I recently had the opportunity to participate in Lantern, Plenty’s leadership workshop. Through this immersive experience, I discovered how my own passions and strengths can be aligned through Plenty’s Meridian model that is centered on passion and shaped by six other core pillars. One of the pillars is "Presence," or how we want people to feel and think when they interact with us or our organization.
We explored Presence through a leadership assessment that incorporates both a self-assessment as well as feedback from managers, coworkers, and other professional peers. For several of the assessment’s focus areas, I found that my perception of my performance matched the perception of my peers and managers. For other focus areas, my own perception either exceeded or fell short of how others perceived my performance. While it feels obvious now, I realized that Presence isn’t just about my own output; it’s driven by how others perceive that output.
The Presence and brand of an organization can often feel output heavy, focused on design, tone, and messaging. And while these elements are critical for articulating the positioning of your organization, be careful not to forget to regularly check in on the perception of that output and how it’s resonating with your audience.
The term “re-brand” implies a one-time event where we move from one brand to the next, and while there are certainly brand components that are more fixed, there are elements of our Presence that are much more dynamic. While colors, logos, and design collateral tend to be locked in, at least for a certain period of time, messaging and photography choices (even within brand and messaging guidelines) can be tested and adjusted based on how well they allow your constituents to connect with your cause and feel compelled to take action. This connection is dependent on conveying the mission and work of your organization in a way that your constituents can relate to based on their own background, interests, and experiences.
The dynamism of Presence requires us to treat it as an ongoing dialogue with our constituents and clients that is constantly evolving. If you're unsure of where to begin, here are a few ways you can start the conversation:
Dive into the data.
Take a look at your website and social platform metrics using the tools included in your website's CMS, Google Analytics, and social media platforms. There is so much information available to you, sometimes too much, and while you don't need to master it all you should have a few key metrics you are tracking and analyzing. These are some questions you should be asking:
- Are your constituents responding to your messaging and taking the desired action(s)?
- How is your website design and the user experience impacting these actions?
- Are you testing alternative messaging?
- If so, what’s working and why?
- Is the messaging you're sharing performing the same across multiple communication platforms?
Once you narrow down your list of metrics and begin routinely asking these questions, patterns and areas to improve will begin to surface. The worst thing you can do when it comes to your marketing/branding is "set it and forget it." The market is constantly evolving and so should your marketing strategy.
Talk to your constituents.
Whether it’s through informal conversations at an event or through a survey that’s sent via email, you can learn a lot about how your constituents are perceiving your brand by going straight to the source. What’s landing with them? What’s escaping them? What does the work you’re doing mean to them? Are they seeing the impact being made through your communications, web, and community presence? How are they interpreting your messaging and the way you convey your brand? You know what they say about people who make assumptions - so don't be that person. Ask your audience for feedback and then course correct as needed.
Ask your team.
Whether they’re working with clients, constituents, or both, your team is frequently and actively engaging with people that are interacting with your brand and can provide an immense amount of insight based on their interactions. Consider asking your team if there are any aspects of your organization and brand that they’ve had challenges articulating. Or if they've noticed any elements of your brand that constituents are particularly receptive to. It may seem obvious to capitalize on your team's knowledge of your brand, but often times we are so focused on moving forward that we don't make the time to have these conversations internally.
While there are many pieces of Presence to monitor, adjust, and refine, this ongoing dialogue is ultimately a way to share the passions and values of your organization so that they connect with the passions and values of your constituents.