing, and sharing of experiences. Rootid showed us ways to go beyond a communications strategy, printed or web content, and instead get to the heart of our mission and impact which lies directly in human experiences of reentry and the daily barriers they face.
By focusing squarely on elevating those experiences, we were able to come up with a thoughtful and strategic communications strategy that aligned with our mission and that brought the organization’s development and programs team together to streamline our work, elevate the voices of those we serve, and really demonstrate what really matters to the wider public - which is breaking down barriers to opportunity for all Americans with criminal records.
7. In what ways do you think we can use this process to help organizations like yours further their missions?
I think the most valuable piece for our team was having strategic thought partners that could dig into our model and where we were and where we were trying to go and help figure out simple steps and best practices to achieving those goals. E.g. focus on your stakeholders journey before thinking about creating materials tailored to them.
A helpful way to approach it might be to focus on some big questions upfront that might be even higher level than communications strategies necessarily and then spend time digging into ideas and resources on a macro level. A lot of Rootid’s value add can be the ability to see above the micro day-to-day of a nonprofit professional’s workload and allow them the space and support to engage critically and thoughtfully with the challenges they are facing and how they can get to the end result in new ways.
8. Since we are changing the format of BrandUP to now be a 2-day intensive covering the material we did but with 12 nonprofits, what advice would you give to this next co-hort so that they can be prepared for and get the most out of their experience?
Ask as many questions as possible! Don’t be afraid to share the small and big questions and the real challenges, time and capacity constraints you face in communicating with your stakeholders. Chances are Rootid will be able to draw on experiences with other nonprofits that have wrestled with the same challenges and draw on their own expertise and experiences to bring solutions to life.
Be ambitious! Talk about where you want to be as an organization and what you’re trying to achieve in the next 5 -10 years, every step you take now with your communications is a step further to making that impact a reality.
Even nonprofits with established identities need to reevaluate from time to time in order to stay relevant. In many cases, a brand refresh may be necessary.
What is a Brand Refresh?
Simply put, a brand refresh is a makeover. The goal is to enhance your organization’s image, while staying recognizable—but how do we go about that?
Steps for a Brand Refresh:
Review your core values. Go back to the beginning. Remember all of those questions you sat down and asked yourself the first time around? It’s time to revisit them to see where your answers now differ.
Conduct stakeholder interviews. As a general rule, it’s good to do these once a year, as a tool to gauge the effectiveness of your mission, outreach, and short/long-term goals. Getting feedback from stakeholders (internal staff, your board of directors, community members, etc.) will help you determine which aspects of your brand need addressed.
Example question: Using a few keywords, how do you want people to see your brand?
Redefine your target audiences and personas. Determining your target audience was tough the first time around. Thankfully, you should have a better idea of who is most receptive to your message now. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start grouping common characteristics to create personas—or profiles of imaginary people.
Consider what they want from you and what you want from them in return. How can you guide them from being unaware of your organization to a loyal brand advocate? Keep fleshing them out.
Develop content that will interest them at various stages in their journeys.
Update your visual language. Mood boards are an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights, and clarify communication. They help visually explain a feeling and, in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand. They’re where your brand refresh will be most evident, especially if your organization adopts a new logo.
Tweak your messaging. Great content is critical to achieving higher conversion rates and engaging user experiences. Based on your profiles’ points of view, consider what tone of organizational “voice” would best reach, engage, and compel community members and donors.
Audit your marketing materials. You’re almost there! It’s time to look at your print materials, event collateral, social media channels, newsletter templates, website, etc. Are they achieving measurable results? Do they need to be updated to reflect any of the aforementioned steps?
Update your assets. Your assets are your brand messengers. As such, it’s important to maintain cohesive marketing materials in print and online. Doing so will lead to more donations and more volunteer signups, so be sure to keep them up-to-date.
For a successful brand refresh, you’ll need a look at where you came from, where you are now, and where you want to go from here. The adjustments will take work, but the end results should be well worth it!
Digital marketing has stolen the spotlight in recent years, thanks to its accessibility and reach, but does that mean print is obsolete? Not according to a Two Sides survey:
“88% of respondents indicated that they understood, retained or used information better when they read print on paper compared to lower percentages (64% and less) when reading on electronic devices.”
The key is understanding when and how to leverage that preference. Print collateral is best used in strategic settings, where you’re in a position to provide something tangible—something that either lends credibility (banners, signs, swag, etc.) or encourages engagement (programs, forms, business cards, etc.) Take Full Circle Fund’s yearly UNITE event, for example.
By utilizing print, we were able to set a festive and informative tone at SF Jazz. Everything was branded and strategically placed—from the stickers on the mini-wine bottles to the programs highlighting Full Circle Fund’s grant cycle.
Even our new foldout business cards had to pull their weight, that night. In addition to providing basic contact information, they also listed our services, featured a client testimonial, and encouraged follow-up with a tear-off ticket (redeemable for a drink with a Rootid founder).
That’s not to say digital didn’t play a role, of course. No one can dispute social media’s role in creating awareness.
The point is, by recognizing print and digital’s individual advantages, we were able to help Bay Area guests discover and celebrate social change in their community. That, in and of itself, is a huge success!
Mood boards are a an effective way to discuss ideas, share insights and clarify communication. They will help you visually explain a feeling and in turn, develop a more authentic and successful brand.
What makes a successful mood board process? Here is a simple 5 step process that will help you succeed.
1. Mood boards help us understand.
We use mood boards as a conversation starter—a way to describe things that sometimes can not be explained as clearly with words. It is also a way to build common vocabulary so that when a stakeholder says they want something ‘modern,’ ‘clean,’ ‘friendly’ or ‘leadership’ looking, we understand the nuances related to what they are describing.
2. Successful mood boards are built collaboratively.
Rather than presenting what Iwe think the ‘look and feel’ should be, your team shouldwe all work together to refine photography, fonts, icons and color palette options. The discussion that surrounds what project stakeholders like and especially, don’t like, not only creates a strong foundation for the new visual language, but lays the groundwork for more effective project communication.
3. Mood boarding is about following your gut.
Since clients sometimes have a hard time conceptualizing mood boards, breaking thethis exercise down into more bite size pieces helps them engage more deeply in the process.experience the process more effectively. Mood boarding has been called They often rename it ‘art therapy’ because it becomes less about what thetheir brand, identity, print, website or social media campaign will ‘look’ like, and more about how it will ‘feel’.
4. Mood boards help us visualize an idea.
During theIn our first round, Rootid’s teamwe always strikes out in a lot of different visual directions that feel unique from one another. Then we hone in 2 more rounds to get to a mood board that feels like a combination of the strongest attributes that will ultimately define the visual language.
The process is so much more than building a collage of inspiration, it is taking that idea one step further and saying, “These images, colors, fonts, and icons combined give us a strong and cohesive visual language.”
5. Mood boards are a single page style guide.
In many ways, you can think of it like a small, succinct style guide. Rather than multiple pages of information about look, feel and messaging, it gives you a quick overview on a single page that still contains all of the needed elements.
At Rootid, our team uses mood boarding as a collaborative and effective way to generate a brand’s look and feel. It is the best way we know to communicate the nuances that go into building a cohesive and authentic visual language for any brand.
Review Your Mood Boards with Stakeholders
Don't forget to test your moodboards with your audiences. Remember that you're trying to visually communicate with a lot of different people: customers, donors, constituents or whoever else.
We have had many clients share their mood boards with those they are serving as well as board memebers or any other stakeholders. The more feedback they got, the more effectively they were able to visually communicate with their supporters.
Conduct stakeholder interviews will help you get feedback and refine your work. Check out our stakeholder interview guide to make sure you get the information your need.
Building a logo can be as easy as ABC, or 123...yes, just like the Jackson 5 song. It is composed of basic building blocks of shapes, colors and letters. Just like a children’s cartoon, because really, if it does not read that simply, then you are probably doing something wrong. Think about some of the most famous (and successful) logos such as Nike’s swoosh, Twitter's bird, or Target’s, well, target.
Logo Design Shape
So let’s start with shapes. Did you know the majority of logos (about 50%) are rectangular shaped? The other 50% are a pretty clean split between squares and circles, with the random organic shapes coming in at less than 10%. Think about what logos are used for these days…often on a website, right? Well that is probably the reason so many logos are rectangular, it is simply easier to place and clearly read across devices without taking up too much vertical space. That being said, you do still need to consider the square or circular version of a logo because they are needed for profile pictures for your social media accounts. So, ultimately, it is best to have a logo that reads well at small sizes and can work no matter the space it needs to fit in.
Logo Color Theory
Now, how do you choose a color (or colors) for your logo. What do you want it to feel like? Before you begin to play with color, make sure your logo works in just black, you want to make sure that color is enhancing what you already have and not carrying your message. Here is a list of what different colors are often times associated with (in western culture).
Red: Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, all things intense and passionate, sincerity, happiness (Only in Japan) -- when using red, it is important to consider that it also means "stop," so probably best not to use it for a button you really want people to click.
Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm. Keep in mind, as much as this is finally starting to change, pink is not always the most "gender neutral" color to use.
Beige and ivory symbolize unification. Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness. Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity. These are both great colors to use as a neutral tone in your palette. Or if you think a white background is too sterile, these are nice colors to use to warm things up more subtlely.
Yellow signifies joy, happiness, betrayal, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard and friendship. Uh, yeah, it can mean a lot of things, so be careful how you use it and what shade you are using. The negative words tend to be associated when the yellow is a cooler tone, the cheerier when it is warmer and closer to orange.
Dark Blue: Symbolizes integrity, knowledge, power, and seriousness. This can also feel cold, sterile and removed, so use it carefully. Colleges and universities use dark blue a lot, but often pair it with gold or teal or a warmer shade of blue.
Blue: Peace, tranquility, cold, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, technology, depression, appetite suppressant. Blue is use A LOT because it can stand alone really well and mean a lot of different things. Think Facebook, Samsung, GE, Ford, Intel, HP, GAP, even the UN.
Turquoise symbolizes calm. Teal symbolizes sophistication. Aquamarine symbolizes water. Lighter turquoise has a feminine appeal. The more minty shades feel the most tranquil and are often used for meditation type companies.
Lavender symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance. Again, this is not always the most "gender neutral" color to use...and can often come across more youthful than you may want.
Orange: Energy, balance, enthusiasm, warmth, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant, demanding of attention. This is a great "Call to Action" color, which is why you will so often see it used for donate buttons on websites.
Green: Nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, service, inexperience, envy, misfortune, vigor. Please note that darker and more "Autumn" shades are more environmental feeling, bright grass greens are more "Spring" and the fluorescents get into the envy and misfortune end of the specturm. There is a reason the Matrix movies use fluorescent green.
Brown: Earth, stability, hearth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, simplicity, and comfort. Brown is a great and warmer alternative to black. You don't see it used that much on websites or branding, but it works.
Gray: Security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, sadness, boring. Silver symbolizes calm. This is another good neutral color that can warm up a palette that feels stark while still allowing a lot of open, empty space.
Last but not least, there are letters, well fonts (typography). How do you choose whether to use modern or classic, a serif, sans-serif, or handwritten font? Strong typography can be tricky and needs to take into consideration a variety of factors. This post is about how to keep it simple, so here are some basic guidelines. Do you want modern and tech feeling? Use a sans-serif font. The more rounded, the more modern it will feel, the more sharp= action oriented, narrow= more classic and sophisticated. Want something approachable? Use a handwritten font. Serif fonts are best for large blocks of text or logos that need to feel more serious and mature. Note, there are a lot more nuances here so for more in-depth information read, "Web Typography Best Practices."
Recently, Rootid and American Rivers, a Washington, DC based nonprofit, launched a new website together that showcases refreshed branding, an updated UX design focused the use of storytelling to drive user conversions, as well as seamless implementation of extensive functionality updates.
We began the revitalization process through extensive stakeholder interviews and goal setting conversations. Below is a brief synopsis of how Rootid addressed the goals that were set forth.
Website Project Goals
American Rivers’ main goal was to establish themselves as a leader in the environmental space.
Though the organization had been (and continues to be) responsible for many policy successes, their team and organizational tendency to work more ‘behind the scenes,’ did not lend itself to a lot of visibility in the community at large. Their goal was to bring their brand voice front and center— becoming a more clear contributor to these environmental victories.
In summary, the project goals were:
Improved visual language and brand positioning—stronger use of imagery coupled with compelling and engaging content to increase traffic and engagement.
Improved information architecture and user experience—build interfaces that engage and immerse site visitors in environmental content, while also facilitating increased conversions.
Improve conversion rates—tie calls to action on the website more closely with the content that a site visitor is viewing on a given page. Reduce friction on conversion pathways.
Brand Positioning: Rich Imagery and Video
American Rivers has a massive library of rich photography and videos that are either produced in-house or by partners. Since many site visitors would never be able to experience first hand some of the remote places that American Rivers protects, Rootid set out to leverage their rich media throughout the site—immering site visitors into the various river ecosystems.
Rootid also built the home page with flexibility in mind—it has the capacity to both leverage video background loops as well as stand alone images and slideshows—all to bring rivers to life for site visitors.
Custom Wordpress Plug-in: River Cleanup Pledge and Social Aggregation
As part of the American Rivers National River Cleanup Anniversary, they released a campaign that encouraged community members nationwide to pledge to pickup 25 pieces of trash. When users take the pledge they are asked to identify their state. The custom plug-in then displays each state as a heat map to indicate how the state’s residents are performing compared to other states and you can explore state totals by hovering over them.
As part of the #WeAreRivers campaign, community members that post a photo on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter using the campaign hashtag, have their image aggregated into the Virtual Landfill below the map.
Increase Conversion Rates: Topic-Based Calls to Action
Rootid took two approaches to increase website conversion rates:
First, we built in the ability for content administrators to connect specific call to actions, onto each page of the site, based on the page’s topic. This ensures that every call to action was closely tied to the interest of the user.
For example, if a site visitor was on a page about dam removal, the call to action would specifically address an active dam removal campaign.
Secondly, we front loaded the steps that users perform to take action. We called these “quick actions.”
For example, on the homepage, users can now fill out a donation amount on the first screen rather than having to go to the donation form first. By asking users to make this first commitment, they are less likely to abandon the donation process in later steps.
Feature: User-Submitted Content
One of the main content strategies taking place at American Rivers is leveraging user generated content (UGC). UGC is one of the largest trends in online communications strategy, and stems from the idea that the web is no longer a static interface. Site visitors expect to be able to engage in their web experience as a contributor, not just a reader. Much of this is born from their social media experiences.
To address this strategy, Rootid built an online submission process for user-submitted content. American Rivers constituents can now submit stories, photography and videos directly on the website. This submission will be held in queue to be approved by website administrators and, after review, can be published quickly and easily.
Custom Analytics Implementation
Our team believes that success should always have measurable outcomes. That is why analytics are so important to web projects. It also provides information on how we can continue to improve projects over time and take on an iterative approach to achieve success.
Rootid’s analytics team created custom tracking capabilities to provide rich data around user behavior and engagement. We set-up analytics that will help the American Rivers and Rootid teams continue to work on improving content strategies that drive online conversions, as well as help better understand user behaviors.
Of course, this project is just the beginning. Now that we have in depth analytics in place, we can continue to work with the American Rivers team to improve conversion rates, attract new users, and engage existing users. Online communications strategy and success is a continuously iterative process—it’s important to make decisions based on data.
This past weekend a few of our Rootid co-hort and friends participated in the first hackathon ever organized in Richmond, California. Its purpose was to provide real solutions that both the Mayor's Office and citizens could use on a day-to-day basis to improve the city. The focus was to build an application that improves the livability, sustainability and connectedness of Richmond, and let's just say we had an amazing time. The hackathon was part of the Meeting of the Minds Annual Summit which convenes 400+ VIPs from 25+ countries to discuss the future of sustainable and smart cities and the top 3 teams from the hackathon got to present what they built during the conference.
Well, Rootid had a pretty good showing and made it to the top 3 with our idea (The Stalk Exchange)—not too shabby for our first go at this kind of thing. We planned, designed and built a web application that allows neighbors to trade their produce and skills with one another through a simple search and messaging system. Richmond is considered a food desert and to combat this, a lot of community gardens, urban farms and home planter boxes are cropping up. The Stalk Exchange would not only encourage this, but help people learn how to gain greater yields and then swap what they grow with one another. Our hope is that this kind of application could help strengthen community amongst neighbors while also filling a gap in a serious health issue.
Great presentation! We may not have won the check but top 3 ain't shabby! #motm 2015 and we met some great people. Congrats! @stridecenter
Our Building Experience...what we found interesting, difficult, exciting and suprising.
Realistic Timelines & Setting Priorities: From a development stand point, Jason and JP thought maintaining a realistic timeline proved more difficult than anticipated. Normally, when you fall behind in one area, you can make it up elsewhere during a project. They didn't expect that in such a short timeframe, that the inability to make up time elsewhere would make such a big impact in the final product. We really had to scale down our vision to the most basic essentials and work on getting that out the door.
Organization is Key: Though we built quickly and relatively efficiently, we all agree that we had to leave out some functionality that maybe we would not have if we had planned a little better at the beginning. We ended up spending time working on functionality that we didn't include in the end product. We all agree, that this is where talking through with one of the mentors we were provided would have been helpful. We never thought to discuss our overall game plan with them, only specific ideas for feedback.
The Ideal Team: Though we were able to build our product, we all felt there was one key component missing—an additional back-end developer. Our team needed 5 people and only had 4—1 back-end developer, 1 front-end developer, 1 IA/UX/designer and 1 research/content strategist. Even though we had all our bases covered, we got held up on fuctionality and a little bit on front-end development when it came to application of the theming. With an additional back-end developer this would have increased our efficiency in the implementation of components and would have allowed our front-end developer to have a little support to get the theming done more quickly.
Suprising Successes: What was most exciting/surprising to us, is that 4 people were able to build an operational web application including visual branding and content in less than 2 days. It is not perfect of course, but it works, you can login through Facebook or G+, create a profile, search and initiate a swap through a simple messaging system. The design is responsive so can be viewed and interacted with across any device...and looks pretty cute as well! This is the kind of project that would take our firm 4-6 weeks to complete under normal conditions, so it was exciting that we were able to come up with a relevant idea, organize and build it all in such a short amount of time.