Insights
2 min Read
May 28, 2015

3 pieces of rebranding advice from a seasoned Executive Director

Sarah Durham and Rebecca Goldsmith

A few years ago, Big Duck was approached by the Applied Research Center (ARC), now Race Forward, about helping them rebrand.

Race Forward is a fantastic organization working to build awareness, solutions, and leadership for racial justice. They publish the daily news site Colorlines and present Facing Race, the country’s largest multiracial conference on racial justice.

When they hired Big Duck, they were flying under the radar. The ARC brand was less well-known than the Colorlines branda real problem for their organizational communications. To really advance racial justice, they needed a brand that would set them apart and engage audiences on many levels.

To get the job done, we took their team through an all-day brandraising intensive and coached them as their staff implemented our recommendations.

We recently caught up with Rinku Sen, Executive Director of Race Forward, to find out what advice she has to share with other organizations who are going into a rebranding process. Here’s what Rinku recommends:

  1. Think strategically.  The decision to change their organization’s name coincided with a fundamental shift in how Race Forward (then ARC) was representing–and communicating aboutitself.  As Rinku says, “Politically, we are [now] very explicit about our racial justice commitment.  We’re trying to remove the silencing effect of color blindness on racial discourse. We were pursuing a political strategy by pursuing a mouthy name.”  Their new name was addressing this pivot head-on.
  1. Engage your staff and key stakeholders.  “If they’re unhappy, the process and the subsequent change is going to be miserable. If they’re engaged, it will be a better process because the new brand will be really connected to your organization’s history. You’re less likely to have re-do’s.” Getting the right people on board with the rebranding effort can make things move along much more smoothly. Not only do your key stakeholders have real insight into the history and mission of your organization, getting them involved throughout the process will help mitigate any tension after the launch of your rebrand.

  1. Take advantage of your organization’s own communications capabilities.  After arriving at a brand strategy with Big Duck’s help, Race Forward took on the implementation of the rebrand in-house. By allowing the process to be fun and creative, the team at Race Forward ended up feeling a real sense of ownership over their rebrand, and effectived changes on many levels. Of course, not every organization has the capacity to take on the volume Race Forward did, but keep an eye out for opportunities to create or refine elements of your brand in-house.

A lot of Rinku’s advice comes down to making sure you’ve got your ducks in a row before jumping into a rebrand. Take a look at this infographic to help decide if the time is right to make some real communications changes at your nonprofit.

Have any other pieces of advice for orgs looking to rebrand? Tell us in the comments!

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