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November 5, 2021

How an audit can diagnose what’s ailing your brand

North Star representing the guiding light so important for businesses and discovered through brand audits.

These things tend to sneak up on you: Employees start to lose focus on what they’re supposed to be doing. Executives have difficulty agreeing on initiatives or priorities. Consumers don’t understand what you do. 

Your healthcare network or community-based organization may experience different symptoms, but they all point to a single issue: a lack of alignment around the mission. 

It happens so often it should be easy to recognize. Yet organizations — much like patients — struggle to make their own diagnosis. It takes an experienced practitioner to analyze the symptoms and run the tests to identify it.

Diagnosing Misalignment with a Brand Audit

A compass, representing the importance of a unified direction which is discovered through a brand audit.

For an organization to effectively move forward to achieve its goals and mission, alignment and positioning are critical. Everyone needs to be pulling in the same direction and for the same reasons. 

Yet organizations change over time. Sometimes, those changes are abrupt and disruptive, like a merger or acquisition. More commonly, though, they happen quietly over quarters or years. Leadership changes; mission, values, and goals evolve; the needs of the surrounding community shift; stakeholders expand or contract. 

As a result, the organization’s positioning — the way it wants to be perceived in its consumers’ minds relative to its competitors — gets diluted.

The incremental nature of this evolution makes it really hard to spot when you’re working inside the organization. As a mentor of mine likes to say, “You can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle.”

So we use a brand audit process as the means of discovering these misalignments and making recommendations on how to move efficiently and effectively forward. 

Positioning: More than a Marketing Task

Data, representing the importance of brand positioning as a business strategy.

Marketing may be the first to notice that there’s a positioning problem in the organization — a well-planned campaign just doesn’t gain traction, or focus groups reveal that the community has a jumbled view of the hospital network or community-based organization and what it does or is trying to accomplish. Sometimes, when a marketing leader comes to us for a specific project such as a new website, we discover early in our conversations together that the real problem isn’t poor web traffic but a larger positioning issue. 

While Marketing often takes the lead, a brand audit triggered by a positioning problem is a multidisciplinary undertaking. Positioning is a business discipline, not a marketing exercise. Organizational misalignment shows up in a lot of divergent ways in different departments, from hiring the right kind of clinicians and support staff, to interacting with patients and clients, to communicating internally and externally. 

When we conduct a brand audit, we dig deep and wide: reviewing and analyzing essential information, mission and vision statements, business and marketing plans, brand components and collateral. Too, we look externally to investigate competitors, current and prospective audiences. 

The most revealing part of our process is interviewing stakeholders both inside and outside the organization. Senior management across departments and business functions should be involved in the audit, or at least interviewed, along with staffers at different levels from executive to front lines. We’re seeking to reveal the truths of the organization, disparate viewpoints that reveal fractures in the mission, and, more important, those common threads that point in a new direction. While the marketing team may have a good handle on these insights, or think they do, it’s important to not shortchange the interview process — that’s where the meaningful, impactful input emerges.

It’s messy work sifting through a lot of material from a ton of different sources to get to the commonalities that can underpin a new strategic foundation. It involves people and facts and numbers and politics — so the audit takes smarts, experience, and a high degree of emotional intelligence. It also requires an outside perspective and seasoned expertise that comes from evaluating lots of other organizations and looking at patterns.

We think of the brand audit sort of like a double-sided funnel: Into one end comes all the thinking and information gathered during the process; it gets distilled into a new brand position, and then a whole suite of brand assets emerges from the other side. 

A Comprehensive Treatment Plan

A bird aligned with the sun, representing how we can align your brand with where you want to go.

The brand audit is like a battery of tests that reveal what’s ailing your brand. If the diagnosis is misalignment, we then provide a treatment plan to refine the organization’s brand going forward. That includes retooling the brand strategy (the promise you make to stakeholders) and positioning (how you’re perceived).

Remember: Every internal and external touchpoint in your organization’s communication platform stems from the brand positioning. People across all units and at all levels function cohesively because they all understand the mission. The marketing team hits home runs with campaigns that clearly share that mission with the community. Decisions happen quickly and without much debate. New service offerings and expansion plans are obvious because the organization’s mission is crystal clear. Your audience instantly gets what you stand for and why you’re better than their other options for care. Every aspect of the business has a compass pointing to action that’s anchored in the mission.  

If your organization is off course, our brand audit can reveal misalignment and get you back on track. Let’s talk about what you need

Tenth Crow Creative is a brand marketing agency that creates, aligns, and promotes the external and internal messaging for organizations that support living healthier lives. Through insightful branding and compelling marketing campaigns, we help these essential organizations find their identities and effectively communicate to their stakeholders so they can fulfill their missions.

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