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Building Your Brand Steering Committee (Include Nay-Sayers)

By Kristy Gulsvig

How To Establish The Right Team For Your Rebranding Efforts

It almost goes without saying, but one of the most formative pieces of the branding puzzle is the team in charge of your brand strategy. The branding agency you choose to work with obviously plays a large part, but regardless of what external help you use –- or even before you choose to bring in a third party –- the internal team that heads the branding effort helps guide and inform the direction of the final product.

One of the first components of a successful branding or rebranding effort is choosing the internal team who will take ownership of the branding strategy and help guide the process. This group –- which we call the “brand steering committee” –- represents the company’s interests and helps guide the direction of the brand. They provide input and feedback throughout the entire brand strategy process. They inform the process by providing tangible information about business goals and more intangible instruction around the corporate culture and intended look and feel of the brand. The information gleaned from interacting with the brand steering committee –- direct and inferred –- are invaluable in building a brand that supports the business strategy and ultimately “feels right” to leadership and employees.

So who do you invite to be a part of your brand steering committee?

After years of working through these processes, we’ve developed some rules to help determine the makeup of the ideal brand steering committee.

  • Senior Leadership: A brand is a company’s most valuable corporate asset. As such, it is very important to include senior leadership on the committee to help guide the long-term direction of the brand. This means that the CEO or Division President should have some level of involvement in a brand strategy project.
  • Finance Leadership: A brand engagement can be an expensive proposition — especially when the outcome is a significant strategic change. It’s a good idea to involve the person in charge of the purse strings so that they understand where the budget is going and why it is needed. Additionally, they can provide direction for future brand expenditures.
  • Marketing: Marketing obviously plays a key role in the brand strategy — they will be responsible for carrying out the brand on a day-to-day and long term basis, both internally and externally. They must be present to help guide the brand and to immerse themselves in the strategy behind future messaging.
  • Other Key Influencers: These people will depend on not just your business goals, but your brand goals. Are you rebranding to align your employees? To promote a new business line? Reach a new audience? Depending on the answer, this may mean including a representative from HR, Operations, Sales, specific business units, or all of the above.
  • Nay-Sayers: It seems counterintuitive, but if there is someone in your company leadership who is a nay-sayer, it is a great idea to include him or her on the brand steering committee. This may be someone who is not quite aligned with the rest of leadership’s idea of the brand, or someone who may have a tight grip on the available budget. Including these individuals on the brand steering committee allows them to be part of the process and express their concerns early in the engagement. A healthy challenge can ultimately result in a better brand strategy, and ideally, the nay-sayer will become an enthusiastic brand champion by the end of the process.

Depending on the size of the company and the extent of the branding engagement, we generally recommend about 5-7 individuals on the brand steering committee. The fewer, the better. Large groups can gum up the process by diverting the focus of the engagement.

Who do you include on your branding and marketing team? Do you involve senior leadership? And how do you deal with the nay-sayers in the company?