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Including Personality in Your Nonprofit Strategy - compliments of Rohit

Posted by at Mar 29, 2008 01:23 PM CDT
Categories: Nonprofit Trends, Social Media

PNI book cover

Rohit Bhargava, Vice President of Digital Strategy and Marketing at Ogilivy Public Relations Worldwide, presented a novel idea and opportunity to his readers this week. Rather than launch his new Personality Not Included book with conventional tactics, he invited any blogger to submit to any five questions about the book and posted these “virtual interviews” on his blog. Not only is this a fresh, original way to tackle PR for his launch, he truly used social media to give the power to interested bloggers. On Monday he will allow readers to vote on their favorite questions and answers. (Check out the interviews, and if you liked my questions feel free to vote for me!)

Naturally, I tried to direct my questions toward issues and trends that might help nonprofits. Here are my questions and Rohit’s answers:

How can an organization, specifically a nonprofit, create and maintain a personality that will appeal to the greatest numbers of stakeholders (board members, donors, activists)?
This question brings up an interesting point about personality, which is how to make it appeal to different groups.  To a degree, what I talk about in the book is the fact that personality is a method that helps you to make your organization more real and relevant - no matter who the audience is.  That said, a key ingredient of having a personality is finding a way to let the people within your organization share their passion for it (a particularly important point when you consider the passion of employees at a typical cause-based nonprofit).  Activating these voices means you have multiple ways to talk about your organization, and to multiple stakeholders.

What are some tactics one might use to overcome internal organizational pressures to suppress a personality and only provide "typical" marketing and outreach efforts? 
This is an important topic and the subject of Chapter 5 in the book, namely, how to overcome the barriers within your organization.  A few tactics to do it include:
- Taking smart risks to prove the value of doing things differently
- Outlining the consequences of inaction to make doing something different a necessity

The nonprofit sector raises a great deal of money for different issues and causes, making up 9% of the national GDP. Because of this, nonprofits organizations rebrand themselves from time to time to revamp their image such as the recent efforts of the Girls Scouts of America and The United Negro College Fund. Are the fundamentals of branding a personality for nonprofits the same as those for branding corporations?
Yes, I would say they are very similar.  Though you may have an easier time finding individuals with a passion for the brand if you talk about the Girl Scouts versus the average desk clerk at Bank of America ... the general principles are the same and I worked hard in writing the book to make sure that would be the case because I wanted the book to be as useful as possible to people in a wide range of industries and situations.

The personality of many nonprofits and companies closely takes after those of their founders and/ or highly-visible individuals in the organization.  How do you balance the personality of highly-visible individuals and/or founders with the brand personality you are trying to build and achieve?
It depends on the organization.  I would argue that the ONE campaign benefits from its association with Bono's personality, as does Apple from Steve Jobs.  In those cases, the balance would weigh in terms of letting the founders remain where they are.  In other situations where the benefits may not be as clear, the only alternative is to find other voices within an organization to share the limelight and take some of the focus off the main people.

When a company or nonprofit is ready to take the plunge into rebranding or bolstering its current brand personality, what are the first tactical and/or actionable steps you would recommend they take to be successful?
The steps in doing this are essentially the same as the way that I structured the first part of the book through six chapters:
- Understand why your organization may be faceless and what people think about you
- Identify who your "accidental spokespeople" are, and who you will be putting in that role
- Create your brand personality following the methodology of making sure you are unique, authentic, and talkable
- Build a backstory for your brand that gives people something to associate with and a reason to believe
- Get past the roadblocks and critics
- Find and use your personality moments effectively
Thanks to Rohit for a great idea and chance to let me ask some questions that could help benefit some of our readers! And if you are interested in a peak at what his book is all about, visit his blog for a free download of the first chapter. 

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