Insights

How to Bring Together the Right Stakeholders for Your Rebrand

Engaging the right people, at the right time, in the right way can make the difference between a rebrand that sticks the landing and a rebrand that flops.

In some organizations, a rebrand is as sacred as strategic planning, while in others, it’s as banal as a new paint job. Some leaders even see branding as a vanity exercise that distracts from the “actual work.” However, a thoughtful strategy can turn skeptics into believers and passive bystanders into valuable ambassadors. Let’s talk about how.

Identify your stakeholders

A stakeholder is anyone who has a vested interest in your organization and would be impacted by a new brand. Stakeholders are all around you, from the high-profile individuals who make up your board to the community leaders who lend your work credibility and support. Who and how many people fall into your stakeholder list will ultimately depend on the particularities of your organization—its size, maturity, culture, and more. This list is not meant to be exhaustive or prescriptive; it is simply a place for you to start.

Board

The role of your board can vary based on the maturity of your organization, the level of confidence the board has in your leadership, whether they see themselves as overseers or active collaborators in the work. No matter what, the board is a critical stakeholder in the process of rebranding, And managing this relationship requires setting expectations and defining clear roles.

Funders

In the case of nonprofits, funders are life-giving and enjoy a hallowed status. It is not necessary to fulfill their every wish. Rather, understand and account for their boundaries and minimum requirements to avoid jeopardizing the relationship.

Executive Director / CEO

Leaders are the face and voice of your organization. Their buy-in and close collaboration can ensure that the final brand is something that they feel confident in expressing to the outside world. There’s nothing more damning than an organizational brand that doesn’t have the belief or blessing of the leader.

Communications Team

Your communications team is the main agent of your brand. Their day-to-day role will be to operationalize your brand — turn it into messages and assets, speeches and social posts, events and experiences. It’s important to understand their requirements and hopes in order to create a brand that can meet them where they are today and grow with them into the future.

Development / Fundraising Team

Your development team is one of your most important communicators and brand ambassadors. They are out front talking about what makes your work unique, impactful, and worthwhile. They also know your brand’s weakest points, where your harshest critics tend to poke and prod the most. Their insights will help fortify your new brand.

Community Partners

The trust and permission that your community partners provide enable you to do your best work. Understanding their needs, fears, and wishes is critical to deepening, building, or even renewing their trust in you.

Grantees

The individuals or organizations who receive grants from you are among the biggest ambassadors of your vision, your work, and your brand. A brand that reflects their actual experience with you can become a powerful tool for mutually boosting each other’s impact and visibility.

External Partners and Peers

Philanthropic and social change work is inherently collaborative and communal. One organization’s success is a win for the cause and can advance the field as a whole. As a result, keeping a pulse on your peers and collaborators is an important aspect of rebranding. Considering their perspective on your work and your role in the landscape will give you the keys to building a brand that can facilitate partnership, collaboration, and collective action.

Your Staff

Thoughtful brands can boost employee satisfaction. If done right, you can build a brand that reflects the best version of the organization they experience every day. Ensure that employees feel empowered to bring ideas to the table and participate in key decisions when needed.

Stakeholder mapping

Now it's time to make sense of all your stakeholders and prioritize them for engagement. A stakeholder mapping matrix, also known as Mendelow’s Matrix, is a useful tool to sort the more high-touch stakeholders from the low-touch ones, based on their level of interest and power in a project.

Going one stakeholder group at a time, first assess their level of power over this project. How much influence do they have to facilitate or obstruct the work? Next consider their level of interest. How much do they care about the success or failure of this work?

As stakeholders start to fall into quadrants, you can begin to think about how best to engage and communicate with them.

Champions

Who: high influence, high interest
What to do: manage closely
Example: executive director / ceo, head of communications, head of development, board chair

If you only get one thing out of this exercise, let it be this: this group has the highest leverage to make or break your project. Take their needs, wishes, and fears seriously, and do your best to design for them as well as with them. At the outset of the work, invite them together to clearly define the opportunity, set ambitious goals, and agree on how to measure success. As the project progresses, invite feedback and reflections at key milestones in structured meetings and conversations. Include them in well-designed workshops and thoughtful interviews. Collaboration is the name of the game here — not just to ensure that what you’re creating is in line with their expectations, but also to build trust and goodwill at every step.

Gatekeepers

Who: high influence, low interest
What to do: actively consult and meet minimum requirements
Example: CFO, COO, or equivalent, etc.

Even though their primary concerns may lie elsewhere, this group has significant control or influence over resources, decision-making processes, or key aspects of the organization. They will only give you permission when their needs are met. For this reason, it’s important to get a clear understanding of their minimum requirements, especially at the outset of the work. Along the way, actively consult them on decisions that overlap or are adjacent to their purview or expertise. Include them in critical decision-making junctures. Be mindful to not overburden them with too much communication or too many asks, since they are likely to be focused on other things.

Advocates

Who: low influence, high interest
What to do: keep informed
Example: head of talent and culture, wider communications team, wider programs team, wider development team, etc.

While it might feel tempting to ignore this group — because they lack the influence to meaningfully obstruct or enable your project — don’t underestimate the power of cheerleaders or detractors. The people who have an intrinsic interest in your work can quickly become the tailwind that you need to power your project through the highs and lows (or a pesky thorn in your side if they are systematically ignored). Keep this group informed. Provide tailored opportunities for them to contribute their expertise and insights at one or two key points in the project. Once time comes around for brand rollout, you can tap into these individuals to guide and lead the change within their teams.

Uninvolved

Who: low influence, less interest
What to do: monitor
Example: finance, operations, legal teams, etc.

Not only do these stakeholders not have any influence relevant to this work, but they are also not concerned with it. Their focus and energies lie elsewhere. Don’t waste your time or theirs by trying to engage them. Provide general status updates to maintain a baseline level of transparency. And simply keep an eye on them to see if their levels of interest or power change.

Conclusion

Stakeholder engagement isn’t just about mitigating the risk of someone powerful derailing the project. It is also a critical first step towards building a culture that not only knows the brand, but understands it, believes in it, and nurtures it for the long run.

The more effectively you engage your stakeholders, the more you’ll start to see that involving your people in the right ways is a mindset, not a task. The best, most confident, most courageous brands should be rooted in the needs, hopes, and sentiments of the individuals who are critical to your work — and as a result, should be built from the inside out.

Once you’ve segmented your stakeholders, consider the optimal ways to keep them informed or engaged throughout the branding process. Communication tactics can vary depending on how complex the rebrand is and what’s riding on the outcome. If you’re ready to start thinking about what engagement might actually look like, get started on your own by downloading our stakeholder engagement resource or get in touch with us to talk more.

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