"And the beat goes on....................."
We talk a lot about "branding" - most often in the context of our marketing efforts. We seek to build a strong 'brand' that will help us to engage our audiences and supporters. A strong brand means our product is reliably associated with excellence and value. But there is another side to branding - the 'brand' of your organization as an organization.
How is your organization perceived - apart from your artistic mission and your product? Are you seen as highly professional? Do people think of your organization as well managed? Is your staff seen as skilled and capable? Is the organization thought of as flexible and adaptable? Are you 'cutting-edge'? What is the 'brand' the organization as an organization has within the field of nonprofits or within any other 'community'?
In part, that aspect of your 'brand' may have a lot to do with your success in everything from fund-raising to audience development.
How is that aspect of your brand established? I think it is really the sum total of a lot of little things. Do your people promptly return calls? Are they responsive to inquiries. Do they follow-up? Are your reports consistently turned in on time and are they well written and documented? Is your correspondence professional, succinct and well written. Do your people write personal thank you notes to people that have in some way helped the organization. Are your people generally friendly and upbeat? And are your people on time for meetings and interfaces with other people and other organizations?
That last one seems like a no-brainer, but increasingly I find that people from all kinds of organizations regularly show up late for an appointed meeting. It's as though it has somehow become alright if you show up within ten or fifteen minutes of the scheduled time. It's not alright. It's rude and it sends the message to the person you kept waiting that you don't value their time, that you have no respect for them. Not only are people more frequently late, it would seem that there is the growing belief that if they are late only ten minutes or so, it isn't necessary for them to call to let you know they are running late.
I have a friend in our field that had his own "ten minute" rule: if he had an appointment with someone and they didn't show up or call within ten minutes of the appointed time - he left. He told me the story recently of having a lunch meeting years ago with a then brand new member of his Board. After the new Board member didn't show up after ten minutes, he got up and left. He ran into the Board member in the parking lot who asked him where he was going. My friend patiently explained his ten minute rule. The new Board member was incredulous and simply stood there aghast. But, as my friend relayed, that Board member never again showed up late.
Managers / Administrators: Teach your people that being late to a meeting (and not phoning to advise his/her running late) - absent some intervening emergency - is unacceptable; that it seriously tarnishes the image of your organization and thereby damages your brand. And it negatively reflects on you. There is no excuse really - leave earlier. Your time is no more valuable than mine.
Pay attention to all the small details that normally we don't think about when considering our brand and image - for it is the aggregate of these small, seemingly insignificant little things, that dramatically affect how people think of your organization. And those perceptions can impact some big decisions people make about whether or not to support your organization - including whether or not to fund you or otherwise support you. Teach your people that every interface they have affects your brand.
It is, I suggest, worth a few minutes of your and your staff's time to talk about how your brand is affected by the behavior of all those associated with your organization in all the little things - from being on time, to writing personal thank you notes, to returning phone calls in a timely manner. to dress, to smiling. It's your brand after all, and it may not be to other people what you think it is.
Have a great week.