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Consistent Branding Is Key

consistency in brandingHow to use the same voice and image across all your marketing channels

Your brand and all of its building blocks -- logo, colors, voice, how things are communicated -- is so critical to your business and organization. It differentiates you from your competition and helps build loyalty and trust among your customers and members.

In the past, it was easy to maintain brand consistency through a storefront, newspaper ad, or your organization's letterhead. Today, one has to maintain brand across multiple channels including websites, email newsletters, and social media marketing sites like Facebook and Twitter. On those sites in particular, there's less control over look and feel, as well as added pressure to rise above the fray of continuous updates and posts.

While the reach of all these communication channels is incredible, you have to work harder to maintain a consistent brand presence and voice. It's hard, but not impossible. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you develop and maintain your brand and voice.

Consistent Graphic Design: When one thinks of 'brand,' the first thing that usually comes to mind is the visual elements. You want to make sure you're using your organization's logo, colors, typefaces, and other brand-related images consistently across all your print campaigns, website, email newsletter, and social media sites. Obviously you don't have as much visual control with Twitter and Facebook, but you can ensure that your Twitter background matches your business or organization's colors, and that the logo or avatar you use on each network is the same -- make it one that your fans and followers will recognize no matter where they connect with you.

Find your voice: This is where things can get a little trickier as it becomes even more important to know the audience you're trying to reach. For instance, do you go with a wittier or more serious approach to your communications? Obviously, a restaurant that sells hoagies (or other sandwiches) to go is going to have a different voice than a five-star restaurant featuring sommeliers and $200 bottles of wine. Same with a spa vs a nonprofit organization. Speak to your customers and members in a tone that resonates with them and maintain that across all your communications channels.

Define your brand persona: What do you want people to think when they come into contact with your brand, be it through your website, a Facebook Page, a retweeted (forwarded) Twitter post, or an in-person meeting? Make sure you focus your communications on your business or organization's areas of expertise and that what you put out there represents your brand, because you never know where that first impression will come from.

Separate the business and personal: If you don't put pictures of your family vacation on your business or organization's website, why would you put them on your business-specific social media channels? It's very easy to blur the line between business and personal with Facebook and Twitter. That's why it's highly recommended to separate those two parts of your life, if you can. Create separate accounts for your personal connections and business connections. Your personal Facebook and Twitter profile should be used for the vacation photos (among other things). That way, those following your business accounts aren't overloaded with information that's not related to your company or organization.

Provide guidelines to employees: You may have multiple employees posting to your social media accounts or that have their own accounts that represent your brand. Establish a few ground rules with them in advance to ensure they're maintaining and advancing the company's positive image. Discuss your key goals, topic areas, and business voice with everyone who will be representing you online.

Adapt, but beware of change for change's sake

Once you've established your brand and your customers, clients, and members have become accustomed to it, be careful about making major changes as it could throw those loyal fans for a loop. In the early 1970's, I was working for a restaurant chain that was doing well. But when we changed the entire color scheme and logo for the chain, customers stopped coming in. They thought there were new owners and that the food and experience wouldn't be the same. Our stock price sunk and the chain was soon sold off. Nothing had changed about the menu, but the change in branding was enough to throw our customers' perception out of whack.

You can (and should) change small aspects of your branding over time, but make sure the changes you make don't confuse your customers and members. Look at McDonald's: It's changed the look of its restaurants over time -- even added far more than hamburgers to the menu -- but those Golden Arches are always consistent.

If your brand is established, you should maintain it in everything that you do: Website, email, print, social media marketing, and any future communication channel that might crop up.