The Curious Case of the Rebrand Launch Jitters

When a nonprofit undertakes a rebrand, it’s natural to have last-minute hesitations. Take a deep breath: You’ve got this!

By Deroy Peraza, Partner at Hyperakt

Launching a new brand is a big deal. Especially if it’s a major pivot from how your organization projected itself previously. The process is lengthy, and lots of people are involved. The board is watching. So is the leadership team. It’s no wonder comms leaders feel pressure to get the new brand right.

Illustration by Merit Myers

We’ve witnessed several times in our branding engagements with nonprofits and foundations that no matter how thorough we’ve been in the process, how much research we’ve done and input we’ve gathered, no matter how confident everyone feels as we go, the project leader often hits a moment of uncertainty – sometimes even panic.

Why Does it Happen?

When you're in the weeds of the project, the micro decisions you make to keep the work moving forward feel lower stakes. Each step feels more like a hop than a leap. The work is incremental, which — for better or for worse — hides the true magnitude of your eventual evolution.

But when you reach the end of the project and start to consider everything in its totality, it often hits you that this is actually a big departure from how you used to project yourself. This delta between who you used to be and who you're about to become can feel massive and panic-inducing. You’re feeling a deep sense of responsibility in leading this work and you're probably thinking, "S!%#, did I get it right? What if people don’t like it or it turns some constituencies off, or it’s too simple, or we’re ceding too much ground to other organizations?”

Keep Calm

So here’s what I’d advise nonprofit communications leads as they encounter the rebrand prelaunch jitters: Take a deep breath. Trust in the process. Reflect on the work that’s brought you to this point. Lean on the people around you. Know you’re not alone.

Trust in the Process

We believe that branding projects should be run in a collaborative, inclusive way. That means making sure that along the way you’re informing people (key stakeholders from different parts of the organization, the communications team, leaders, and board members), bringing them into the fold so that the work isn’t a shock when it gets unveiled. You want people to be pleasantly surprised that the brand encapsulates the shared understanding you’ve been building with them all along.

You might say, “Yeah, but what about the rest of the team who weren’t included in the process? What will they think?” Don’t fret: A solid internal rollout plan will get the rest of the team onboard before you go public.

Because the branding process is driven from the inside out, we want people to feel that the new brand is a better version of the organization they always knew themselves to be — even if it’s a major departure from the organization’s existing identity — because we’ve brought them along in the journey.

Reflect on the Work

If, near the end of the process, you find yourself second-guessing or self-doubting, let me reassure you. You’ve done discovery, shared findings, held workshops, mirrored the feedback to the team, agreed on shared language, presented creative concepts and invited people to weigh in, addressed all the questions and concerns, gained leadership approval, and presented it to the board. You’ve considered all the angles, you haven’t made the leap without being thoughtful, you’ve asked the people closest to your constituents to weigh in on the biggest risks. And now you've arrived at your strongest, research-backed hypothesis of where the brand needs to go.

Lean on the People Around You

You are not alone. You did not make all these decisions by yourself or in a vacuum. You’re not the only one on the hook for the outcome. While it feels like taking this leap is risky, the riskier thing to do would be to maintain the status quo.

It’s also unnecessary and counterproductive to create anxiety by spreading seeds of doubt among your team. If you need a gut-check, I’d suggest grabbing coffee with a close colleague within your organization who’s been involved along the way and talking through your last-minute doubts. Your strategic branding partner should also be able to remind you of the steps you took to get to launch day and to reassure you that you’ve covered all your bases. Resist the temptation to raise alarms in group settings or to seek counsel from someone outside the organization — because they lack any context for the new brand, they may make matters worse for you and the team by raising irrelevant questions and concerns.

Trust yourself. Trust your team. Trust your expert branding partner. Trust the process. Branding is an act of courage. Your whole organization has come along on this journey with you. And their support means they all share the risk and are ready to celebrate with you. If they’re all willing to do that, you’re gonna be just fine.

Interested in hearing more about how we make sure comms leaders are ready to launch brands with confidence? Let’s chat.

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