Tips for Associations: Building a Brand



Building a brand is more than a logo or slogan, it’s about building trust and credibility with the audience that matters to you. Your brand is how you are perceived by your audience, from their first interaction to their last. I recently just read the book, Top of Mind: Use Content to Unleash Your Influence and Engage Those Who Matter To You, by John Hall, and this quote really put things into perspective for me, “Consider this: any piece of your content could potentially form someone’s first impression of you” (Hall, 2017, p. 74). When thinking about building and maintaining a strong brand, it must be carried through on every piece of content or asset your organization produces because it could be someone’s first impression of you. 

Find Your “Why”

Like many things in life, knowing your “why” is crucial for not only connecting with yourself but with your audience. Knowing your “why” forefronts your core purpose as an organization. The power of your purpose content can activate the beliefs and values of your target audience. This cultivates a connection between your brand and your audience. Producing “why” content invites your audience to take that stance with you and build a community. 

I challenge you to think about these four questions:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Why are you creating certain content?
  • Why does your organization exist?
  • How does your organization contribute to your industry?

Brand Guidelines

Establishing your brand’s look and tone can seem quite daunting, but this is when knowing your “why” comes into play. Use your answers to the questions proposed above, to guide yourself when creating or revamping your brand. Your brand will give any viewer a glimpse into who you are as a company. Here are a couple of major areas to think about:

  • Brand colors: Colors have meaning and evoke emotions. Evaluate color theory to pick colors that correlate with what you want your brand to convey. Remember that colors have a psychological impact so keep that in mind when choosing. 
  • Fonts: Like brand colors, fonts give off a distinct feel for your organization. Are you going for modern, traditional, authoritative, fun, etc.? 
  • Imagery: The imagery you use also plays an important role in your brand image. If you’re using stock photography, put guidelines into place. For example, if your brand reaches a certain age group or industry, ensure that your photos match that audience. 
  • Tone: Think about how you want to sound to your audience. Do you want to sound conversational, professional, etc.?

Once you or your marketing team finish your brand guidelines share them with your team along with the expectations for your brand identity. This is essential so your brand remains consistent across all channels. 

Brand Integration

Now that you have brand guidelines to follow, you need to think about how you can draw attention to your brand in various content distribution channels. Integrating your brand in everything you do is the key to making yourself memorable. 

For example, social media is an excellent tool to capture the brand image you are trying to build. On social, you can post content that shows your organization’s personality, representing your brand identity. Marketing campaigns (newsletters, podcasts, videos, emails, etc.) should all clearly represent the brand image you just outlined. Remember, consistency is key!

Power of Influence

Quick question, what’s another name for tissue? Did you say Kleenex? If you didn’t already know, Kleenex is a brand and not another name for a tissue. This is a very extreme example of how powerful a brand can be, because here the brand, “Kleenex” is now interchangeable with the actual product, “tissue.” 

This phenomenon didn’t happen overnight, it took a lot of brand consistency. To build a strong brand, consistency is crucial. The more consistent you are with your brand identity, the more your audience will feel comfortable with it. This also helps your brand appear stable and become a reliable source. 

The goal is to connect with your audience on a deep level so you are top of mind when they need to turn to someone for a pain point, educational resource, or any other benefit they would find with your association. Every positive interaction you have with a member or prospect is a point for likeability, which opens up the door for more opportunities to grow your association and expand your reach. Remember every piece of content you put out there is potentially a first impression. 

Thought Leaders

Thought leadership is an excellent tool to have in your association marketing strategy because it has a direct correlation to your brand’s perception. Thought leader builds trust and credibility with your audience, and it also humanizes your brand by connecting the brand to an individual’s experience and ideas, which ties in with the power of likeability. 

By addressing relevant topics related to your member’s wants and needs, you demonstrate that your association is knowledgeable about what matters. This makes your members feel understood, therefore building your brand awareness and recognition. 

Brand Advocacy

Building a strong brand takes more than your marketing department, it takes the effort of your whole organization and beyond. Brand advocacy is both external and internal. For example, sharing content on social media can come from both your organization’s employees and/or your audience. When sharing content they are naturally acting as a brand advocate. They are endorsing your message by sharing it with their personal network, opening up the possibility for more growth. Sharing content also builds trust and credibility around your brand. 

Word-of-mouth (WOM) is another form of brand advocacy because you are top of mind at that particular moment they are referring to you. Given that it would be a positive WOM interaction, this can be very beneficial to strengthen your brand image. Utilizing testimonials in your association marketing strategy is also a fantastic way to boost your brand image. This is a public testament to who you are as an organization which ultimately leads to building a positive brand. 

If you follow these tips for building your association’s brand, you’ll build trust, credibility, and influence, not only with your audience but throughout your industry. Reach out if you want more tips on association marketing and growth.


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