Everyone is always throwing the term “brand” around, so what is a brand? Most realize it is not just a logo or the colors and taglines you use, but an expression of what makes you unique. Simple right?
In theory, yes. But, when it comes time to sit down and really analyze what makes a community unique, it may not be so easy. Oftentimes, there are so many people at the table and so many opinions and agendas, it is not always easy to filter that true unique selling point. Less is not always more.
Here are a few steps to consider when working with your community to determine that brand.
You need to spend some time to educate the people involved in what you are doing. Develop copy that explains what you are doing, why you are doing, and how a true brand will help the community. Let people know that you respect and appreciate their feedback and that you will be asking them to contribute to the process.
This can come in the form of a letter, invitation to participate, a specially designed website, email or many other forms of communication; sometimes several. Once everyone has bought in, you will all be headed in the same direction.
Who are these people you need buy-in from? They will be stakeholders within the community: business people, attractions, restaurateurs, and, yes, probably a politician or two. These are all the people you will be tapping into for the internal research for your brand.
Make sure this is a diverse group. Young, older, different industries, etc. Each will have their own perspective on why they think the community is unique.
It’s always nice to have a public forum (with a good facilitator), but also take the time to do some follow up one-on-one interviews with folks. Also, make sure you look at what you have done in the past. What has worked and, more importantly, what has not worked.
Finding out what other successful communities are doing is important. Don’t be afraid to do a little competitive analysis. Find other communities with similar demographics and qualities and compare yourself to them. Understand the current behaviors of your prospect.
Oftentimes, we get so consumed with what we think people will do or think we don’t take the time to research what the public is actually doing, especially when it comes to choosing a destination.
Track your own brand and see what people are saying about you. This may be a bit frustrating at times, but understand that perception is reality. There are so many ways to research these items online nowadays.
This is where it gets tricky. Everyone thinks they have great ideas – most do not. I have a firm belief that there IS such a thing as a bad idea. Make sure you have the right people at the table when it comes time to put a face and message on what you have just discovered. Don’t forget that you just spent a lot of time doing all the research and that, whatever you do, it needs to point to what you discovered in that research. If it does not, then don’t do it.
Every community has something special, something unique, but it can be hard to recognize it when you live in that community. You have to discover the bad and embrace the good to build a solid community brand.