Haila Yates

Haila Yates

Earlier this month Haila Yates shared how her organization created audience personas to make better marketing decisions. Part of that process included getting the staff involved. Today, we are publishing another piece by Haila where she talks about how she got her organization’s staff involved with deciding on their messaging platform and other aspects of their brand. This post originally appeared on her nonprofit’s blog. ~Kivi

Guest Post by Haila Yates of Greenlights for Nonprofit Success

We can’t do it alone, especially when it comes to communications. But how do you involve staff in creative projects, like tagline development, in a way that’s structured and productive (and maybe even fun!)?

In a post on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications blog, I share some ways to involve staff in creating and using audience personas. Now our communications team is working to develop an organizational elevator pitch and new tagline. Again, we want to involve staff to bring more creativity to the process and to build buy-in.

Here’s how we involved staff in a one-hour brainstorm session to identify common words and associations to incorporate in our brand messaging.

The Elevator Pitch

Greenlights-word-cloudOne week prior to the meeting, I asked everyone on staff to send me their answer to “what does Greenlights do,” but as they would say it out loud, no fancy lingo. It was very interesting to see common words and phrases that people were using, so we turned the elevator pitches into a word cloud.

We started our brainstorming session by showing the word cloud while reading everyone’s elevator pitches. We discussed recurring words and phrases, including what we like and don’t like, and why staff prefer certain words over others. There were also some aha moments around words we’re not using. We quickly captured both recurring words and notable words we’re not using on a whiteboard.

Brand Essence

That set the stage for our next exercise in which we had everyone get in groups of 2-3 to identify our brand essence, which brandchannel.com describes as: the brand’s promise expressed in the simplest, most single-minded terms. For example, Volvo = safety. The most powerful brand essences are rooted in a fundamental customer need.

So, Greenlights = [fill in the blank]. I was surprised that our 6 groups agreed on two possible brand essences! At least we’re all thinking along the same lines. The two were Greenlights = nonprofit excellence and Greenlights = nonprofit solutions.

Brand Qualities by Association

Next, we took those two options and randomly assigned each group one of the two. Using this worksheet, we had the groups identify an example of excellence (like The Four Seasons) or an example of solutions (like Google). We asked the groups to come up with five qualities that made the The Four Seasons excellent, for example, or Google a solution and discussed them.

At the end, we voted on which brand essence seemed most appropriate. We unanimously selected solutions, because it’s more rooted in customer need and actually drives nonprofits to excellence.

Here’s what our whiteboard looked like when we were done.


What are some ways to involve staff in creative projects that have worked for you?

Haila Yates is the Communications Director for Greenlights for Nonprofit Success. She has nine years of experience with nonprofit marketing/communications, with expertise in branding, marketing strategy, copywriting and editing, graphic design and website development. Get more nonprofit communications tips from her posts on Greenlights’ blog.