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Brand it: is your change programme a twenty-something hipster?

By Roubaix Lerner, PA people and talent expert

Brands like McDonald’s, Nike, Apple and Visa are instantly recognisable. But each one is much more than a logo or colour palette. It’s a carefully constructed identity designed to build an emotional connection with customers. If you’re trying to engage an organisation with change, building a brand for your programme can work for you too. Here’s how to get started.

Put people first

Start with your employees. Be clear about who they are and understand what will engage them. Then build a brand that connects with them. If the brand personality feels like a trendy twenty-something hipster, but your employees are resolutely unfashionable fifty-somethings, the brand will fall flat on its face.

Make the right connection

Build a brand that suits the underlying tone of your change programme. Do you want people to start working differently to comply with important regulation? A brand that feels more formal, like a school headmaster could work well. Or do you want them to feel excited about the future? A brand that feels like an informal friend would do a better job. Understanding how you want people to feel about change will help you get your brand personality spot on.

Find your voice

Imagery and language will bring your brand personality to life and make it heard among the noise of the organisation. Don’t be afraid to be different. If your organisation’s internal communications tend to be a little ‘news reader’, don’t be afraid to be more ‘Blue Peter presenter’!

Finding the right language was a big challenge when we led a large IT transformation for a government organisation. There were lots of highly technical terms that people across the wider organisation would find hard to understand. So, we created a language guide to help everyone on the change programme communicate in a way that would resonate with the organisation. We made sure the language fitted the informal brand of the change programme.

For a large international pharmaceutical organisation involved in a major restructuring we even built a brand with very little language at all. Instead, we used pictures that everyone would recognise and understand whatever region they were based in.

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Fine-tune your message

You’ll have different messages to communicate at different times in your programme, but what’s the core message you get over? Often, this is the burning platform that prompted change and the inspiring vision for the future.

Sometimes it takes a while for the message to get through, so you’ll need to reinforce it again and again. Avoid scripting a ‘key message’ and repeating it, using exactly the same words each time. It’ll quickly become stale. Instead, get the key points right and communicate the message using different words and channels each time.

Choose your look

Once you know your brand’s personality, you can start to design its appearance. Avoid creating one logo or graphic that’s stamped on all programme communications. Instead, create a ‘theme’ that gives you the flexibility to produce new visuals to suit different situations. This will stop your communications getting boring.

For a large-scale change programme, we designed a series of characters to support different initiatives at different stages of the programme. As the brand developed, the characters came to represent the core behaviours the organisation needed to change. We used them to reinforce the importance of behaviour change and achieved high levels of engagement with this approach.

Stand out from the crowd

Building a strong and consistent brand for your change programme may feel a challenge. But standing out from other change initiatives and increasing engagement is top on the wish list for most communications teams. A brand can really help. All that’s left to decide is, is your change programme a twentysomething hipster or…?

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