When you walk up to the American Heart Association offices, you can’t help fixing your eyes on the massive heart logo that stands proudly outside the building. This logo embodies the AHA’s existence; their brand conveys a feeling of strength, health and expertise. Similarly, the United Way logo consists of one cupped hand holding a human, demonstrating their mission to improve lives through the power of community.
These two well-established organizations make a strong connection between their branding and their purpose. And due to their long history of providing valuable services, those brands - though unique - both manage to instill a sense of confidence and credibility in those organizations.
Building brand credibility takes time, and while it may start by establishing a foundation though your logo, colors, fonts and other design elements, it certainly doesn’t end there. In order to be credible, your association’s brand must be personified and felt through everything you do: the services you offer, communications with members, community and industry involvement, your website, your content...everything!
Consider how, with some intention, these three things (that you’re already doing!) can help strengthen your association’s brand credibility:
You’re Able to Show the Value of Membership
Helping your members get the most out of their membership, and being able to demonstrate that value, is key for credibility. Every service you offer should not only deliver value, but also tie into your overall mission. Because let’s be honest - if your actions don’t reflect what you’re saying, that’s not very credible, now is it?
While your association likely delivers value in many different ways to your members, most aren’t able to easily identify all of it. You may still have members who join your organization just because they think they should. It’ll take some time, but going through and quantifying all of your benefits will give you something to point to at renewal time. Tedious as it may sound, your brand will be better for it!
Another way associations can demonstrate the value of a members’ investment is through an online referral report. Typically, this type of report will generate the number of impressions and click-throughs your website has produced for each member. Many associations actually find that this type of report alone can justify their members' renewal each year! Dig into your association management software to see what kind of reporting is available.
Whether your organization’s membership benefits include business referrals, ongoing education, discounts, networking opportunities, legislative activities - be sure your brand communicates and quantifies each one.
You Have Strong Web Presence
Consider your website as an actual building, with murals, resources and friendly support staff waiting to assist member needs. It should house everything that will reflect your brand, but digitally!
- Include your logo, pictures, videos and other graphics that effectively demonstrate the vibe you want to get across.
- Make sure your content is constantly up-to-date, valuable and applicable (to members and prospective members alike).
- It should be easy for website visitors to find how they can get in touch with you. Ensure that someone is always monitoring each contact point!
Additionally, having an active calendar of events, the ability to join online, and pertinent news articles on your website will all help establish your association as being credible in your industry and community.
Being credible also means demonstrating that you’re willing to keep up with the times. With the number of people who mainly use a mobile device to access the Internet, it's essential for everything on your website to be mobile-friendly. Your information should be easy to find, consume and engage with!
And the rest of your online presence? Creating (and actively using!) social media channels, participating in relevant discussions, and contributing to content on other related platforms will all help to build and maintain your association’s credibility across the Internet.
You’re an Authoritative Voice
Do you ever read an article and wonder what exactly makes that writer an authority in their field? In other words, why you should listen to the advice being given? To start, it’s important to distinguish the difference between an expert and an authority. Experts have a lot of knowledge on a subject but people may not care. An authority is an expert who has built an audience that listens, and trusts the advice given.
There's no magic formula to becoming an authority, but as an association, you’re on the right track by nature! Start by consistently providing great and relevant material. The more your organization is leading your industry with powerful and thought-provoking content, the more credibility your association’s brand will hold. This content can come in many forms: written pieces, videos, educational webinars, seminars, etc. No matter the format, consider the benefit to members and benefit to your industry or community. If your audience sees value, you'll start to gain the authority you're looking to achieve.
Like it or not, your association’s brand is a part of everything you do - and its strength and credibility depend on how intentional you are with exhibiting it! A lot of this can be achieved through your association’s marketing efforts. For more on spreading the word about your mission through your brand, check out The Small-Staff Guide to Association Marketing.