This piece was originally posted on the Global Health Corps blog: http://ghcorps.org/the-five-pillars-of-a-strong-global-health-brand/
If there is one lesson I’ve learned from working at the Global Health Delivery (GHD) Project at Harvard University these last few months, it is that the global health field is full of extremely intelligent individuals that are required to maintain expertise in a variety of interdisciplinary skills. GHD’s mission is to build a network of professionals dedicated to value-based health care globally, and they do this by creating public goods that give global health professionals an opportunity to learn the varied skills needed to deliver health care effectively and efficiently without letting the quality of care they provide diminish.
Through their online virtual communities on GHDonline.org, GHD connects more than 13,000 global health professional to solve their real-time health care delivery concerns. Doctors have the opportunity to ask engineers the best way to structure a TB clinic to prevent the spread of infection to new patients, while health literacy experts can share their health communications plans.
For this fellowship year, I am helping GHD with their marketing and development. As a trained marketing and communications professional, I can’t help but notice the gap in marketing and branding resources for global health professionals. Many organizations with marketing resources generally use corporate marketing plans and branding concepts, but others are missing the necessary tools.
Having a strong global health organization begins with a strong brand. Without a strong brand, donors and clients are less likely to trust your organization. Here are the five pillars of a strong global health brand. When you read them consider your organization. Do you have a strong global health brand?
1. Know Who You Are and Who You Want to Be
Branding is all about personality. With my team, I began the rebranding process by focusing on the adjectives that they believe currently describe their brand and the adjectives they would like to describe their brand. Since your brand personality is usually what people say about you when you aren’t in the room, it is helpful to create surveys or questionnaires to get this information from your donors and clients. If that isn’t possible, sometimes asking your team can help you get on track.
If the adjectives people choose don’t really match who you want to be. Start to pick 4 or 5 adjectives that describe who you want to be. Then use those adjectives to guide your communications efforts. For example, if you want your brand to be creative, accessible, helpful and friendly, then releasing a dry blog post with a lot of data and no graphics is probably not matching your brand image.
2. Be Honest, Truthful and Transparent
The fastest way to lose clients and donors is to lose their trust. Being honest, truthful and transparent is the most important thing you can do as an organization, and your brand should show your clients and donors how important these three traits are to you. When disclosing information about your organizations think about ways in which you can show your audience that you are being transparent. For example, go beyond your yearly update letters and post regular updates to your blog. Share your team’s biographies and experience on your website and possibly even feature staff on your blog. The more your audience gets to know your organization and the people that work there, the more they will trust you and feel a part of what you are doing.
3. Consistency is Essential!
Figuring out what your brand personality is and being transparent is meaningless without consistency. It can be difficult for organizations to maintain image and message uniformity, but if you follow a style guide, or brand guide, and train everyone in you organization, you can ensure that your image stays consistent. This includes the style and use of your logo, letterhead, presentations and web presence.
Inconsistency in your image can cause your clients and donors not recognize you in a different medium or question your legitimacy all together. This is a serious problem with brands that use different logos or formats.
4. Speak to the Rational and Emotional Needs of Your Audience
After you create your transparent and consistent brand personality, it’s time to speak to your audience in an engaging way. This includes making sure your communications speak to the emotional and rational needs of your audience. I’m sure you know why people should engage with your brand, whether it is to donate or receive a service from you. Now you need to make sure you are communicating your reason in a balanced way.
They best way to do this is to make a list of the rational reasons why people should use your service or donate to your cause. (For example: You are a trusted organization. You have been around for a long time. You make a difference in people’s health.)
Then start to list the emotional reasons why your audience would want to engage with you. (For example: They want to feel like their donations make an impact. They want to feel like they belong to a community of people dedicated to health care.)
Lastly, come up with a couple of words that explain where the rational and emotion intersect. For example, your organization saves lives, and donors want to feel like they make a difference; the intersection, where you should focus your communications messages, is the impact of donating to your cause.
The above example may seem obvious, but I can’t emphasis the importance of thinking though the rational and emotion reasons for each communications plan. All too often brands get caught up in the rational and fail to engage their audience on a lasting level.
5. Realize that You Have Multiple Audiences
Many global health brands get caught up in reaching donors and grant organizations that they fail to realize that their most important audience is the population that they serve. Creating a brand image that appeals to funders is of course important, but building trust and recognition among the people you serve is imperative. This is why global health organizations should create branding and marketing plans with multiple audiences in mind. Don’t ignore the people you serve; they are the reason you here.