July 22, 2018
 
Brand Reboot Enables Brighton Marine to Better Serve Its Clients

By Bob Notch

Bob Notch
Because we were so caught up taking care of patients, we forgot to take care of ourselves—our brand, our website, our visibility in the community—and realized this lack of attention to our identity would ultimately have an adverse effect on our mission.

For more than a generation, Brighton Marine was a silent and trusted partner of the veteran community, helping those who served our country with health care, counseling, and a connection to services and workshops – whatever we could do to make life a bit easier for veterans and their families.

We were focused on providing care for veterans, but recognized that while our neighbors, partners, and long-term clients knew us, few others did. We realized this lack of attention to our identity would ultimately have an adverse effect on our mission because veterans simply wouldn’t know about us.

So, we took action to activate our support base. Here are some lessons we learned that other nonprofits may find useful:

Establish a Mission Your Audience Can Relate to and Activate Around

We saw the growing need for veterans’ services to converge in one place because there was no one central location for veterans to turn to. In Massachusetts alone, there are 210 organizations that provide unique resources and services to veterans. Multiply that by all 50 states and you get the idea of how this disconnect create an alphabet-soup of well-intentioned entities that mostly confuse and frustrate those who need help. Brighton Marine made it its mission to become that central hub, that veteran network community for veterans and their families in the Greater Boston area.

Embrace and Own Change

For decades, we were the Brighton Marine Health Center because our roots were in providing health care to veterans. But as our mission evolved, we never changed or altered the name to more accurately reflect what we do. Having "Health Care" at the end of our name was confusing for those we were trying to help, especially if they were not seeking health care-related services. If a veteran needed housing or help with finding a job, would he/she turn to an entity with a name like ours? Probably not, even though those are some of the very services we provide. The attachment to our legacy was holding us back. And so was our brand, or lack thereof, which brings us to the next point.

Be Critical of Your Brand and Ask, “Are We Delivering on What We Promise?”

It’s a bold and courageous step to admit what you’re doing isn’t working. We started by taking an internal look at ourselves, asking our constituents and key principals what they thought of Brighton Marine and the services we provide: what were we known for? What did they think of our reputation? What are the key challenges for growth? What are the key opportunities? What were the positive and negative perceptions of the organization? This exercise helped us better refine the description of what we do, who we do it for, how we deliver our services, and how we get it done.

Once these questions were answered, we brought our brand to life. First, we created a visual identity, brand standards, and guidelines and, of course, a corporate logo. Would you believe we had existed for more than 30 years and only used a depiction of one building as our logo? Now, we have a sleek looking brand with a tagline—Veteran Network Community—that adorns our new business cards and signage.

Then we developed and launched a scalable, flexible, and mobile-friendly website, which has become a critical access point for veterans to easily find services and resources, while, at the same time, allowing us to tell our story.

Mobilize Your Audience around Your Mission

To do this, your audience needs to really understand what it is you’re doing. What is your nonprofit all about? Who is it designed to help? How does it help? What kind of assistance might it need to continue its mission? To convey all of this means good storytelling and enabling people within your organization to craft a compelling narrative.

Use Multiple Marketing Channels and Visual Content

Integrated marketing is the most effective way to reach your target audience. A 360-degree approach to connecting your mission with your audience should include the utilization of online channels (internal and external), video, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and earned media – so many options to connect with stakeholders and influencers. These have come in handy as we ramped up our involvement in and sponsorship of veterans-related activities, like the Thank-a-Veteran program and the first-ever Veterans Town Hall in Boston. Any media hits we receive are shared on multiple channels, as are the videos we’ve created. We’ve entered the 21st century.

Our work is important, and our goal of becoming a veteran network community is more attainable now that we have a refined mission, name, brand, assets, and visibility. It was a heavy lift and took considerable time, about six months for the messaging, rebranding, and new website. But today we have a viable platform that lets us give veterans the help so many desperately need. In the end, our reboot is helping us with the battlefield creed now being used at home – not leaving anyone behind.

Bob Notch is the program development officer for Brighton Marine, located in Boston's Brighton neighborhood, who served 27-years in the Army, retiring as a colonel. Email him at BobNotch@Brighton-Marine.org.

May 2018

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