Five Considerations When Rebranding Your Association

Five Considerations When Rebranding Your Association

By Louise Ristau and Liz Giannini, Awards and Personalization Association

Rebranding has been a hot topic in the association community for years, and 2015 is no exception. Associations regularly have been seeking to better understand tips and tricks for effectively rebranding their organizations. Here at AMC, our client, the Awards and Personalization Association recently went through the process and we thought we’d share our experiences with you.

How the Decision Was Made

When the Awards and Personalization Association (formerly Awards and Recognition Association) board of directors met in December 2013 they continued a long standing discussion on how prospective members saw the association. What had historically been an industry devoted to the creation of awards and recognition products (think trophies, plaques, and medals) had migrated into an industry that used personalization techniques to decorate not only awards but also gifts, signage, apparel, and even housewares. But those prospective members who didn’t “do awards” also didn’t see the association as their home; a missed opportunity for both the association and the prospects.

A decision to embark on a much needed website redesign quickly became a decision to rebrand the association and that included examining the association’s name.

Here are a few things we learned in our rebranding experience that we think everyone should consider should they go down a similar road.

1. Don’t go it alone
You need two support channels – your rebranding firm and your rebranding committee. The firm will help you maneuver through the process; the committee will help maneuver through the politics.

Should your committee be comprised of all supporters – you know the volunteers who will be agreeable to all recommendations from you and the rebranding firm? We didn’t think so. So, we formed a committee that had a couple of volunteers who would question ideas and push back. While challenging, they brought a different perspective that would have been missed had the committee been made up of all cheerleaders.

Of course you want a firm with experience and solid references. But, working with a firm that will be your partner rather than your consultant is key. Make sure that you can have open and honest communications with them. While they have the expertise, they will never know the ins and outs of your association like you do!

2. Communicate early and often with volunteers
Keeping your staff team and volunteer leadership informed will help them become strong advocates for the new brand.

Updates at staff meetings and in between when significant decisions were made helped us keep the team informed and on board. Board members received regular updates from the rebranding committee chair. Look for opportunities to get input and feedback from your stakeholders.

3. External Communication
With the change of an association name and identity, if you’re not communicating frequently with your members and non-members, you’re missing the boat. However, take care to do so strategically and with key messaging in mind. We segmented our messaging by members and non-members and kept the message simple so as not to confuse the audiences. When we received feedback, either a staff member or volunteer responded quickly and tactfully to ensure both members and nonmembers understood our goals and reasons for our actions.

In the run-up to the actual launch, we implemented a “teaser” campaign. This included images and short messaging displayed through social media, our existing website, email signatures, print ads and our member community posts. These teaser components captured a message of “Exciting Changes Coming Soon” for phase one and “New Website, New Name” for phase two. We wanted to create a buzz and tease the new brand colors and style. The announcement of the new website two months before launch increased the anticipation even further.

4. Check your Inventory
Every member of your team is a key stakeholder in this process. It can be easy to take for granted how frequently your association name and logo appear on branded materials and documents. Engage your team in an inventory exercise to review and document each and every item that they touch on a regular basis and also those that have been collecting dust for some time…

Through this process, you identify areas for a refresh – does a flyer or application need a revision beyond replacing the logo, to showcase your new brand personality? This is an opportunity for a clean, fresh start – try to have fun with it!

5. Ready, Set, Launch
So you have a new name, a brand promise, a new logo, a new website, and brand guidelines – what do you do with them? Make a plan.

Your brand is much more than the exciting new colors and logo. It’s also the tone of the organization. We developed a list of choice words to use to express the vibrant, dynamic, and creative organization that is the Awards and Personalization Association.

Starting with the pre-launch, moving into launch, and extending for one year-one post launch, identify who you want to communicate to, what message you want to send, and how you will deliver it. Whether it’s email, social media, print collateral, or electronic make sure your brand guidelines and messaging are consistent. We developed a “critical activities” list that included the tactic as well as details such as the audience we were communicating to and the proper logo to be used.

Moving forward consider how you will integrate your new brand into existing programming such as your educational offerings, products, and communications (newsletters and magazines). This is an opportunity to engage your team and volunteers and build support for the exciting changes and prospects that rebranding brings.

Do you have an opinion or thoughts you’d like to share on this post? We’d love to hear it. Please feel free to share it on our Facebook page.

Louise Ristau, CAE serves as the executive director, and Liz Giannini serves as the Senior Operations Manager, of the Awards and Personalization Association. To connect with them, you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..