Photo of handshake and quote: Helping organizations better define who they are, what they do, how they do it, and why anyone should care!

Branding Bytes Archives

Issue 35:
Thoughts On Using Social Media

Issue 34:
Reigning in Public-Private Partnerships

Issue 33:
Seven Ways to Avoid Toxicity In the Workplace

Issue 32:
A Few Bad Apples Bruise the Brand

Issue 31:
Branding Beyond the Logo

Issue 30:
The Yin and Yang of Celebrity Leadership

Issue 29:
Want to Raise More Funds? SPEAK UP!

Issue 28:
Government Funding Cuts: Act!

Issue 27:
"We Are Sorry":
Your Brand is Your Behavior

Issue 26:
Tell Your Story

Issue 25:
Good Leaders

Issue 24:
Think "People,"
Not "Organization"

Issue 23:
What's in a Name?
Just about Everything!

Issue 22:
Is Your Mission
Getting Creepy?

Issue 21:
Welcome to the Age
of the New Normal

Issue 20:
"Receptionist" vs Director of First Brand Impressions

Issue 19:
It's Not About How Your Message is Delivered

Issue 18:
When it Comes to Your Brand, Details Matter

Issue 17:
A Good Brand Requires TLC: Just Ask My Wife!

Issue 16:
Toxic-Work-Environment Syndrome Can Tarnish Your Brand

Issue 15:
Adjusting to the
New Face of Need

Issue 14:
Tired of all the Doom and Gloom? This is Your Time!

Issue 13:
A New Year's Resolution: Don't Cut Off Your Nose

Issue 12:
What You Do Is
About All of Us

Issue 11:
Ethical Standards
and Your Organization

Issue 10:
Leadership: Whose Journey is it, Anyway?

Issue 9:
Giving Circles
and Branding

Issue 8:
The World's Richest Men
— and Philanthropy

Issue 7:
What is an External
Brand Audit?

Issue 6:
Keeping Everyone
on Brand Message

Issue 5:
What is an Internal
Brand Audit?

Issue 4:
Turn Board Members into Better Brand Ambassadors

Issue 3:
Leadership, Vision
— and Branding

Issue 2:
What's 1st—Organization or Brand? / Govt. Cuts?—Branding Helps

Issue 1:
Branding Myths

Issue 7, Summer 2007

External Brand Audits

Q. What is an external brand audit?

A. There's an old saying in the communications business that states: It's not how a message is delivered, but rather how it is received that makes all the difference. Put another way, it doesn't matter what you may want to say about your organization through brand messaging. If those messages don't resonate with the audiences you are trying to reach, it's mostly a waste of time, energy and valuable resources.

An external brand audit, therefore, is an effort to determine what impact your organization's messages are having on clients, funders, partners and policy makers. (see Branding Bytes #5 for an explanation of an internal brand audit.)

Depending upon how you approach them, external brand audits can be expensive (large corporations spend millions on testing their brand messages) or relatively inexpensive.

Understanding that most nonprofits allocate little, if any budget, for such functions, what follows are some cost-effective ways to learn whether or not you are reaching your audiences with clear, appropriate messages:


Simple surveys distributed by mail, or conducted at your place of business, over the phone or over the internet (check out can be very effective. When surveying your audiences, ask questions that would give you a better understanding of:

Informal focus groups

Conduct small informal focus groups that consist of representatives from each of your key audiences. These can be held in your meeting room during business hours or in the evening.

If you don't have a meeting room, secure an appropriate space to conduct the event. Often churches, libraries or local government service centers will provide such space for free. The point is to bring these folks together in a comfortable, relaxed setting where they can freely and confidentially discuss your organization and its relationship to them, their respective organizations and the community at large. Hint: Free food or snacks is usually a good draw.

Be creative

An executive director of a large, well-known national nonprofit wanted to learn how her organization's name resonated with external audiences. In lieu of focus groups, she conducted, on her own and over the course of about a year, an informal survey of every nonprofit and corporate leader she ran into at meetings, conferences, business lunches and so forth.

She was told by the majority of those she asked that "We like what you do, but your organization's name just doesn't work for us." This eventually led to her organization successfully rebranding itself under a new name.

Be careful

After you've created your brand messages based on information gained from your external brand audit, retest them with the same audiences. Why? Because words are a tricky business.

Take "partnership", for example. It's a good, simple word often used to describe relationships. It implies affiliation, collaboration, and alliance, all of which should lead one to think of positive brand images. Yet when one organization wanted to include the word in its brand messaging to describe its relationship with local financial institutions, the financial institutions balked. When asked why, one bank representative said that the word "partnership" is loaded with legal implications. "We'd rather be known for 'working together' with the organization, rather than 'partnering' with it."

The lesson? Language is a powerful tool that forms our images, thoughts, opinions and actions. Therefore, when creating your brand messages, choose your words wisely. And periodically audit your external audiences to ensure that you are sending them the right messages using the right language.

As always, I look forward to receiving your feedback, questions, success stories and branding challenges. Also, if you are in need of a motivational speaker, trainer, branding consultant/coach, or management consultant who can help you answer the questions: Who are we? What do we do? How do we do it? And should anyone care? I invite you to for more information.

In the meantime, good luck with your branding! — Larry

About Branding Bytes

Branding Bytes is a FREE quarterly e-newsletter courtesy of Larry Checco of Checco Communications. Please feel free to forward Branding Bytes on to others. However, Branding Bytes is copyrighted and may not be reprinted or reproduced without attributing Larry Checco of Checco Communications as its source and providing the following website address: Thank you.


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