Branding Your Org in Social Media – Tips from #09NTC

Yesterday I attended a workshop organized by one of my favorite bloggers (and NTC roomie) Nancy Schwartz on how you deal with branding issues for your organization within social media. The panel featured Danielle Brigida, National Wildlife Federation; Felicia Carr, National Parks Conservation Association; and Wendy Harman, American Red Cross.

Nancy created a wonderful guide to the session (Word doc) that contains even more great stories and tips than came out in the live event, so download that. What I found most interesting is the debate about whether to centralize or decentralize your brand online. Of course, there is no right answer and you need to sort out what’s best for your organization. Here’s how these three groups are dealing with it.

Danielle at NWF says they are branding many of their individual programs online (Ranger Rick, a campus ecology program, Green Hour for families, etc.). While they hope all the talk about these programs feeds back up to the overall NWF brand, they believe that allowing their supporters to segment themselves and talk about their very specific interests within NWF is a good thing, even if it dilutes the overall NWF brand.

Danielle says that because they are decentralizing their social media presence, they are also empowering and trusting their staff and giving them the ability to represent their own programs online without a lot of heavy handed management. One additional benefit of this approach is that various programs within NWF retweet and link to each other, introducing fans of one program to many others.

In contrast, Felicia at NPCA believes that brand confusion for her organization, particularly with the National Park Service (a federal government agency) is a big problem for them online. She would prefer the NPCA logo to be on everything and does not want individual program managers to set up microsites or their own pages on Facebook. She prefers the more centralized approach.

Felicia also shared a story about how a fan had created a fundraising Facebook Cause for NPCA, but had included a huge National Park Service logo. In contrast to what Clay Shirky suggested – that people will not blame the nonprofit when fans get their facts wrong – she found the opposite to be true. The National Park Service was quite miffed with NPCA, even though they had nothing to do with the Facebook Cause page and had already asked the fan to take off the logo (without getting a response.)

Wendy at American Red Cross says that chapters and individuals had created so many different pages and groups on Facebook that Facebook actually asked the central office to consolidate the American Red Cross presence. There were so many different pages that it was actually hard for users to find what they were seeking. She has worked hard to make sure that there is a consistent look and approach for the American Red Cross across multiple social media sites, and after a brand revitalization project, has created a handbook of standards and is now teaching employees about how to use it.

Need more on nonprofit branding? Nancy is your source.

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