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Creating a brand ready for social media

Last Wednesday saw the second event organised by The Information Standard, in  partnership with Patient Information Forum at the Wellcome conference centre on the Euston Road.


I had the chance to do a double-hander with super social-media whizz, Scott McLean, managing director of our sister PR and social media agency, Speed Communications. The subject: How to build and project your brand using social media. This is the first of our four blogs, two by me and two by Scott.

Our starting point was ‘what is brand?’ I am fully aware that just by writing this I am adding to the cacophony of noise about what a brand is and how to manage it. But my premise is simple. Brands live in other people’s heads. As much as we may dislike this notion it is true. The role of not just the brand manager or owner, but everyone in an organisation, is to influence understanding. But we also have to remember that others can influence it, too, for both good and bad, and no more so than now thanks to the power of social media.

And just to be clear, a brand is not a logo. Never has been. A logo is a mark of guarantee, a hallmark even. It offers assurance that a product or service experience won’t let you down. Branding is little more than putting logos on things (so, not much different from burnishing a mark of ownership on the sides of cattle). That doesn’t devalue its importance, and having a distinctive mark is vital.

Brands are therefore the sum of your experiences, including contextual, visual, aural, environmental, tactile, olfactory, even. Positive responses to these experiences build brand   equity, or goodwill, and negative responses detract from value. Positive means that you are more likely to promote an organisation, while negative means that you are more likely to discredit it. The ambition is to build trust and people develop trust by having a clear understanding of who you are, what you do and by you keeping your promises.

The starting point for any organisation, however, can’t be what you think you would like to be, but what you should be to achieve your business objectives. Clear sight of what you want to achieve and having a vision of the future is the heart of organisational brand planning. With this in place, and with people knowing what this is and subscribing to it, allows you to develop a credible brand identity, which is believable and achievable.

Brand models vary widely, but ours, which we call the 4Ps model, is simple enough to remember and use. The most effective way of developing your model is using a co-creative process, bringing influences and insight from across and from outside your business.



Why you get up every day to do the thing you do and what you strive to achieve. A blend of what will appear in your business planning thinking as vision and mission. Ideally, this should be unique and how you would describe yourself to others, whoever they may be, including customers, recruits, employees and suppliers, professional advisers, your bank, your donors. Ideally, it should be pithy and use words that all your audiences understand.



This is your universal commitment, your guarantee, your all-pervading pledge. Sometimes, an internal mantra, although often an external one, too. It needs to be heartfelt and preferably measurable.


Principles, or values

Guides to behaviour. The temptation here is to stick with words that don’t challenge, or try to deal with ingrained poor behaviours, such as professional and mutual respect. These are, in my opinion, fundamental hygiene factors and have a better place in a staff handbook rather than a brand model. Brand principles need to give people permission to do things. Often, words such as innovation are used, however the culture of the organisation, or even people’s job descriptions, don’t encourage innovation or original thinking, and as such compromise the other values.



I describe this as imagining what you would want to overhear someone describing you. Ideally aspiring, they are the key determinants in how your organisation expresses itself through its tone of voice, language, brand identity and environment.

With your brand in place and everyone signed up to it, how can you use social media to build and protect it? Over to you, Scott for the next post.

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