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Simple Steps to Authentic Brand Strategy

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 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.”

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