Exchange Matters / August 30, 2016

Unleashing the Power of a New Brand

As the world becomes considerably more complex and intertwined, the need for simple, effective people-to-people exchange programs grows. In these ever-changing economic, social, political, and technological times, how can a tried and true field like public diplomacy remain relevant and innovative? Global Ties U.S. had the fortune to talk with some of our community-based members (CBMs) that recently changed their name and branding to better reflect their continued and modern approach to public diplomacy while remaining fiercely dedicated to the power and strategic presence of exchanges and citizen diplomacy.

Global Ties AlabamaDeciding to overhaul an organization’s overall look and branding is not a simple or quick undertaking. What would make an organization decide to head down such a road? While for some organizations the step is more a turning point, for others the decision is a culmination of smaller steps. For Global Ties ABQ, the decision to rebrand came along with other organizational changes. Adelle Lees, says, “In late 2014, our organization went through some dramatic changes in leadership. The new leadership was tasked with overcoming some common challenges that many of our network have seen or are going through—namely, getting younger generations involved and having sustainable revenue streams.” The internal transition within Global Ties ABQ catalyzed the external transition for their organization. For another CBM, the moment of realization did not come from an internal source, but rather a surprising community member. NC Global Leadership, formerly Piedmont Triad Council for International Visitors said an “ah-ha” moment last year made it clear [they] needed to re-brand when a local TV news personality could not get their name right during a broadcast.

Still other organizations took note of the slow and steady signs that pointed to the need to refresh their branding. When introducing the International Services Council of Alabama, Jacqui Shipe often found herself struggling to connect with new partners. She noted “using the name International Services Council of Alabama (ISC) seemed to require more of an explanation than Global Ties Alabama when making an introduction of the organization to volunteers, speakers, etc. Often we seemed to have to repeat it again. In fact, ISC sounded dated and did not have great visibility or name recognition statewide or even in North Alabama.” This thought spurred Global Ties Alabama to look toward the future and find ways to link their organization to the exchange community at large.

The burning question here is: when you decide to change an organization’s look, where do you start? For some, the decision was easier than others. For NC Global Leadership, “re-branding a name that was nearly 20 years old was not an endeavor we took lightly. As is common with most changes, it was not easy, but we had come to the realization that the name Piedmont Triad Council for International Visitors was not propelling us forward. For one, the name is a ‘mouthful’ to say… Once we made the decision to re-brand we took it seriously and hired professionals to help us find a name that accurately reflects who we are and what we do. Essentially, a name that fits us.” Updating a name is the beginning, but speaking towards your core audience and remaining true to your mission is the most crucial part of rebranding. Global Minnesota rebranded in March 2016. For them, Carol Engebretson Byrne recounts, “Rebranding… would be a big change for the organization, but I can’t stress enough the commitment an organization needs to make to the process, the time and the work needed to realize the benefits of this type of change.” For Global Ties San Francisco, their unique relationship as a satellite CBM and the serendipitous timing with our rebranding as Global Ties U.S. made the decision and process much easier. As San Francisco’s IVLP delegation numbers grew, the Northern California World Trade Center, which is located in Sacramento, saw the need to open an office. Sarah Nugent noted that it was helpful to have preset branding materials since they also had to set up an office and organization. She also listed the need to have a clean and concise brand for San Francisco as a concern, since they are a satellite CBM and manage a large portfolio of delegations.

No matter how an organization decides to go about rebranding, one thing is unanimous—you need help from people who have experience in rebranding and you need your networks for advice, guidance, and support. NC Global Leadership summed up these sentiments best by saying, “The process of re-branding is a journey and not always easy… but we have learned that while change can be daunting and time consuming, it is necessary to continue to grow.” Once you’ve decided to rebrand and done your brainstorming, the most obvious changes are the name and visuals, but many other facets of a recently refreshed organization can change, too. Global Ties Detroit rebranded earlier this year and Marian Reich noted that more changed than what she initially expected. “To us, Global Ties Detroit represents so much more than short-term international professional exchanges. It means a lasting impact on the local community… and, among other things, expanded opportunities for establishing bonds and partnerships here and worldwide. Ultimately, our new branding opens the conversation about what we do, our diverse and engaging programs and events—how we are connecting the world, not just the exchange participants, to Detroit.” Global Minnesota echoes this refreshed resolve for citizen diplomacy and global connections: “There has been a level of excitement within and surrounding the organization that has helped open a door on increased innovation, vision, and a greater sense that even more is possible within the organization.”

Global Ties San FranciscoFor organizations that have had time for their new name and look to settle, the changes are a bit more quantifiable. Changing an organization’s name also presents an opportunity to go over the organization more broadly. Global Ties ABQ used their rebranding as a way to determine what other aspects of their organization could use refreshing. They were able to revamp their age-based membership structure that was no longer serving them efficiently due to an aging membership base and loss of volunteer support. Lees elaborated, “We are proud to say that since the membership levels changed last year in August, we went from one to at least thirteen 20-something members plus… we have 32 new members this year alone and many people leveled up their membership renewal, so we have also seen a 250% increase in membership revenue! In addition, changing our name to Global Ties ABQ allowed us flexibility to create new programs that expanded upon our current international visitor programs.”

Global Ties Arizona “took the opportunity of rebranding to look at potential new programming and event opportunities, as well as develop a scholarship program.” While overhauling a membership structure and developing new programs are large undertakings, NC Global Leadership and Global Ties Detroit also rode the wave of newness to improve their organizations in ways that may not have required as much manpower. Through launching a new website and maintaining active social media accounts, they are looking forward to engaging continuously with their constituents and the international exchange community at large. NC Global Leadership summed up the sentiment this way: “We are excited about our re-branding efforts and hope to continue moving forward with our work with the IVLP, which is the focus of our organization. We are also looking at how we can more effectively engage and partner with community leaders and resources in our region.”

Overall, when endeavoring to update or change your organization’s name and look, it is important to set yourself up for success. Talk to constituents about where they see the organization going, enlist outside help to ensure success, and be willing to embrace change. Global Minnesota commented, “We’ve always been proud of the mission and programs, but now we’re also proud of the website, marketing materials, and other items that represent this combination of important mission and vibrant, relevant programs. Our new identity also allows us to best represent Minnesota’s growing global profile, within the state and abroad.” The entire Global Ties Network can experience this revitalization. A new name and look is the way to be ready for the future of exchanges and citizen diplomacy.

By Jona Elwell, Senior Program Associate, Global Ties U.S. Photo courtesy of the Bannersnack Blog.