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Achieving strategic liftoff: How to build a Responsible Brand Team

Filed in Organizational Culture

Teresa Coles

As one who lives to help organizations align success and social good, Teresa has shaped purpose-driven brands at the firm for more than 20 years. She’s known for her ability to help clients artfully leverage organizational health, business strategy and brand marketing to their advantage. As co-founder of CreateAthon, she has led the program’s transition from a single-market event to a global service network that has delivered more than $24 million in pro bono marketing services to the nonprofit marketplace.

Aligning organizational culture, business strategy and brand marketing as a means to become a more Responsible Brand is not for the faint of heart. It demands the focus of a multidisciplinary team of some of the brightest stars in your organization, led by your CEO and supported by the rest of the leadership team.

Here are the big questions we hear from teams who are embarking on the journey:

How large does an organization need to be to become a Responsible Brand?
Becoming a Responsible Brand has nothing to do with the size of your company or nonprofit. You can go through this process as a start-up or as a mature organization at the crossroads of change. All it demands is the vision and fortitude of leadership to connect the dots of culture, strategy and brand.

Who manages a Responsible Brand initiative?
In larger organizations, the Chief Marketing and Chief Cultural officers work with the CEO to organize the effort and make sure the full resources of the organization are harnessed toward the effort. If you’re a smaller or start-up organization, it can be a combination of the business owner(s) and marketing manager. If you’re a nonprofit, it’s customary for the executive director and marketing manager to coordinate the effort.

Whom do you invite to the team, and how many?
It’s important to have a good cross-section of people involved in the effort, not just leadership. Look for people who are both cultural beacons and have the product or service expertise to understand what it takes to be effective on the front lines of serving your customers or constituents. For small organizations, this can mean four to five people. For large organizations, it can be a group as big as 20 to 25. Anything beyond this size can be a challenge to manage.

How does the Responsible Brand Team function?
It’s important for team members to understand the significance of their assignment. They are being tapped to help shape the strategic intent of the organization, at the highest level. The team starts by developing a team charter and affirming the strategic goals of the initiative, areas of exploration, methodologies used, schedules for convening, and the responsibilities of team members.

Once the team charter is established, the Responsible Brand Toolkit acts as a curriculum to guide the team through the process of exploring and articulating the strategic framework. A gifted and energetic facilitator (either in-house or a consultant) is key to bringing objectivity to the group as it goes through the exercises, builds the Responsible Brand Canvas, shares the platform throughout the organization, and commits to the implementation of the strategy.   

How long does the Responsible Brand process take?
It directly depends on the health of your culture. For organizations that may already have a healthy, well-defined culture, the process may be more a matter of refining and codifying cultural expectations, then moving directly into an evolution of responsible business practices and incorporating these new commitments into the brand marketing story. This could mean a matter of months. If your culture needs a thorough makeover, you should plan on a year to 18 months.

Whatever your concerns or hesitations may be in considering a Responsible Brand initiative, know there’s a way to make it happen. We’ve seen the toolkit process work for small and large organizations alike. What matters most is the commitment of leadership to the process, and their effectiveness in demonstrating to everyone in the organization the benefits of going through a process of self-discovery like this, versus the risks of failing to look deeply and strategically within the organization. To learn more about the Responsible Brand movement and download your free copy of the toolkit, visit www.responsiblebrand.com.

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