Figure peeking out from behind a curtain

Turning your brand inside out

Turning your brand inside out

Trendwatching (one of my favorite trend firms to follow) recently released a trend report called IN-fluencers.

It features a number of ideas for using communication channels to showcase staff members who are passionate about the organization and its mission.

I’ve made similar suggestions to clients as it’s a great way to increase transparency and create authentic connections with our audiences.

Why is this emerging as a hot-topic now? Well, mainly because:

“The pandemic had consumers looking inwards – reflecting not only on their own behavior, but that of their favorite brands, too.

We know you’re focused on transparency already (if not, now is the time to ring the alarm) but how can you showcase your efforts in the most authentic and honest way possible?

Consumers won’t take your CEO’s word for it. Instead, prove that your promises align with your actions by shining a spotlight on your employees, team or co-workers.” (excerpt from the TW report)

In addition to what the report covers, which I recommend reading for additional context and examples, I want to highlight three reasons why this approach can be beneficial to our work.

It helps spread the love

Many organizations feel the struggle of people not caring about a species or habitat they’re working hard to protect.

We want them to love these creatures and places just as much as we do!

Traditionally, we try to solve this gap by sharing facts on why the species is important to the ecosystem and the risks they’re facing.

Yet, what inspires love and care more than anything is hearing and seeing someone else’s love, care, and excitement. We are a social species, after all.

To turn the brand inside out, we should identify staff members and volunteers who are gaga about the species, habitats, and mission and interested in sharing their passion with others.

Even when they’re simply sharing facts, it will be done with an infectious enthusiasm that will spread the love.

To see what this looks like, check out how Jaida, Earyn, and Sarah get us excited about their featured species in the below tweets (each one links to their post on Twitter to view more).

It brings to life the real work being done

There is a lot of value to having a polished marketing plan that hits all the right strategic messaging notes. I’m a big fan of that.

But increasingly, audiences want to see the real world behind what’s being presented. They want a peek behind the curtain.

This doesn’t mean we have to toss away our entire communications plan. Rather, we can incorporate a dash of behind-the-scenes (#BTS) content that connects audiences with the real work being done.

Tablet showing video footage of zookeeper working with a sloth
Animal Planet's show, The Zoo, goes behind-the-scenes at the Bronx Zoo to highlight the work of keepers, veterinarians, and other animal care staff.

Introduce the staff members working in the office and out in the field. Show off the office pets. Recognize your dedicated volunteers.

Take us out into the field. Your audience may not even know what “the field” truly means!

Transparency increases trust and both these ingredients will become increasingly important for organizations seeking funding support.

Members and donors want to know what their money is going towards and what the nonprofit’s mission looks like IRL (in real life). Turning the brand inside out means: don’t tell me, show me!

A great suggestion in the Trendwatching report that I’d like to highlight here as well is: Consider going beyond showcasing staff members towards handing over the social media microphone completely.

Do a Twitter or Instagram takeover for a day. Have different staff members respond directly to ask-me-anything questions. Let the audience follow a staff member for a day-in-the-life of their job.

It fills our gap of relatable messengers

Conservation has a relatable messenger gap.

I believe we have over-relied on Jane Goodall and David Attenborough without identifying a succession plan of diverse messengers for the cause.

It’s exciting to see a younger generation step up, like those leading the Fridays for our Future movement, yet they are focused mainly on climate issues (rightfully so).

That still leaves many conservation and environmental causes without faces and voices that audiences can relate to and feel a connection with.

Luckily these days, messengers don’t need to be celebrities or people with a gazillion social media followers. We don’t need Harrison Ford waxing his chest hair to demonstrate the impacts of deforestation (remember that???)

Today’s messengers can be staff members and volunteers who are willing and interested in sharing with a wider audience.

It’s possible that some of this is happening already, just without your organization being a part of it. Maybe there is a Jaida, Earyn, or Sarah putting out great conservation content on their own. If so, then this is an opportunity for internal co-creation that can lead to a whole new outreach effort.

Some final thoughts

I want to call out a few important points to consider before you start turning the brand inside out. These points are mentioned in the Trendwatching report as well.

» Compensate or reward your messengers. Staff members and volunteers who agree to be messengers are taking on additional work. They should be rewarded and compensated accordingly.

» Be sure the house is in order. This approach doesn’t work when the internal culture is toxic or in disarray. Staff and consumers will see the effort as just marketing “fluff”. If this is the case, then address the internal issues before going this route.

I look forward to seeing your inside-out brands!