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Nathan Zebedeo Post by Nathan Zebedeo

By Nathan Zebedeo on May 24th, 2016

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Ask the Expert Edition — An Interview with Big Duck’s Farra Trompeter

How We Work | Tips and Tools | Branding


One of our favorite books at Fractured Atlas is Brandraising. We have several copies floating around our office and we recommend it at every opportunity. In 2014, I inaugurated our blog book club with a write-up.

Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications

Every message you send or interaction you have is a chance for your patrons, donors, supporters, and participants to connect with what you do and the art you create. Brandraising is about defining your desired perception and shaping your identity to reflect that. It is the starting point for smart, effective communications that set you apart, inspire people to get involved, kickstart your fundraising, and change hearts and minds.

We asked Farra Trompeter, Vice President of Big Duck, a communications firm that works exclusively with nonprofits, how artists and arts organizations can apply brandraising concepts to increase visibility and raise funds.

If you were just starting an arts business, what are the first 3 things you would want to clarify about your identity in order to begin brandraising?

First things first, figure out who you’re trying to reach. Who is your target audience? What are they like? And most importantly, what do you want them to think about you? Your brand is what people say it is, and you can influence that with every set of communications and interactions.

Next, to guide perception, we use something called a positioning statement. It’s a phrase that captures the big idea you hope to own in the minds of your target audience. To determine your positioning, you’ll need to figure out what makes you unique in your space. Do a landscape scan of organizations out there doing similar work and identify what sets you apart — then own it.

Finally, in addition to defining what you want your audiences to think of you, you need to decide what you’d like them to feel about you too. Personality represents the overarching feelings you want associated with you, exemplified by your tone and style. Ask yourself questions like “If my organization were an animal, what would it be? What characteristics do my organization and that animal share?” The adjectives you answer with might make up your personality.

For experienced arts-entrepreneurs, what are some warning signs that their brand might need a makeover?

In the brandraising process, the first step is creating a brand strategy which means writing those positioning and personality statements described above. The next step is making sure your brand strategy is reflected in your brand identity — how your organization looks, feels, and sounds.

Do your name, logo, and tagline reflect your positioning and personality? Does the “about us” section on your website really reflect what makes you you? If you’re not sure, ask your coworkers or friends…better yet, ask your target audience! If they don’t see your strategy reflected in your identity, it might be time for a makeover.

For businesses rolling out version 2.0 of their brand, do you have any recommendations for a seamless transition and keeping their existing customers?

Before you decide on the type of rollout you want for your brand, determine if the changes are an evolution or revolution. Have you updated your brand in small ways, or have you given yourself or your organization a total makeover?

If the changes you’ve made are fairly subtle, try a rolling launch. Update old materials as they run out, and make changes to major communications pieces like the website when time and budget allow. You might also consider phased launch, updating your core materials in phases — perhaps tackling your online materials first, then moving to print — and informally announcing the new brand at an event.

If the changes you’ve made are major, especially around your name and logo, consider flipping the switch on your new brand. Unveil your new brand, perhaps at an event or opening, and make sure all your core materials reflect the updates. Before you flip the switch, give key stakeholders and engaged supporters a sneak peek of the new brand so they’re not overwhelmed by the changes and feel part of the excitement.

To what extent should a company’s brand be a reflection of the personality of its founders?

Tough question! Sometimes the founder’s personality goes hand-in-hand with the company’s brand. This is especially true in the early years of an organization as it works to find its voice.

As the organization grows, it’s likely that audiences will be drawn to the entity itself, without any attachment to the founder, so the company should be able to stand on its own. This means carving out specific positioning and personality for the organization to use to guide how it communicates across every interaction.

How do you convince skeptical organizations that they need to do more than redesign their logo in order to rebrand?

It really goes back to brand strategy, and helping them understand the importance of communicating their positioning and personality in everything they do. If that doesn’t do the trick, I find that doing a landscape scan together can help organizations see any issues around distinction or sophistication — or lack thereof.

It also might be helpful to do a little audience research about the brand. If donors, supporters or other important audience members comment on the logo or express desire for a more refreshed look, it might give the organization the push they need to consider that redesign.

Do you have any resources for our readers who want to do further research on brandraising?

Yes! Big Duck’s Founder and President, Sarah Durham, wrote the book on Brandraising. Grab a copy of Brandraising: How Nonprofits Raise Visibility and Money Through Smart Communications for additional tips and guidance.

You can also watch our recent webinar on Brandraising, where Sarah walks you through the basic concepts, some of which I’ve introduced here, as well as how to apply them across your communications channels.

Be sure to also visit Big Duck’s blog which is updated regularly with nonprofit communications tips, often related to brandraising.

Finally, if you are in the NY area this summer, you can enroll in our immersive workshop on setting and using your brand strategy on July 14. Spend the day digging into this content and defining your own brand strategy.

More posts by Nathan Zebedeo

About Nathan Zebedeo

Nathan Zebedeo is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2011, Nathan made the leap from card-carrying member of Fractured Atlas to an associate on our programs team, which he now co-manages. Prior to joining Fractured Atlas, Nathan helped produce celebrity author events at Barnes & Noble’s flagship Union Square location. Outside of work, Nathan directs the occasional play. He enjoys board games, learning languages, and travel.