Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Guest Post: Developing a brand through an online presence

By Alexia Harris at Project Learn of Summit County (@alexiaharris)

It is imperative that nonprofits understand the significance of developing a brand. Whether your mission is to support cancer research or provide services to adults in need of literacy skills that mission needs to be communicated not only in person, but also online.

In June 2009, it was announced that the YMCA of the USA's brand is worth almost $6.4 billion, making it the nation's most valuable nonprofit brand, according to research conducted by Cone and Intangible Business. The study also revealed that The American Cancer Society stood out with the strongest brand image, which can be credited to its standing as the single most relevant nonprofit organization among consumers. This study showed the correlation between an organization’s mission, brand and value. It also proved the importance of nurturing the public’s awareness and opinion of the organization.

As the community relations manager for Project Learn of Summit County, one of my responsibilities is managing the agency’s online presence with strategies that support business, marketing and communication objectives (among other things).

My goal is to make sure that Project Learn is properly represented on the Internet.

To reach my goal, I had to do three things:

1. Revamp Project Learn’s web site to make it helpful, user-friendly and visually appealing.

2. Implement search engine optimization tactics to improving our web site’s availability to search engines and social media networks.

3. Monitor and participate in social media to gain insight to topics that are related to literacy and adult education.

This is not a “do it and leave it alone” type of job. You must update, monitor and participate in all types of communication activities on a regular basis. Communicating your mission and maintaining your brand must be done with care, as well as convey the same message. Nowadays, when a person wants more information about an organization, the first thing they do is conduct an online search, which is why an organization’s online brand is so critical.

However, it is important to remember that when implementing your strategies and tactics, that your mission be integrated seamlessly so that it is able to become synonymous with the brand. By taking the correct steps to establish your brand and communicate your mission, you will create a very useful means to generate needed funds and prove your worth to supporters and volunteers.

*Do you want to see how Project Learn does it? Browse our Facebook page, Twitter profile and blog for suggestions on communicating your brand and mission online.